Sally set up her business, The Chai Bike, after borrowing an e-cargo cycle through Sustrans’ E-Move project, funded by Welsh Government. By selling homemade Masala chai from her e-cargo cycle, Sally’s on a mission to connect with the Aberystwyth community.
Sally and The Chai Bike have been bringing warming cups of Masala chai to people around Aberystwyth. Credit: Sally Pierse.
Sally Pierse is an Aberystwyth local who, having moved back to the area, wanted to start her own bike-based business.
The start of a journey and getting things moving
After speaking with the local project officers, she had a little wait while the ideal e-cargo cycle became available from another beneficiary.
Once there was some availability, though, Sally was given the opportunity to trial different models.
“The project officers were very accommodating in letting me try out the different models of bike,” says Sally.
“Judging which model was best for me was really essential because obviously you’re going to be riding it, so you want to know what you’re signing up for.”
Delivering tea and engaging the community
Opting for an XYZ e-cargo cycle, Sally was able to convert it to The Chai Bike, as a “pop-up café”.
Sally makes Masala chai at home, using locally sourced ingredients, and then takes the e-cargo cycle to different spots in Aberystwyth as well as different events.
The intention, though, is to use The Chai Bike to spark engagement in the local community.
“The whole ethos behind The Chai Bike is encouraging Aberystwyth locals to linger in their community hotspots,” Sally explains.
“What’s great about having a business that’s based off a bike is that because it’s so mobile, I can just take it to places where people normally gather but there isn’t a gathering space available.”
Sally often caters to local farmers markets, festivals, repair cafes, and fetes with her bike in tow.
She also works to forge connections with various people within the Aberystwyth community.
For example, she’s hoping to build a customer base with the cold-water swimmers and after-school play groups.
“I’m trying to create links with community organisations – that’s the idea behind it and that’s how I’m trying to use my bike.”
Sally’s bike-based business wants to establish connections in the community. Credit: Sally Pierse.
Can cycles really affect that kind of change?
Sally says that because the mobility of her e-cargo cycle is so central to the ethos of connecting with people, it’s made the whole concept possible.
“The one thing I love about bike-based businesses is that they are so sustainable,” she explains.
“In today’s climate crisis, we really need to be thinking about innovative ways of working and having an electric bike is such a simple way of having a business that’s so sustainable.”
While there are still sceptics around the use of e-cycles and e-cargo cycles for business, people are making use of them – not only for environmental reasons, but for business efficiency too.
Sally has found other people from across the UK who operate bike-based businesses, too.
“There’s really this love of the way that bike-based businesses allow you to trade in a greener way, a more flexible way, a more engaging way,” says Sally.
“It’s a bit of a novelty, isn’t it – seeing someone riding on a big old bike, it brings people joy.”
Connections to culture and home through cycling
Though in its infancy, Sally’s aim is to continue to grow The Chai Bike and to strengthen ties in Aberystwyth.
She also wants to continue to find more people who are operating businesses from behind their handlebars.
“I kind of secretly imagine this utopia where we all buy our goods from people on bikes in the street!” offers Sally.
Something else that Sally’s passionate about is the Welsh language.
After having moved back to Aberystwyth after living in England, The Chai Bike gives her an immediate opportunity to engage with the Welsh-speaking community in the town.
“I’m wanting to embed myself back in the language – I want to promote the use of everyday Welsh, as a learner,” she says.
“We’re quite lucky in Aberystwyth in the sense that the majority of the population either speak or are learning Welsh.
“That’s something that I really want to promote through my business.
“I try to do everything bilingually and I encourage fellow learners to approach me and make their orders in Welsh.”
The Chai Bike is a business that’s eco-driven, it’s driven by a passion for the Welsh language, and it’s driven by Sally’s love for small businesses – and all from the back of a bike.
If you live in Aberystwyth or the nearby area and are interested in learning more about E-Move, get in touch with our local project officer, Jack, by e-mail or by phone on 07876 234112.