Having met at university several years ago, I have followed Caz and her pedal-powered venture, Pedal Cafe with awe and intrigue for some time. From pedal-powered bingo to entertaining school workshops teaching and demonstrating sustainable living, Caz is a prominent figure on both the bicycle and environmental scenes in Cardiff. Today we catch up and discuss junkaholism, procrastination, and bicycle mayhem.
It’s a well-known fact that many entrepreneurs start their businesses in garden sheds. What inspired you to set up the Pedal Cafe and where does your passion for pedal power originate?
My first ever experience of pedal power in action was in Scotland during the G8 protests back in July 2005. I stumbled upon the most amazing pedal powered generator called the Rink Dink. It was a colourful, mechanical contraption of about 5 or 6 bikes welded together that was powering a sound system. It was a great creative tool for protest and inspired me to try and make one and use it to promote sustainability and renewable energy a bit closer to home.
Having known you a long time, is it fair to say that you are a bit of a junkaholic?
Yes! I can’t go past a skip without wanting to rummage through it! I love finding the potential in things that are thrown away and discarded – even if it sits in my flat for a few years before finally getting used!
Last year, you broke away from the monotony of nine-to-five, quit your job, and went full time with the Pedal Cafe. What spurred you to do this?
I felt like I had reached a point where it could sustain itself as a business. I had built up a few years of contacts after working with a variety of community groups and local charities, and was ready to branch out and push it further. I had been really lucky after university to find jobs with small businesses that were really supportive and flexible with working hours which helped a lot, and I was able to slowly make the transition. I felt like my time between 9-5 was usually spent daydreaming and scheming about new projects anyway, so it felt like the right thing to do!
When you’re working from home it’s easy to get distracted. What do you find yourself doing when you have a bout of procrastination?
It’s very easy to get distracted! The internet is always a bit of a nightmare – very easy to get distracted and I end up watching something random like DIY SOS on BBC iPlayer for no apparent reason! Aside from those times, it’s quite hard to be in the flat without thinking about bikes, as they are literally everywhere you look. It’s more a case of doing all of the fun things relating to Pedal Cafe and putting off all of the important things that really need doing! But I’m working on it! My other main distraction is in the form of a nice veggie fry-up down the local cafe and a dig around the charity shops which usually leads to more hoarding!
The Pedal Cafe Facebook page is a paradise for any bicycle enthusiast as it’s loaded with images of weird and wonderful bicycles from around the world. Where do you find inspiration on-line?
I’ll usually just type a range of weird bike-related words into a search engine until it leads me off on a crazy tangent of bizarre bikes. There are so many interesting sites out there documenting cycle culture and creative recycling ideas that the content for the page happens quite naturally.
You currently offer an array of pedal-powered activities, including blenders, bingo, bubbles, busking and a cycle cinema. What’s next?
I have just won a multi-wheeled bike on eBay for 1p which is going to be the next major project. I think I fell in love with it because it’s got similarities to my first pedal-powered love, the Rinky Dink. It’s four bikes that have been welded together with a seat on the front. It needs a lot of restoration work, but the potential for fun with it is huge! I’m not completely sure what direction it’s heading in, but that’s half the fun.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Hopefully with a garage or a workshop so I’m not living with 20 bikes in a one bed flat! I guess I’m just hoping that it keeps growing at a steady rate, ideas keep getting developed and realised, and we keep working creatively with other groups and meeting great people. There’s no set plan, I think it’s just going to be a case of riding the wave.
Finally, what advice would you give someone looking to quit their day job and set up their own business?
Research it, make sure there is a market for it, build up your contacts, test it out on local groups, and get a good online presence! If you’re in doubt, try building it up slowly alongside part-time work so there is still that financial security. Then when the time is right, just go for it! It’s probably fair to say Pedal Cafe has become a bit of an obsession for me, but the more energy that goes into it, the more opportunities arise!
Thanks for sharing your story, Caz! If you’re now intrigued, be sure to visit Pedal Cafe’s website to see Caz’s pedal-powered inventions in action. You can follow Pedal Cafe on Facebook too for the latest news and bicycle inspiration.