Parents in business: Alexandra of the Bike Club

Alexandra Rico-Lloyd, 26 is co-founder of the Bike Club. The Bike Club is the UK’s first monthly kids bike subscription service, offering high-quality kids bikes that can be exchanged as children grow, alongside high quality scooters and accessories.

She founded the business with husband James Symes, and says, “I’m not the ideas person. The credit there goes to James, my husband and co-founder. He’s always coming up with (mostly) excellent and some not-so-great ideas for businesses.” Alexandra and James are parents to Lucian, 3, and Ophelia, 1, with and another due in a few months’ time. Alexandra continues, “This business idea, for some reason stuck; I got to work building a website whilst he applied for an FCA licence. He forked out some cash on our first bikes and the rest is history!

“It takes a lot longer than people think to start a business from scratch. After about four months of ideation, we were ready to go to market, but it wasn’t until six months later that we started trading. We were both working full-time, so we’d spend our early mornings, lunch breaks, evenings and weekends working on the business.  We launched in October 2016, just in time for Christmas which is peak season for us as a business. Every child longs for a bike under the tree! 

We bootstrapped for quite a while. My husband took the risk maxing out his credit cards, re-mortgaging and generally finding cash to buy more bikes. In hindsight, the trust there from him and his family was pretty nerve racking, but it gave us an opportunity to prove the concept before taking on external funding. I left my job in March 2017 and the business employed its first member of staff in September later that year. 

“I love being passionate about what I do. I love that my son knows mummy and daddy get more children cycling, and that at the grand age of 2.5 understands that and supports us. I believe that what we do at the BIke Club is the  future of family cycling, and it’s incredible to build such a great team that shares our passion. 

“In the early days, it was definitely the loneliness that I struggled with as my biggest business challenge. Nowadays it’s the misconception that being an entrepreneur or a business owner is extremely glamorous and allows for a great work-life balance. If anything, it’s the complete opposite. I’ve never quite understood the saying ‘I work for myself’. I work for our members, ensuring we maintain focus on improving the product and service we offer. I work for our staff, providing them with job security and creating a company they are proud to work for, and I work for our investors, as ultimately they are what keeps the business funded so we can grow and inspire more cyclists. 

“I have made many, many mistakes over the years. A lot of my personal mistakes have been down to inexperience; however, I am always open to feedback and putting my hands up when I realise I messed up. In a start-up we’re treading ground never trodden before, so it’s impossible not to make mistakes. However, diagnosing a problem properly and being creative around how to solve it is usually the way forward. 

“Fitting in work with the family, It helps that my husband and I have a good understanding of what each other are going through professionally at any point in time. We’re both working towards the same goal; and that’s the success of the business. It requires a lot of shared diary management, especially when meetings or events fall outside of the normal working day. 

“We’ve also had to rely a lot on the open-mindedness of those around us; with me breastfeeding my daughter during workshops, interviews and investment meetings and  our son sitting on the floor during board meetings and partying hard in a baby carrier at Christmas parties. 

“I think there will inevitably be a point in time where I feel I’ve set the business up for future success and I will leave it in good hands. I’d really like to spend some time focusing on more philanthropic opportunities at some point in my life. I care passionately about adolescent mental health, childhood obesity and equal opportunities for young girls. I look forward to the day when I might be able to have a direct impact in those areas. 

“It’s very difficult to celebrate successes as an entrepreneur. There’s always the next challenge to overcome. Take closing a funding round for example; it’s a long process to get to signing and by the time you’re putting pen to paper you’re a little worn out, the money still isn’t in the bank account and inevitably you need the cash to execute a few major projects. 

“I’ll never forget the moment we paid our first employee. That was a definite feel-good moment. I cried (happy tears) in front of him. I had paid someone else a salary, PAYE and all. They were able to go on holiday with their girlfriend and get a mortgage on the back of the business I’d built. 

In five years time, I hope to have happy and fulfilled children who know how to ride a bike. Only slightly joking, but now off to pick the kids up from nursery so have to leave this here…

Find out more about the Bike Club.

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