LITTLE RIDER CO – ‘Industry Inspiration’ Interview Series - HOPE ACADEMY
How did you get your ‘job’?
My name is Becky, I am the Hope Academy Manager. I’ve worked at Hope for almost 13 years in various roles including European Sales Admin, Stock Control, Returns and Accounts. I’m currently doing my Chartership in Management Accounting, I’m a British Cycling Coach and Balance ability instructor.
In 2018 as the scheme really took off, I came onboard to help with the administration alongside my account’s role. In April 2020 I took on the role of managing the Academy full time.
Hope Academy UK from hopetech on Vimeo.
What is your brand and WHY do you do what you do?
The Academy was the brainchild of our Director, Ian Weatherill. Over the years we built up several high spec kids bikes for staff members using our own components and realised these bikes were lasting well over 10 years being passed from staff member to member. With this in mind our former Workshop Manager took on the task of sourcing high end, light weight, components to build up a fleet of affordable bikes for the rental market. These are still the same fantastic bikes you see today.
We started off small to test the scheme and how it would work, tweaking as we went along as well as running skills courses alongside the mountain marathon series. Despite never actively marketing the Academy, news spread through word of mouth and our waiting list went insane!
As the pandemic hit many of our events were cancelled. When restrictions started to ease we wanted to give something back to local children, who had spent a lot of time isolated missing key social opportunities. We approached some local schools and went in to provide free skills sessions to groups of children, with the main focus on having fun! They have been a huge hit and this year, we have 8 key schools and working on fitting more in, this is something we really want to grow and love doing. We have also worked with a local charity providing skills days for children in the school holidays.
We do what we do because we genuinely love doing it. Watching the kids push themselves, having fun.. feeling proud of themselves is so rewarding. Especially when you get into schools with kids who don’t come from biking families or backgrounds, who are discovering it all for the first time. Knowing that our rental bikes are making riding easier, which we all know means more fun, is also a great feeling. We love seeing all the picture and videos that we’re tagged in!
What is a typical day in the life look like at your brand?
What I love most about my job is that no two days are the same. Each day does start with the school run and coffee though! At the moment we have a lot of projects on the go. Most of the time it’s like spinning plates, dealing with whatever takes precedence that day. It’s what keeps it interesting!
What are your goals and future-plans for your brand?
Short term, our goal is to grow the team and work as quickly as we can through the waiting lists so we can get as many bikes as we can out there with kids as possible. Long term I would love an indoor and outdoor track so we can offer free learn to ride days in the school holidays for kids in the local community. If we make an impact in those early years it can help the kids form healthy habits for life. Child obesity has gone up 4.5% since lockdown and in 2022 40.9% of year 6 children are classed as overweight or obese with only 45% of children getting the 60 minutes of activity a day that is recommended.
Future plans: We have 2 new videos coming up which we’re excited about, we have a full clothing range collab with Little Rider which should both be out for summer and 2 new bike brands coming in 2023 for the rental! We are also going to start releasing Academy Coaching videos on our social media and encouraging young riders to practice and develop their skills.
What impact would you like to make on kids cycling, and how do you see the future?
We are trying to make as positive an impact as possible. Whether it be from modifying our bikes for children with partial or no use of a hand with our duo brake or blanking out the bottom bracket to make any of our range into a balance bike, so you can start riding at any age. To donating bikes to various biking clubs to help underfunded, low-income areas get access to bikes. If you’re reading and you’re a club or an organisation that are doing great things with kids and riding, get in touch! We love speaking to you and hearing what you’re doing! We’re also looking at putting on events and races nationwide over the next few years so that we can support young riders all the way through their cycling journey!
Well, Ian’s vision for the future would probably be to have every kid in the UK riding an Academy bike! I’d like to see the Academy grow as a community, like a national bike club, where everyone feels included.
Where do you take your inspiration from?
I probably take the most inspiration from the people around me. The great thing about cycling is that there is something for everyone and it’s so inclusive and supportive. I have a 6-year-old son and a 14-year-old step-daughter, I see how Jasper’s confidence grows when he nails something he couldn’t do before or Maddie, our super cool teen who secretly loves it I’m sure when we make her come out in the rain, my husband who only started riding properly in his 30’s but is out there, taking on new challenges all the time. My dad who’s still riding and trialling at 65 who suffered through teaching me and my brothers and sister to ride and putting up with numerous falls into the canal, tantrums, and our moaning the whole time. My family, my uncle Simon started Hope with Ian over 30 years ago and my cousin Katherine was in the top 15 in the EWS then become a national champ at downhill. My colleagues. Everyone at Hope has such a passion for cycling, that it’s hard not to get excited about things. We have frequent staff rides, I’m not the best rider, but everyone rides together and is so encouraging… it really makes you push yourself and gives you the confidence to believe you can do it.
Who inspires you in the industry?
Would it be terrible to say Hope? I genuinely believe that we are doing some amazing things and not just with children’s cycling. We are a true British Manufacturer, in that everything we design, manufacturer and test is done right here in Barnoldswick, in the UK including our Olympic Track bikes. When Ian and Simon made the decision to keep everything inhouse instead of importing from oversees they did so with a view to controlling quality. I’m sure they never envisioned global pandemics and Brexit but that decision is what has helped us continue to provide our stuff without crazy lead times that are effecting the rest of the industry. We are a sustainable factory, we press all the swarf and offcuts into pellets and sell them back to the metal company to be recycled. All our coolant in the machines is cleaned and re-used on site. We have recently had solar panels fitted. Our components last 20+ years and we offer servicing to keep them running like new. Hope played a huge role in women’s cycling, setting up women’s rides and events for all abilities. Fantastic work that Claire, Hannah and Hope WMN is continuing. All our employees are given bikes and encouraged to cycle too and from work as well as providing children’s bikes for our kids.
What goes into the research when developing your new products?
A lot of coffee, a lot of taking things apart and putting them back together, both physically and metaphorically and a lot of grown men riding tiny bikes and doing wheelies.
How can people find out more about your work and your brand>
Follow us on social media platforms or check out our website: About — Hope Academy (hopeacademyuk.com)
Want to connect with other Little Rider families?
The Little Rider Co Army will be more than happy to help – Jump into the Facebook group today and ask for recommendations, the community is here to help.