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Josh and Tyler
When Josh Leffingwell and Tyler Doornbos met for the first time, neither one of them imagined they’d become immediate friends, let alone business partners. However, as the conversation and ideas started rolling, so did the premise for cultivating a new business endeavor. Just six months after the planning commenced, the pair has launched Bike Friendly GR, a bike lifestyle company looking to foster Grand Rapids’ bike community.
As word of Bike Friendly GR spreads, Leffingwell and Doornbos look to expand the lifestyle company into a bike-based fashion outlet that is not intimidating or sport-based which, according to the pair, is one of largest stigmas to overcome. Bike Friendly GR t-shirts reading “Bike Friendly” and “I Bike GR” have proved to be the stepping stone of the organization and are popping up all over Grand Rapids (including the locally-driven vintage store Minty Keen). They are even hand delivered (on bike, of course) by Leffingwell and Doornbos themselves, as they find it incredibly important to meet their customers – the community that supports them. Once the pair steadies themselves within the beginning stages of launching the company, they anticipate expanding beyond t-shirts with hopes of continuing the idea of keeping bike apparel comfortable and fashionable.
“You can ride your bike, be fashionable and not do it in a competitive nature, dressed in Lycra riding gear,” said Doornbos, a Web designer and founder of the blog NoCarGR. “We are two guys that are out there riding every day; we ride day in and day out - to work, to meetings, to wherever… because we can. And guess what? We’re not in Lycra.”
Although the company launched faster than expected, Bike Friendly GR has found a niche within the community. Just hours after posting a profile picture on Facebook, Leffingwell and Doornbos had inquiries filling their inboxes, forcing the pair to launch the company’s Web site, www.bikefriendlygr.org. Within the hour, they had four t-shirt orders and 17 page views. After four days, the Web site had 500 hits and the company’s Twitter account went from zero followers to 200.
“It all happened really fast,” said Leffingwell, a soon-to-be GVSU graduate, freelance digital marketer and member of the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition. “Honestly, it was overwhelming. We posted one photo on Facebook and before we knew it, it caught on fire.”
Although the sale of the company’s t-shirts has helped to provide a face for the company, Leffingwell and Doornbos note that there is much more to the company’s mission. Bike Friendly GR sells t-shirts, but the pair looks to utilize the fashion aspect as an avenue to advance and help grow the bike population. As the company continues to progress, Leffingwell and Doornbos focus on promoting the idea that riding a bike can be and is for everyone, regardless of age or experience. In fact, the two view it as not only a means of transportation, but a way of life. The two believe that a crucial component is reaching out to families and planting the ideas that riding a bike is safe and can be destination-based, not only a family hobby.
“It starts with fostering a community; if we can build a community of bike riders, that alone would be huge,” said Leffingwell. “If we can have more kids riding and their parents realizing that it’s actually safe, that’s it. That’s huge.”
In only six months of planning, Leffingwell and Doornbos have a surplus of ideas and high hopes as to how they can cultivate and inspire the growing bike population. So far the pair has received an incredible amount of positive feedback and they’re nothing but thrilled.
“People are finding themselves truly relating to Bike Friendly GR,” said Doornbos. “It’s just worked. I’ve never anticipated the adherence or the identification that people are finding with the brand.”
In the future they hope to organize neighborhood and city bike rides and events, and look to partner with other local and Michigan-based organizations with similar missions. The pair even plays with the idea of buying worn down bikes, giving them a facelift and reselling them for a reasonable price. But that is all to come. In the meantime, they look to maintain and stay afloat from the success the company has received and “make it cool to bike GR.”
Interested in riding? Bike Friendly GR is hosting its first group ride on Saturday, May 21 at Riverside Park. The ride will be 2.5 miles and will include both road paths and trails. This event will be incredibly family-friendly, and will wrap up with a group picnic, complete with gourmet PB&Js and cookies by Matt Russell of Wednesday Evening Cookies. Make sure to check in with the Bike Friendly GR's Web site for developing details.
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