Interview with Jake Voelcker of Bristol Bicycles & Jake’s Bikes

We caught up with Jake Voelcker of Bristol Bicycles and Jake’s Bikes to find out what got him into the cycling industry

Why did you start cycling and what does cycling mean to you?

I’ve always been into cycling from when I was very young and used to BMX and Mountain Bike. As a teenager I started going on cycling holidays, I went to places close to home such as Wales and later ventured out to the South of Ireland and Sweden. Cycling is the perfect speed to explore these places, I got to see some incredible views and speak to local people on the way.

Not only is cycling enjoyable, but it think the main reason I love it so much is that it can solve so many problems; obesity, climate change, air and noise pollution. It gives everyone a way to make a difference in the world as it is a practical yet incredibly beneficial way to reduce your carbon footprint. It makes me proud that we as a company can help people to do their bit for the environment.

How do you find being in business in Bristol?

Bristol is a great place for our business. The people here are very aware of their effect on the world and they try to be green, that was what attracted me here. Our latest apprentice also came to the job role because of the way of thinking in Bristol. By being here we can give people who are trying to be green a tangible and positive way to achieve it. There are lots of other small, independent, ethical businesses who are doing similar things and it is brilliant to be able to work alongside them.

What do you wish you knew before you started out in business?

I definitely wish I’d met my business coach Gary Keating at ActionCOACH earlier in my business life. Being in business can be really isolating and having a business coach and a mentor has helped massively. I’ve learnt a lot about putting systems in place in the business and most importantly Gary has taught me to hold myself accountable for growing and improving my business. At the start I didn’t understand cash flow and forecasting properly and I made a lot of mistakes. Before having a coach I suffered from the enormous pressure I was under, getting bogged down in the details and failing to see the bigger picture. Now I have a clear business plan and we look ahead to see how we can expand and get more people cycling in the coming years.

What tips can you give to others starting in business?

• Get advice from a successful business person you admire or get yourself a business coach. You will not be alone and it will help you take your business further than you ever thought you could.

• Build a team of people and learn how to manage them effectively. Learn to delegate to your employees and trust them to carry out tasks to the best of their ability. They will come up with all sorts of ideas and better ways of doing things.

• Use word of mouth to grow your business. Business can grow massively through organic means such as networking just as much if not more than through conventional advertising. We grew organically and didn’t advertise until about two or three years ago.

• Take time to stand back and plan ahead. Having a business plan that maps out where you want your business to go in the future helps you to keep your focus. You should also make sure to get it down on paper and out of your head as this will make you feel accountable in terms of sticking to it and will also allow you to see any gaps. Then break it down into 90-day projects and it suddenly seems tangible and achievable and exciting!

What annoys you about being in business?

I think what troubles me most about being in business is the environmental impact. As all the credible scientists and reports are now saying, we urgently need to adopt a new low-carbon way of doing business. Yet so much of the language of business is still about growth and sales and business as usual. Daily I’m faced with business situations where I have to ship goods from the other side of the world, or throw away lots of plastic, or use Diesel vans and trucks for transport. In a few years time we will look back on this as madness, but as yet there is no other option.


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