Lily McBride-Stephens – Co-founder of Loop Cycles

Think about your goals and how you’re going to achieve them. Always be thinking about what you are doing in your everyday workflow that is going to help you get to where you want to be.

Lily is a co-founder of Loop Cycles. Whilst taking a year off from working as an architect to attend Burning Man in 2013, Lily was inspired to start Loop Cycles after being exposed to the huge demand for bicycles and the waste afterwards as a result of the inaugural festival. As someone who is passionate about challenging new projects, innovative and rigorous design development, as well as environmental issues and social responsibility, Lily’s passions led her to forge a partnership between Loop Cycles and Bicycles For Humanity in 2014. Together they distributed the bikes to communities in dire need built a bicycle empowerment center in Namibia in early 2015. Lily has a Masters in Architecture from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.

Where did the idea for Loop Cycles come from?

Loop Cycles all stemmed from an experience we had at Burning Man 2013 where we were exposed to a huge amount of wastage post the event, and in particular bicycles. Not only were people buying brand new bikes for the event and throwing them out straight after, but they were all bought from chain stores and were very poor quality. We are all designers who are interested in clever sustainable design so this really annoyed us. We wanted to come up with a solution to this problem; – offer people a bicycle that was specifically designed for the harsh conditions of the desert at Burning Man but also for another purpose after the event. After connecting with Bicycles for humanity and finding out about their amazing work sending bikes to Africa, Loop Cycles was born.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

All the founders of Loop Cycles have full time jobs so 9-5 we are busy doing something completely unassociated with Loop Cycles. I am an architect and Tommy designs bikes. Outside of this time we are running this business. This could mean doing anything from re-working the design of the bike, working on our branding and website, connecting with more people in the Burning Man community, working on a documentary of our trip to Africa, accounting or replying to emails. We try to share the load as equally as we can. In terms of productivity, we communicate as much as possible, even though I am in California and Tommy is in Melbourne. As we both have other work commitments we try to be as productive as possible! Got to sleep at some point right?

How do you bring ideas to life?

All members of the Loop Cycles team are doers! We talk through things together as a group however most of the time we just get things done without over analyzing it. That’s how the project started. We had already designed the bike and started manufacturing before we even had a company name. Keeping this momentum and excitement about the project through ‘doing’ is very rewarding and keeps the company moving at a fast pace.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Two trends excite us. One is about sustainable products. We are seeing more and more pop up everywhere in all different markets and this is something we care about a lot – smart, strategic design for a greater good beyond pure consumerism. The other is social enterprises. We’re always thinking about the company beyond the dollar sign and we love seeing when others are implementing a good business strategy that has a great social impact.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’m a very active problem solver. I am usually doing it more in an architectural context, however I have learned that this carries over to business. In this instance I identified an issue and rather than simply complaining about the problem I was proactive and jumped at the opportunity to solve it in a way that could benefit a number of different parties.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked as a receptionist/PA when I was younger for a scummy finance company and the CEO was an absolute piece of work. I learned at this stage that you should never put any of your time into something if it’s not with the right team. You will never do your best work and you will never care enough about the work to take it to the next level. If you admire the people you work with, and you are constantly learning and growing from them then the work will ultimately be better.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

We had to ask one of the co-founders to leave the company at the end of last year as his goals were not aligned with ours. It was a big lesson for us as an early stage startup. It’s so important to choose business partners who have the same vision as you – everyone needs to be on the same page otherwise it can lead to problems down the road.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Think about your goals and how you’re going to achieve them. Always be thinking about what you are doing in your everyday workflow that is going to help you get to where you want to be.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Refinement and execution. In order to grow you have to have a fully resolved product or service. This is our second year in operation and this year is all about refining and improving on what we did last year. Without doing this there would be no way we would be able to expand and grow in the upcoming years.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Loop Cycles is the first real attempt I’ve had as an entrepreneur. In the past I’ve worked as an architect. I guess the fact that our company falls into the social good bracket means we are well received by the public and as yet haven’t had any major issues. So far so good!

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I was talking with some friends the other day about designing an app that allowed you to notify a stranger that they were about to get a parking ticket!.Wouldn’t that be awesome?

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

New headphones. I work best when I am listening to loud music at my computer.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

The Adobe Suite. Any graphic designer knows why we would use these, they are just simply the best. We use WooCommerce for our website,  Xero for our accounting and good old Excel Spreadsheets for everything else – we aren’t overly complex in terms of software.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

This is an interesting question! I read only fiction novels so I guess my answer is going to be one of my favorite stories – so many to choose from! I guess I’m going to have to pick one of the classics, Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’. It’s so important when or culture is moving so quickly to occasionally take a refreshing ride through the past. Great Expectations is a beautifully written piece of literature that reminds you how wealth and stature can truly ruin you and how important it is to stay true to yourself. This is important when running a business, not to lose sight of who you are.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Pat Montani – Founder of Bicycles For Humanity
Architecture for Humanity (even though they have recently closed)
Dezeen Blog – Always has amazing design from around the world


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