Jem Stein – The Bike Project

Founder of The Bike Project, Jem Stein

Jem took part in our Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Scale Up programme and was winner of the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2015.

Tell us about your social enterprise…

The Bike Project provide second hand bikes to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. It’s a simple, innovative way to utilise an excess resource (a bike) to help some of the UK’s most disadvantaged people.

What was your biggest challenge in scaling your social enterprise?

When I was starting out, a more established social entrepreneur said to me ‘the staff you start with are not the staff you scale with’. Finding the right staff to make the transition from a small, grass roots project to an established, professional social enterprise was definitely my biggest challenge.

How has the School for Social Entrepreneurs supported you?

The SSE is a unique environment which has provided me with the funding, the network, the skills, and, most importantly, the inspiration to scale up The Bike Project. Without the SSE, I would still be running a small, grassroots project.

What have you done since being on the programme?

We have significantly scaled our bike sales business, and improved our website, which is now making a meaningful impact on our bottom line. We have also launched Pedal Power, our all-female cycling lessons for women refugees. Bike Buddies is another new venture which matches a volunteer with a refugee in their area, and encourages them to go on bike rides together to help build their confidence riding in London. We are also just opening in Birmingham, having discovered a significant demand for our services there.

What did you use the SEYA prize money for and how has this helped your organisation?

I used the SEYA money to fund our refugee bike mechanic’s full-time salary. This has been a huge boost as it his allowed us to provide a refugee with a job and allowed him and us to provide many more bikes for refugees and asylum seekers.

What would your advice be to a social entrepreneur looking to scale?

Diversity of income streams is your enemy: it’s very difficult to be good at lots of different things and much easier to be very good at one thing. Spend some time trying to identify a single income stream (not a single customer) you are good at generating revenue from and is scalable. Then focus all your resources on making it work. If it works, great! If not, find another income stream and do the same thing again.