Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship – Farber Intern

Who can say that he or she worked in a bike shop for his or her business school summer internship? I can, and I loved it.

I worked for Pedal Revolution, a full service bicycle sales and repair shop located in San Francisco’s Mission District. The shop is one of three social enterprises run by the youth development nonprofit Golden Gate Community, Inc. (GGCI). GGCI helps rebuild lives of at-risk youth in San Francisco through jobs in the three social enterprises, work placements, high school career classes, leadership training, mentoring, and supportive relationships with staff and volunteers.

My project with Pedal Revolution was to research and evaluate business expansion opportunities. More specifically, I looked into what it would take and if it would be feasible to start a mobile bike repair service-to offer bike sales and repair services to customers away from the bike shop at temporary or satellite locations. I was excited by the idea of doing something entrepreneurial that could result in something very tangible.

My work fell into three phases. First, I conducted preliminary research of demand and developed a business model to determine if the idea had enough merit for a closer look. For this I did online research and conducted 15 interviews of current mobile bike shop owners to learn how they got started and what the major costs were, what products and services they offered, what their sales and profitability was and how that may have changed over time, who their customers were, and the biggest challenges they faced. Simultaneously, using personal contacts and references from my colleagues and friends, I contacted potential customers to test interest, feasibility and willingness to pay. I focused on “group” customers like corporations, universities and property managers. The mobile bike repair concept was promising after my initial research, and thus I moved on to further research.

Second, the bulk of the project, I completed in-depth analysis of the mobile bike repair concept. This involved:
 Further research and meetings with potential customers; I spoke and met with corporations, building managers and universities.
 Gaining a feel for the bicycling community and response to the idea of a mobile bike repair in San Francisco by meeting with local bicycle advocacy organizations and speaking with other established bicycle shop professionals.
 Modeling the potential costs and revenue with different scenarios to determine the breakeven number of individual customers we would need per mobile repair visit/site to make it financially viable.
 Meeting and brainstorming with internal staff to determine the role of youth interns in this potential business extension and how much social mission benefit we could obtain.
 Conducting an online survey of over 150 potential individual customers to assess desired products and services, willingness to pay and demographics.
 Analyzing the internal needs and feasibility (e.g. supplies and tools needed, mobile payment and inventory system, vehicle needs, etc.) of providing the service, which I accomplished by interviewing the mechanics at Pedal Revolution and pulling information from my initial mobile bike shop owner interviews.

Third and finally, I compiled the research and analysis by coordinating a pilot mobile bike repair visit at a local corporate building and presenting my final recommendations to the Pedal Revolution and GGCI management. My work and recommendations were well received by the management, and they were excited to dive deeper into the potential business extension opportunity. They are continuing to pilot the service to refine the operational model and test the potential marketing value of the service to reach new customers. It was extremely exciting to see my summer’s work valued and put to use right away.

The summer also gave me the opportunity to interact with GGCI’s clients. I thoroughly enjoyed working at a place where I could-and was encouraged-to become involved with the youth who were interning at the bike shop as well as in the other youth development programs. I worked closely with two of the interns on a marketing project, where we created a flyer for the new mobile bike repair service that I was researching. I also participated in several of the general GGCI youth programming events as a volunteer.

One of the most enjoyable elements of my summer internship was being a part of the Farber Intern program. The Farber Intern program is funded and administered by REDF, an innovative venture philanthropy non-profit that funds and engages with direct service non-profits that run social enterprises. Pedal Revolution (through GGCI) is one of those social enterprises. Even though I very much liked working in a small organization and feeling like I could accomplish something meaningful and tangible, the trade-off was working alone and not having many peers and co-workers to brainstorm and engage with at work. The Farber Intern program gave me that peer group in addition to professional development, access to an impressive network of Farber alumni and REDF staff, personal resources for my internship, and social events. The other six Farber Interns and I got along extremely well-it was fantastic to connect with other MBA students who share my interest and passion in a career spanning the business and social worlds.

Overall, I had a fantastic and engaging summer internship experience. The summer revitalized my interest in working in the social sector and kindled my interest in looking further into social enterprise in particular. I also learned how much I enjoy working in a smaller organization environment and how much I value working in an effectively run organization which demonstrates measurable social impact and passionate, committed and successful managers.