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Jul 9, 2015 11:00 AM ET

Archived: Harry – The Wheel Mill: An indoor bicycle park inside an 80,000 sq ft building over an entire city block

iCrowdNewswire - Jul 9, 2015


Personal Story

Hello! My name is Harry and my wife, Sheila, and I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is the second Kiva Zip loan for my business (you can find my first, which I repaid early, here: https://zip.kiva.org/loans/1921), and it has been a great journey so far! If you had asked me eight years ago what I’d be doing today, I would have told you that owning an indoor bicycle park was my dream, but seemed like an impossible road to take. I would more than likely still be running my construction company.

My previous work experience has been a crazy journey that has taken me from digging ditches in my back yard for my father, to sorting clothes in a windowless warehouse, to moving pianos, to teaching english in Taiwan, to becoming the first American to race in the Taiwanese National Motorcycle Grand Prix, to being a Chinese translator for American Express, to being a motorcycle mechanic, to starting a construction company, to now. When I looked back at my personal story from my first loan application, I read the statement, “My passions are with cycling, community, health, and education, so I know those values will be expressed in some form in the future.” I now realize how fortunate I have been and that there are so many great people out there in all of those areas that I have been able to work with, learn from, and hopefully even offer support to.

Business Description

The Wheel Mill is an indoor bicycle park. It is located inside an 80,000 sq ft building over an entire city block. The bicycle park serves primarily mountain bikers and BMX bikers through a system of trails, jumps, and ramps of varied difficulty. If you are able to simply pedal a bike around, then you can definitely enjoy riding at The Wheel Mill.

I decided to start this business eight years ago after riding in a similar park in a former parachute factory in Cleveland, OH. Pittsburgh had a supply of rust belt buildings and a much larger mountain bike population, so it seemed only natural to build a park here. It took the next five years to find a suitable location, as I learned that most of the old steel mills and factories here are in special economic zones that do not allow for recreational use. The park operates similarly to a ski resort where you can purchase a day pass or a season ticket. You can bring your own bike, or we can provide you with a rental, and we have courses from “bunny slope” beginner sections all the way up to black diamond expert sections. We also provide group and private lessons, birthday party packages, and host special events.

One of my primary goals in creating The Wheel Mill was to establish the park as a hub of cycling culture. Throughout the past few years we have hosted fundraising events for local nonprofit cycling groups and other nonprofits, such as BikePgh, Trail Pittsburgh, and the Rickey Bates Memorial Fund. We have also partnered with Bike Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and we have donated our materials, our professional designers/builders, and video production equipment. Also, we have partnered with public schools for summer camps and sponsored local youth riders for private camps.

We are located in Homewood, a low-income neighborhood in the city of Pittsburgh. If you read the comments following some of the local newspaper blogs we have been featured in, you will see that this neighborhood is underserved and some questioned us locating here, but we think we can help the neighborhood to receive more positive press. Our goal is to run a profitable business and bring at least 30,000 visitors a year into the neighborhood, while continuing to partner with the nonprofit community to bring riding opportunities to everyone regardless of economic status.

What is the purpose of this loan?

We are trying to launch a new marketing campaign that consists of billboards on bicycle trailers being towed by cyclists. We believe mobile advertising will allow us to target our main audience of active individuals and cyclists. The approximate cost to build the trailer and print signs is $600.00.

The great thing about this method of advertising is that we get to pay people to ride around on bikes to get the job done! The riders will also serve as brand ambassadors, so they will need to be trained on the “in’s and out’s” of the business. One of our employees, Annika, has volunteered to be our test subject to help iron out the kinks. We already have two local companies that want to hire us for advertising once we are up and running, so this may spin off into another business altogether. The approximate cost to train and hire two part-time bicycling brand ambassadors for the summer is $5,000.00.

We just updated our liability insurance to allow us to rent out our bikes. Since we are located only a mile from Frick Park, which is full of mountain bike trails, it makes sense for us to rent out our mountain bikes during the summer when we normally have fewer riders indoors. The approximate cost to purchase two new mountain bikes is $3,000.00.

We would like to build a new practice ramp to have available for summer camp, called a “resi” ramp. It has a regular wooden takeoff, but the landing is a special combination of foam and plastic that dissipates the force of impact if you were to fall. The approximate cost of special materials for this ramp is $1,400.00.

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