For more than two years, DreamBikes has been providing access to high-quality, affordable bikes to those in need in the Madison area. Next Saturday, April 3, the company officially opens its second location, this time in Milwaukee.
The non-profit bike store and service shop, founded by Trek Bicycle Corporation president John Burke in 2008, is partnered with the Boys and Girls Club and hires teens ages 14 to 19 who have participated in the Club's Career Launch program.
"We want to give the kids a good opportunity to start on the right foot," says Milwaukee branch general manager Aaron Rasmussen.
"Career Launch gives them the skills of making a resume, filling out an application and interviewing. At the end of their time with us, these kids know how to work on bikes, sell bikes, manage schedules and do marketing plans, so if Harley-Davidson is hiring or Wheel & Sprocket is hiring, they've got those job skills."
It starts with training. The teens learn how to greet a customer, how to articulate the DreamBikes story and mission, and most importantly, how to realize and shape their future goals.
"I don't have much to go on in the interview, because most of them don't have a lot of experience," Rasmussen says. "So, I ask them what their goals are in life, what their dreams are. If they can communicate to me what their dreams or goals are, that's a pretty god sign that the kid is motivated by something and then we can work with them."
If one of his hires expresses particular interest in one day owning his or her own business, Rasmussen specifically targets the training on encouraging that entrepreneurial spirit. It's an experience they probably won't get at McDonald's or a clothing store.
"This is a real job," he says. "If they don't do their job, we'll be out of business and they won't have a job. The reality comes into play with that. Their dreams might happen, they might not, but this will hopefully be a springboard for them."
Rasmussen has already hired 10 Milwaukee teenagers and assistant manager John Hines to work at the new store, located at 2021A N. Martin Luther King Dr.
DreamBikes receives funding from Trek, though its entire bicycle inventory is donated via the community. The company holds bike drives at schools and businesses and also accepts walk-up donations to the store from individuals. They'll accept bikes in any condition -- you never know when you can salvage a shifter or a break lever, Rasmussen says -- and welcomes parts and accessories as well. Wisconsin-based Wheel & Sprocket cycle stores also collect donations for DreamBikes in both Madison and Milwaukee.
A large part of the DreamBikes store is the in-house shop, where Rasmussen, who attended Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado and has 15 years in the industry under his belt, and another professional mechanic train the kids to fix and refurbish every bike that comes through the door. When the bikes are ready for sale, the store keeps the prices as low as possible. Kids bikes, even high-end brands like Trek, start at $25. Adult bikes -- mountain bikes, hybrids, road bikes, cruisers -- start at $50.
As stated, DreamBikes opens in Milwaukee April 3, but the grand opening celebration is set for Saturday, April 24. Mayor Tom Barrett and Trek president John Burke will join DreamBikes for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
They've also invited a professional freestyle bike company to perform demos outside, as well as other local associations like the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and the Bike Collective to set up information booths. The event will culminate in a group bike ride, something Rasmussen hopes to make a regular thing at the store.