On your (cargo) bike for International Women’s Day - Part 2

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In part two of our International Women’s Day interview series with female-founded cargo bike operator companies, we spoke with Monica Pun, Co-Founder of Spedal. Based in East London, Spedal is a same-day delivery and recycling pick-up service working with small businesses and retailers. Built on the foundation of social impact, Spedal is a logistics firm on a mission to improve our environment and help people get into employment.

 

Who are Spedal and what do you do?

To put it really simply, we’re a same-day zero-emission cycle courier service with a focus on helping those who are homeless break into the workforce. Our whole ethos is based on social impact, to improve our environment, make business more human, and to help people get back into work.

We largely do deliveries for zero-waste shops and pick up empty containers and bottles that get sterilised and reused again. A lot of our customers found it difficult working with large couriers for deliveries and they weren’t willing to do smaller quantity pick-ups.

 

Where did the idea come from to start Spedal?

I was volunteering at a soup kitchen in Bethnal Green during the pandemic. I found that many of the young people coming in had so much drive and willingness to work but they didn’t know how to get started.

I found that the main reasons many were unemployed was because they lacked confidence, experience, and a lot of employers aren’t close enough or accommodating to suit their needs, such as going back to the hostel for meal times or attending regular medical appointments. This is where working as a delivery courier can help; you get flexible schedules, you don’t need a licence and you don’t need much experience. Some hostels even have space to store bikes.

When we hire someone from a disadvantaged background, we ‘buddy’ them up with a more experienced rider to train them and help them learn everything they need to know to do their job well. Around 20 per cent of our workforce are people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

What makes Spedal different?

As well as our social impact ethos, we’re trying to make the delivery and pick-up process really simple. We work with a lot of small business owners and they don’t want complicated or overly flashy apps or processes. To book with us, all you have to do is input your delivery details on your personalised Spedal portal and that’s it!

We also want to bring human connection back into the industry. We speak with our clients, including future clients, to get to know them and their stories.

 

There aren't many female riders in the industry, why do you think that is and what can be done about it?

There are a lot of reasons, but I think for many women it’s about safety and perhaps not feeling confident enough cycling on the road. A lot of women love the outdoors, but jobs in this area are typically male dominated and I think this plays into the idea that outdoor jobs are just for men. That's simply not true.

For us, we want to change this by looking closely at how we talk about our business. For example, making sure we’re inclusive, in our language and how we recruit riders. As we grow, we want to build cycle hubs that have facilities for both men and women as often this can be forgotten.

 

What advice would you give to women who want to join the industry but are unsure because it's quite male dominated?

If you’re not sure, come and speak with me and the Spedal team. We can give you honest advice to help you understand what deliveries and pick-ups really entail, as well as what it’s like being out on the road. You can always have assumptions but until you try it, or shadow a rider for a day you won’t know the real deal.

 

What advice would you give to businesses that are hesitant to use a cargo bike operator?

If you’re concerned about costs, you can get subsidies for deliveries through Bikes for Business. But if you’re unsure about the service or what cargo bikes can carry, then come and talk to us. Ask questions and share your concerns, we don’t want to interrupt how you do things. There are a lot of services available, but they need to fit in-line with what you do and need.

If you’re looking for a lasting impression for your business, cargo bikes are brilliant for that. And although cargo bikes are becoming increasingly popular, people still don’t expect a cargo bike to turn up to their front door or business!