Operation HOPE, New Orleans: A Local Small Business Success Story
John Gerkin believes in bicycles. He volunteered to help run a do-it-yourself community bike shop for seven years. Bicyclers could come in, get advice, buy parts, use tools and do their own repairs, thereby saving money. In addition, he worked for Laid Back Tours bike shop in New Orleans and taught a bicycle class at Charter Middle School. Gerken saw an opportunity, taking steps to open his own bike shop. He rented a building with access to neighborhoods with a lot of bicycles and little repair competition. Soon he was selling new bikes and parts, plus making repairs for those wanting help.
As his business grew a building came up for sale that was well located one block away and big enough for the expansion he desired. Talking with a local banker, the banker advised him to visit with Operation HOPE for free assistance in developing a business plan and financial projection. With planning and counseling he developed the documents needed to apply for a loan. His application was accepted, enabling him to acquire the property. Funding for his acquisition came from his own savings, his family’s assistance, and the Hope Credit Union.
Today, his business is growing. He sells new Sun bicycles, used bicycles, parts and accessories. The shop also provides bicycle repair work, maintenance and tune-ups. The shop is open every day of the week except Tuesday. Gerken arrives at the shop at 9 am and the doors open at 11 am. The shop closes at 6 pm and Mr. Gerken leaves at 7 pm. The business employs Mr. Gerkin full time and two employees part time.
Gerken’s Bike Shop serves neighborhoods in New Orleans that house the workforce for the tourism, restaurant, and music industries of the city, plus health, education and port operations. These include the Marigny, Bywater, 7th Ward, 8th Ward, 9th Ward, the St. Roch area and St. Bernard Parish. Most of these neighborhoods use the St. Claude Ave. thoroughfare as a main route from the city to their neighborhoods. The business primarily relies on word-of-mouth referrals to generate new business. A website and flyers also help attract new customers. See www.gerkensbikeshop.com
Operation HOPE and Operation HOPE, New Orleans will participate in the White House Urban Entrepreneurship Forum, New Orleans on July 20th, 2011. Find more information on the White House Forum here.