When Leena described her business, Bike n’ Blend, before we started working together, I knew I would enjoy working with her. She’s not afraid to do things differently. She’s clever, creative and very inspiring. I recorded our interview so you can listen to the long version if you have time (I think you’ll love hearing her story!) or if you’re pushed for time, read our top picks from the interview below.
Can you tell me a bit about Bike n’ Blend?
We do pedal powered smoothie events and we’ve been running for about 4 years. We get kids and adults on the stationary bike with a blender at the front and after 30 seconds of pedalling you have a delicious, healthy smoothie. The bikes attract a lot of attention; draws a crowd and starts conversations around exercise and fun.
How did you come up with a unique idea?
I saw a lot of images online about 10 years ago and developed the concept in my head but I didn’t think I would do it as a business. I was working for a friend who built bikes so we designed the first bike and took it to a farmer’s market where it was really popular and people loved the gimmick of it.
Your background isn’t smoothies though.
I was in medical research for 10 years at Melbourne Uni. I was really happy in the lab but I just felt there was something else. I went part time for two years until I could live off the business.
I’ve always been a really motivated person even if something scares me. I took baby steps and it took two years to say it’s a real business that’s going to employ people. When I have those fears that I can’t do that and you’re not good enough, I think “leave that at the door”. As soon as you walk through the door of your office, leave those thoughts behind. I wish it was that easy all the time, when that little voice says you can’t do that or you’re not good enough to approach that customer, I just think “well why not”. I’m just not afraid to ask.
If you had imagined 4 years ago that your hobby would turn into what you’re doing now and if you’d been able to imagine that you would be the person that you are now, how would you have felt?
I feel like a different person. I’m amazed at how far I’ve come and if I could talk to myself from four years ago I’d say everything can be done and it will be done to your best ability and let everything take its course, just trust that you’ve got enough resources and motivation to do your best.
I wasn’t planning on turning it into anything in particular in my first year. And so I read a lot of business books and talked to lots of people which really helped. So there were no harsh expectations on myself.
I try to have a theme for every year. For the first year I listened to a lot of people, read, learnt as much as I could. In the second year my theme was work smarter not harder. What decisions do we need to make here to work smarter not harder because I was getting quite exhausted. And then the third year my theme was trust so I trusted people because I needed to hand things over. And this year is just about systems and processes; just keep going with those things and dig deeper and focus on doing things really well.
What does a typical day or week look like for you?
My week is quite structured. Mondays are more of my team work, catching up with everyone. Tuesday we have our post-event meeting. Wednesdays and Thursdays are marketing days. Fridays I’m back with the team packing, catching up on little things, finances and wages. I wear the HR, Marketing and Manager hat.
What do you do to maintain your sense of balance?
I really believe in looking after yourself. The first year was very hard – I wasn’t eating or sleeping well. You’re in that chaos phase. Now I make sure I exercise every day. We even exercise in our office. We just get up and do 10 push ups, 10 sit ups, jog on the spot. I’ll probably walk an hour a day and cycle on the weekends. If I don’t exercise every day I just can’t function.
When you look back on the business, is there one main thing that’s stood out that’s made the biggest difference in your business?
I think I’m a little obsessed with it. It’s my baby; it requires lots of milk and keeps me up at night! I think my team have been amazing. Without them I couldn’t have done what I’ve done. They believe in you and the business. Sometimes that’s not easy to do but we have an awesome team.
What would you say is the most important tip in choosing the right people?
I use checklists but also go with my gut. Hire really slowly, take your time in getting to know the people. For us it takes about 3 months to know whether it’s the right person. They start as casual events members who do 10 or 20 events and then if it’s the right time for them and us it works well.
What are you looking forward to for 2016?
Another fun and busy year of running hundreds of amazing events that makes people so happy and inspired. I also aim to be even more engaging around measuring our impact we have on promoting cycling, health and sustainability.