CHICAGO (BRAIN) — It was the tagline for the women’s cycling Meetup group she was starting just over a year ago that inspired Vanessa Buccella to open a bike shop.
“When I thought of the tagline ‘A cycling community geared for women’, the next thought I had was ‘Wow, that would be a great tagline for a women’s bike shop’,” said Buccella. BFF Bikes was born.
“When Vanessa called and told me about her idea,” said Annie Byrne, co-owner of BFF Bikes. “I thought it was brilliant. I was fully committed from the get go.” A former urban planner working in economic development, Byrne said it was a good fit for her entrepreneurial spirit and her skill set. And it was an opportunity for her to start a long-desired career in the bike industry.
Buccella said that she and Byrne have complementary talents that make them compatible business partners. “I have lots of ideas, but not necessarily the concentration it takes to carry them out,” said Buccella. “That’s where Annie comes in, she’s the methodical one who can put a plan in place and outline the steps to make it happen.”
Buccella and Byrne have spent the past year refining their business plan, securing a space and procuring funding for their new store. Buccella, who works as a video editor for a television station, said they also spent a lot of time doing market research to back up their gut feelings that there would be a demand for a women’s bike shop in Chicago.
“We knew it was high time for this kind of store in Chicago, and in the Midwest. But we really wanted some concrete data,” said Buccella. “We turned to info from BRAIN, People for Bikes and the League of American Bicyclists to learn more about the state of the women’s market — which is growing for sure.”
Byrne and Buccella hope to create a community-focused destination shop that caters to women interested in all disciplines of cycling, citing that many products are on the market but not carried by the average bike shop. “A lot of bike shops can’t dedicate that kind of space to multiple women’s product lines, and may not want to take the risk, so we want to be known as the place to go,” said Byrne.
The women also strive to provide a well-designed space that’s not only comfortable and nice to look at, but will encourage women to hang out. “We basically want our shop to be a familiar environment because we want to attract women who are just getting into bikes for the first time since they were kids. And the last thing they want is to go into an unfamiliar environment to shop for an unfamiliar product,” said Buccella. The shop will also host women’s events, clinics and group rides.
Since both Byrne and Buccella are avid road racers, BFF Bikes sponsors a women’s race team, BFF Racing, which was formed last fall and already has 17 members. One of the goals for the original women’s Meetup group was get more women riding and racing together. “I am so excited to see both the team and the shop grow,” said Byrne.
BFF Bikes will carry Public Bikes, and the women are currently pursuing other bike brands to bring into the 2,000 square-foot store. A primary focus will be functional and fashionable commuter wear that isn’t easy to find in stores, but the full spectrum of cycling gear, clothing and accessories will be offered. Because the shop will have a full-service repair department, Byrne and Buccella are also in the process of hiring a head mechanic.
The shop is slated to open sometime in March, once the build-out of the space is complete. BFF Bikes currently has a crowd-funding campaign on indiegogo.com to help bridge a small gap in funding.
A grand opening celebration is also planned for March.