I wanted to shout about a few companies I've caught wind of lately. They have one rather charming thing in common. And so it makes sense in my mind to talk about them in a little roundup, of sorts.
This common thread of which I speak is that all of them conduct their business on bicycle. As you maybe could guess, we think that's a pretty swell way to do things. Not only because it is a friendlier and more attractive way to do things, but for more bonafide reasons too. Most businesses that reach a certain scale shall we say, would likely find it trickier to do day to day errands, operations and actual business without the use of a four-wheeled vehicle.
First there is Just Coffee, a simply awesome fair trade coffee co-op out of Madison. This company is all about the politics of their coffee and the way they do business. In fact the business side of it is second hand to the thoroughly admirable action of making sustainable, socially responsible coffee. All deliveries within a five-mile radius of their spot are made on bicycle mostly by a boy named Mark and any other regional deliveries or company trips are taken using their converted biodiesel van. These guys devote an entire page on their website, under the heading "Supply Chain" to letting people know this. It's also displayed on each and every bag of their coffee. They even have a roast called Bike Fuel. Which says two things, I think. One: They are really really proud of what they do. Two: They know you are really proud of what they do.
There is also this little soup company in Austin that delivers soup by bicycle daily. They are called the Soup Peddler, which as a pun, clearly scores some bonus points in the category. This company began with a single guy bringing soup to his neighbors by bike and has grown into a little business by virtue of his tasty soups. As itself, a bicycle touting company, the Soup Peddler continues the tradition of fostering community by sponsoring bicycle drives, composting projects and charity rides. The company's image, projected by way of its being a bicycle centric company, is one of great commitment to the environment, to the small, to the personal and to the local.
The last two companies I know far less about because their websites are somewhat...partial. They are Wingnut Confections out of PDX and the Pedal Co-Op from Philly. I'm sure that plenty of places out west use bicycles, but Wingnut is one I happen to have heard of because my friend Mary sent me one of their haystacks in a carepackage, but it has stuck in my brain because of the little mantra on their wrappers about doing everything by bicycle. In fact, this was perhaps the first time i realized how greatly this simple bit of shared knowledge vastly improved my impression of the company's work. The Pedal Co-Op does recycling by bicycle, and as a cooperative, I realize they aren't exactly a business. But their mission is a great one--to help encouarage recycling here in Philadelphia using bicycles as transporters. Recycling in Philadelphia is currently spotty at best and any project that aims to improve the rate of recycling, even on a small, pedalable scale, is pretty heroic by my count. I wish I could offer a more complete list of such outfits, but my young eyes can only speak to the ones I've heard about. Feel free to offer any knowledge of others. Smaller cities seem to be a hotbed for them.
Now don't get me wrong, we certainly do 99% of our business by bicycle too. But for companies whose main business is the transport itself, using the bicycle exclusively casts a decided light on what it is you are doing. For one, you can only bike so far, and that usually means you are committed to being forever a small business and never a monster Fortune 500 & Co. It also means you're not afraid to do things by hand. Marketing one's business as a bicycle powered operation makes a loud statement about the priorities and character of a company. This statement rings longer and louder in a crowded market. As a fellow pedal pusher, I have a great deal of respect for such good guys. And as a consumer, I see a company's commitment to such "old-fashioned" methods a sign that they deserve any penny I can spare on a pound of coffee, a fancy candy, or a bowl of soup. Commitment to this larger idea of Real transportation, says that they are more than just businesses. They are the cornerstones of an economy I can be proud of.