Ever want to take your love for Milwaukee and change it into a career? Well, Heidi Dressler did just that. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Dressler was completely love with the city, but wasn’t exactly sure with what she wanted to do with that affection. But after taking a bike tour in Munich, the seed of idea planted in her head and sprouted into a new business plan: Spirit Bike Milwaukee.
Dressler realized after some research that Milwaukee didn’t have bike tours that offered you a tour and a bike to use; instead, they were all bring your own bike. So, as an avid biker and a sucker for Milwaukee history, she wanted to change that. With her new idea and her experience on bike tours leading her, she began to develop one of her own.
"I’ve always been a big biker, and when I go to different cities, I always take bike tours to learn more about the city," Dressler said. "I feel like you can get beyond the beaten path and get a little more distance than doing a walking tour, but still be out in the fresh air and get the mileage you would get with maybe like a bus tour."
Since Dressler had no business experience, she decided to take a start smart business class through WWBIC, the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, last July through September. She walked away with a full business plan and proceeded to buy a fleet of 20 three-speed beach cruiser bikes, each named after famous Milwaukee icons.
And Spirit Bike Milwaukee was born.
She officially launched her business this past June. Since then, business has been booming with great reactions.
"It’s been interesting, as soon as it launched, how many people have reached out wanting more information to learn more about it," Dressler explained. "It has definitely been something where it was slow to begin with and then, all of the sudden, it sort of exploded."
Dressler has been doing this all on her own. As she likes to say, she is the soul and the CEO – Cycling Experienced Officer – of Spirit MKE. Being the only tour guide of her business, she spends a lot of her spare time researching and reading books and articles on Milwaukee, keeping her in the know on anything and everything of the city.
With that information under her belt, Dressler began putting together her tour. Once she took a look at the 95 miles worth of bike paths and bike lanes Milwaukee has to offer, she put together a safe path – with plenty of opportunities to dispense information along the way as well as a few of the city's hidden gems.
"I actually had to pull back because I want to talk about everything because I think everything is so cool," Dressler said. "I want to tell everyone about it, but it’s interesting trying to find just the story behind Milwaukee and not just throwing facts at people. I have as much information as possibly can have."
For Milwaukeeans and visitors, Spirit Bike Milwaukee offers two tours, both giving the tour participants a bike to use, a helmet and a two-way radio so you can hear Dressler's factoids along the way.
The first tour is The Cream City Classic, running Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m to 5 p.m. For $40, the "bread and butter" tour of her business covers Harbor District, Walker’s Point, Downtown, up through Brady Street and onto the Lakefront, including stops on Old World Third Street so you can take a look around Wisconsin Cheese Mart and Usinger’s for some cheese and meat, as well as the Lakefront for some bonus exploration.
The other tour she offers on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. until noon is called the Valley Vibe. For $30, the trip takes you through Menomonee Valley to Miller Park along the Hank Aaron State Trail and then loops around to look at the old Nitsche Practice field.
There is also an option to take your work colleagues, bachelorette parties and more on a custom tour, where you can pick the stops and figure out what you would like to highlight on a bike tour of Milwaukee.
Dressler hopes the tours "show the city for the beauty and the grandness that it is." She also wants to show people a side of Milwaukee – a city she's always known, loved and wanted to share with others – they have never seen before.
"I want to showcase Milwaukee in a new way, showing the history, showing the revitalization, showing us as the people of Milwaukee," Dressler explained.
Her goals down the road include expanding into more night time tours now that she has bike lights, winter activities, bigger fleets and more tours around the cities. She currently operates out of National Warehouse Corporation, one of her favorite buildings in Milwaukee at 531 S Water St., so you can stop by there or check out her website for more information.