Keystone Community Services and Express Bike Shop were recognized Thursday, February 22, with Minnesota Business Magazine’s Community Impact Award for outstanding social enterprise – organizations that sell goods or services for a social purpose – in Minnesota.
For more than 20 years, Express Bike Shop has operated as a full-service repair and retail shop dealing in refurbished bikes, new and used parts and accessories. What makes Express Bike Shop different is that 100% of profits are reinvested in their apprenticeship program, which develops the work, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills of young people in the community.
Mary McKeown, President and CEO of Keystone and Calla Martin, a manager for Express Bike Shop, were on hand to celebrate with other leaders also honored for making a significant impact on communities in Minnesota.
“We are excited to receive this award,” said McKeown. “I am so proud of the young people in our program who really made this award possible.”
McKeown explained that Express Bike Shop has been a youth-directed social enterprise for over 20 years. From repairing the bikes to sales and marketing, from scheduling to payroll, young people are responsible for every level of the shop’s operations.
“Our mission is two-fold: provide young people a quality first employment experience and recycle and sell bikes,” said McKeown.
As a social enterprise, Express Bike Shop takes many bikes, previously sitting idle in garages or fated for the scrap yard, and returns them to productive service. McKeown estimates that the bike shop has collected and refurbished, re-purposed or recycled more than 20,000 bicycles since opening in 1995. Each year, the bike shop sells between 500 – 600 refurbished bicycles. In addition, 15 – 18 tons of metal are sent to metal recycling and over three tons of tires and tubes are sent to rubber recycling.
“Today, we are considered the number one supplier of used bike parts in the Twin Cities,” said Martin, one of the current managers at Express Bike.
In addition to serving the neighborhood as a retail location, the bike shop serves as a learning lab where young people learn the tools of entrepreneurship and workplace success. The Express Bike Shop team shares an important philosophy: a ‘first job’ not only brings short-term economic benefits to a young person, it is a powerful developmental milestone that promotes independence, resilience, responsibility, and a sense of accomplishment to carry them into the future. A favorite saying at Express Bike Shop is ‘the best work readiness program is a job.’
McKeown said the bike shop depends on the support of community partners and individuals who donate the 2,000 used bikes needed each year to sustain the operation and expand their apprenticeship opportunities: “This award is an important recognition for our entire community of supporters – customers, funding partners, and Express Bike Shop alumni.”