A helmet and handlebars business model

Talk to any cyclist, and they’ll tell you about the rush that comes from discovering a city’s treasures and secrets from behind the handlebars.

That’s a feeling that recent Dalhousie graduate Sarah Craig knows well. These days, though, she gets an equally-thrilling rush by sharing that experience with others through her new bike share company.

I Heart Bikes, just opened on the Halifax waterfront, incorporates rentals, a service shop and promoting the best-kept secrets of Halifax. Through her hard work, Sarah is proving that business can not only be fun, but socially, economically and environmentally  conscious.

Making a difference

She graduated from Dalhousie with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, focusing most of her electives on environmental science topics. That fusion of interests reflects her belief that business leaders, present and future, need to have a better understanding of the environment and how it relates to day-to-day business practices.

She completed her first work term at the Eco-Efficiency Centre where she did energy reviews for small-to-medium sized businesses, and then went on to work with the Climate Change Directorate doing greenhouse gas accounting.

“I knew I wanted to make an impact wherever I went,” she says. “I’ve been working with small businesses since I was a teenager and felt I was finally ready to take the step and run my own business.”

Powerful partnerships

I Heart Bikes opened its doors on the Halifax Waterfront on Canada Day with a wide range of services including a bike rental program, service shop, a boutique with locally-made items for sale, and an original “City Map” with five different routes that incorporate cycling, walking, dining, and sightseeing throughout downtown Halifax and Dartmouth.

To help finance the project, I Heart Bikes offered a ‘sponsor a bike’ program to the local business community. Some sponsors have even offered discounts to I Heart Bikes customers when they present their helmet, helping creating a more collaborative approach amongst businesses in promoting urban adventure.

“After talking with local businesses, it became obvious that people wanted to see a bike rental program in Halifax,” says Sarah. “I Heart Bikes seeks to provide both locals and visitors with a unique and memorable experience that is woven into the fabric of our urban environment in attempts to exhibit our artistic flair and creative small business culture.”

‘How can we do better?’

So far, Sarah says the feedback has been very positive.

“I always have my customers fill out a comment card before they go home,” she explains. “So far, everyone has had a very positive experience with the routes, the sightseeing and the local hotspots. Even so, there’s always room for improvement and I’m always interested in hearing how we can do better.”

Not one to rest of her laurels, Sarah is already thinking ahead with goals of expanding I Heart Bikes to satellite locations in Downtown Dartmouth and the north end of Halifax. She plans to spend the winter months on the research and development component of her business by conducting focus groups, hoping to build the business slowly each year.

“We want to know how to make biking more accessible for people and what we can do to promote cycling to locals and visitors to the area,” she explains. “We’re a small business and so we don’t have large promotional funds so finding creative ways to get the word out will also be something we work on.”

“Seeing each customer depart and arrive with a smile on their face is the best part of the job,” she says.  “When a customer tells me someone ringed their bike bell at them, or yelled, ‘I Heart Bikes!’…it’s the icing on the cake.”