It’s a dream everyone would love to achieve: turning your greatest love into a business. While all the designers, crafters and artists I’ve interviewed are doing just that, Em and Ivan of Tread & Pedals are living and working this dream to the fullest. And it all revolves around the humble bicycle.
Not only have they managed to combine four years of working holidays around their love of biking but they have now turned it into a full-time business upcycling bicycle parts into all sorts of things you’d never have imagined a bike part could become. From cufflinks to bottle openers, belts to earrings and all sorts of clocks. It’s amazing what an old clog or bike spoke can turn into! It’s certainly put a new spin on the term bespoke (sorry, couldn’t help myself!)
I managed to steal Em away from their so-called ‘man cave’ where their creations are made to find out more about how they began and what’s so great about an old bike.
Please introduce yourselves. What are your backgrounds?
We are Emma Dinkgreve and Ivan Hackel from Melbourne, Australia and we have a passion for bicycles. Tread & Pedals turned from a hobby to full-time in November of last year (2012). Our little home and up-cycling studio is based up in the Dandenong Ranges, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne.
Ivan has a background in engineering and worked in bike stores as we travelled around Canada and New Zealand. My background is in the creative arts and retail. Since meeting back in 2008 Ivan and I have been plotting and scheming ways to get out of the rat race and start our own business.
Tell me more about all the travelling you’ve done.
We’ve spent almost four out of the five and a bit years that we have been together travelling and riding our bikes in Canada and New Zealand. They were working holidays but we tried to make sure less time was spent working than biking, hiking and exploring the amazing scenery on offer. We feel very spoilt to have had the freedom and opportunity to travel.
What’s the best place or location for cycling that you’ve ever been to?
We both enjoy cross country mountain biking but Ivan is happiest when he is on his downhill mountain bike and because of this we’d have to choose Whistler, BC in Canada. The diversity of trails and terrain in Whistler is exceptional. Within Australia our favourite location for cycling is Bright, Victoria.
Where did the idea to start Tread & Pedals come from and when?
Tread & Pedals was born when Ivan was working as workshop manager in a large Melbourne bike store in early 2011. We were amazed at the amount of bicycle parts that went straight to the tip. It was shocking to think about the quantity of waste produced by what we’d always thought of as a sustainable form of transport. We did some brainstorming one night, thinking up ways that we could reduce the waste. It was then that we decided to try and make something of this so-called trash and started looking at the bike parts in a different way. Tread & Pedals has combined our shared love of bikes, design, the arts and recycling.
How did you go about making this happen?
We tinkered away for a year and a bit with old bike bits, designing, creating and then refining our ideas. We started our website (originally trading under the name Ivy & Em) as a way to test the waters and see if there was any interest in products made from re-purposed bicycle parts. We were blown away by the positive response we received and decided it was time to take the plunge and put all our time and energy into our business idea. We sat down with paper and pen and wrote out our business plan. We chose our name Tread & Pedals (after much thought), developed our logo, worked on our branding and booked our first market.
Where do you go to source your materials?
We source our materials from local bicycle stores in and around Melbourne. The parts we get would otherwise go to landfill.
What, if any, challenges have you faced along the way? Tell me about them.
One of the biggest challenges we’ve found is having to wear multiple hats. As owner-operators of a small craft business not only do you need to produce a high quality product but you also need to portray it in a way that will make people want to buy it online. Product photography, marketing, merchandising and branding all pay a huge part in this. It has been a real learning curve.
With owning a small business there are many ups and downs. It’s a fun little rollercoaster. Tread & Pedals is like our baby and is constantly in need of care, attention and means, at time,s we get very little sleep because of it. Having said that we take such joy in celebrating its achievements – like watching a bub grow we are watching our business grow, from gaining stockists, to getting into snazzy design markets, featuring in blogs and magazines. It’s all very exciting.
What does a typical day involve for you? Do you both make and design the products?
We both make and design the products. A typical day starts with coffee. We check our emails for any orders that have come in overnight and then go about wrapping and getting the items ready for posting.
If it’s a clock-making day we’ll start by rolling up our sleeves and cleaning the cogs of grease and grime. I choose the fabrics for the backings while Ivan preps the workshop space and polishes up some of the cogs. Then we turn into a mini clock factory for the day, making the cog desk and wall clocks. We’ll often get so caught up in the making that we forget to take a break or we’ll end up quaffing food down as quickly as possible so we can get back to work.
Other days the focus is on collecting bicycle parts, visiting our friends in bike stores and going through their recycling or trash like seagulls. At the end of the day you’ll often find us sitting on the couch for a night in with a pile of tyres or inner tubes, which we cut out as we watch a movie, documentary or one of those home renovating shows (which we find so addictive).
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought?’ moment? Tell me about it.
I think our greatest ‘who’d have thought?’ moment occurred the day we took the plunge and had our first stall at the fabulous ‘End of The Line Festival’. We sold out of all our stock and were snapped up by our first stockist. We were so blown away by the amount of interest that our products received. We never could have anticipated the reaction. We still find ourselves scratching our heads muttering ‘who’d have thought’ when we think back to the beginnings of Tread & Pedals.
What’s been your favourite creation so far?
The bottle opener is Ivan’s favourite creation – possibly because of the product testing and quality control which means beer must be opened! For me it’s the inner tube jewellery. I just love how delicate it looks and feels but how tough it actually is.
What do you do in your spare time?
When we are not working you’ll probably find us out riding our bicycles or escaping to the outdoors to do some hiking, snorkelling, camping and adventuring. We also like catching up with friends and family in time off.
What inspires you?
We are inspired by the environment around us and our passion for all things bicycle. We’re a tad crazy about bikes and biking. We find inspiration in a wonky old wheel, a punctured bike inner tube, a worn bike tyre or a rusty cog.
Do you have new designs or ideas for Treads and Pedals in the future?
Yes indeed. We are constantly inspired to create new designs. At the moment we are working on a range of lamps and lampshades. Unfortunately due to the joys of certification and the requirement to have papers stamped we are hoping to release these early next year.
Thanks Em and Ivan! What fantastic passion you have and such great insight into seeing how something old and rusty and unwanted could become something new and useful again.