BUSINESS SUCCESS STORIES
Shift Cyclery & Coffee Bar
In March of 2018, Shift Cyclery & Coffee Bar officially opened up shop thanks to the dedicated work of co-owners Sean Brandenburg, Daniel Green, Laura Lash, and her husband Aaron Salmon. This came just a few years after Laura and Aaron moved to Eau Claire, in part to get away from the complications of big city living in an area where they could also enjoy the perk of more bike riding and riding safety. The idea for the combination bike shop and café came from a desire to add to the downtown expansion by providing a unique, niche experience that they’d enjoyed at similar establishments in larger cities.
Shift was created with the intention of being a community hub and an inclusive safe space where people can gather no matter their lifestyle. It is also intended to be a curated experience where customers can shop the owners’ suggestions whether coffee, bike, or food related. Ultimately, the goal is for the space to be an inviting one. The employees at Shift are friendly and willing to have conversations with customers about the shop and its products, but also about other peoples’ lives and interests.
The four co-owners had experience with the work they are doing and knew their business model was a successful one, however one challenge they sought to overcome with the help of Western Dairyland was in writing a successful business plan. Business Development Specialists at Western Dairyland helped them hone in on the specific language required for their business plan and were able to break down what information was most important to get across to investors. Additionally, Lash remarked, “The Business Development Specialists provided a belief in what we were doing, and that was priceless.”
Another challenge they faced was that despite knowing the product well, the financial aspects of the business were out of their scope. Lash stated, “I think we know how to manipulate the moving parts, whether payroll, spending, inventory, or new retail items. All of that comes from the exercises we did with the Business Specialists at Western Dairyland. Even if the calculations were beyond our comprehension, it was easy for us to look at them and see where we could focus more energy and where we needed to scale back, which gave us a lot of confidence.”
Still under a year old, Shift has made great strides. They currently employ thirteen people, including full and part-time workers, and have already undergone a food expansion. Originally offering only a small assortment of baked goods, due to demand they increased their stock to include wraps and salads. This was made possible through their partnership with Forage and another chef who created recipes for the shop during the summer, and which is something they hope to continue into the fall as well. The food expansion was something none of the owners had intentions for upon opening, but they noticed a demand they could provide for.
Looking forward, the owners hope that Shift will continue to mature into its desired profile through homegrown events, whether that be with particular types of bike rides, destinations or tourism, and through their desire to educate people wanting to learn about coffee and bike culture, as well as literature and the arts. Additionally, as Shift grows they hope to provide more philanthropy, including supporting some of the other business in town that they respect.
For now, their focus rests on the business side of maintaining Shift, but expansions such as community integration are included in their business plan. One such intention includes cultivating an Earn a Bike program where people would be able to learn how to fix a bike, and then leave with a bike. This would serve adults needing something to commute on or exercise with, as well as parents wanting to make a bike for their child. Moreover, this initiative would well support one of the main intentions of the business, to get as many people on bikes as possible and to make Eau Claire a safer place for bikers. Speaking to Shift’s recent opening and future endeavors, Lash remarks, “We’re grateful for the warm welcome, and there will be more to come.”