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August 10, 2016

Kimberly Kinchen, business network writer

For many businesses, including the recently profiled cargo bike delivery services, bicycles are more than just an important part of a operations. They serve as a selling point to garner attention from would-be customers. Now that the secret is out that bikes are a draw, entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to put them to work.

Food and bikes converge in Denver with Peter Bredermann’s Peteybird, the result of one man’s obsession with creating the perfect ice cream sandwich. Bredermann didn’t find success overnight with his ice cream bike—customers just weren’t flocking to buy from a bike the way they might from a food truck. But Bredermann discovered that his bicycle-plus-ice-cream-sandwich setup was ideal for fundraisers, professional events and celebrations. The former engineer reoriented his business on this model. Bike-themed events like weddings, where bicycles play a starring role, are especially popular. “It’s part of the brand,” he says, “people recognize the bike as much as the ice cream sandwich.”

Jay Marlette started riding a bike for his East Bay, California home inspection service, Houseman, in 2007 to do business in a more environmentally friendly way. He’s easily recognized by the ladder attached to his Xtracycle. His approach is not without its challenges—customers often wonder at first if they’ve hired someone crazy. That fear though is soon replaced by inspiration. Marlette saves money on vehicle maintenance costs and the bike generates other returns: it serves as low-cost, high-visibility marketing that attracts customers who want to do business sustainably.

In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the newly-launched Nomad Books allows used-book lovers and collectors Jared and Yvonne Epp to keep their day jobs while testing the waters of entrepreneurship. They spent just $40 to convert an old bike trailer into a “booktrailer,” which they take out on Friday evenings and weekends to night markets and other public spaces (with their two young children). “The bike seemed like the most accessible way to get our product to market,” Yvonne explains, “and it adds a unique element, which gets us extra publicity.” Nomad expects to recoup the rest of their total $1,000 startup costs (mostly for insurance and vending permits) and start turning a profit by the end of summer.

From saving money to increasing sustainability to getting exercise while they work, these entrepreneurs prove that there’s no limit to the ways you can use bikes to make your small business thrive. Do you know of another business that uses bikes in a surprising way? Tell us about it in the comments!

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