Paul Wylie is a Cycle Salvation Supervisor and re-Cycles volunteer. A few months ago, SocialBusiness.org profiled Cycle Salvation, which is an Ottawa, Canada-based social enterprise that adheres to the triple bottom line by creating jobs for marginalized communities. True to its name, Cycle Salvation, which operates under the Causeway Work Centre, refurbishes donated bicycles, but the people component is just as important. Employees gain valuable skills through self-empowerment and self-confidence.
SocialBusiness.org interviewed Paul Wylie from Cycle Salvation, who spoke about how he came to work for a social enterprise and why he thrives off of the constant chaos at Cycle Salvation.
Four Questions with Paul Wylie
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
The idea came about from our director, Don Palmer, who is an avid cyclist. Don is the executive director for Causeway Work Centre, which is a non-profit operation dedicated to providing support to the community who have barriers to employment. Causeway had sponsored two social enterprises -- a catering business and a grounds-keeping business. Don perceived a need for a bicycle refurbishment operation and thought this could be a good fit to its other two operations.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
I worked for a long time in high tech for a major telecommunications firm. Fifteen years. I truly enjoyed it for the greater part, but in the last few years of my working in the field, I began to get tired of it and exhibited signs of burn out. I decided to get out when I realized that I became a person that was only going through the motions to get by. I started a business as a house painter to get my life back in order and think about my options.
I had also volunteered at a community bicycle shop for a number of years and when the opportunity presented itself to manage a social enterprise, I simply said, “Why not?” At that point I had been a painter for over two years and realized that I like to work with my hands but not with noxious paint fumes and chemicals.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
I am motivated in part by fear, in part by caffeine and in part by chaos. I love the fact that this business thrives on it. We cannot predict when donations of used bicycles and parts will arrive and whether what does arrive will go out the door. We are a matchmaker of sorts -- trying to find suitable bicycles for every person who comes through the door.
I do get a warm fuzzy if we can find good employment for our staff -- that, in fact, is our prime mandate. We've had a couple of people so far make leaps into the real world. We try to do that with one person each year.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I am not a very creative person, IMO. I am pragmatic and try to see what product we need to put out on the sales floor. A lot of that is dictated by what inventory we have on hand. Some projects sit for a while until the right part arrives or until we get tired from looking at it. Right now we have sold all our stock and are playing catch-up to keep the sales rack full. There is no wrong answer at this point.
Photo Credit: Mike Bigras