On Being A Woman In The Bike Industry With Sarah Johnson

Do you know how many women there are in C suite positions in the bike industry? Not many.

Sarah Johnson, COO of Bunch bikes, is one of the few. In this episode, I get the opportunity to chat with Sarah about what it’s like being a woman in the heavily male dominated bike industry, reinventing your career life and life, as well as one of my favorite topics: bike commuting.

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About The Host

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @kristenlbonkoski

Full Transcript

Kristen
First off, Sarah, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. And we’re going to talk today a lot about being a woman working in the bike industry, as well as talking about cargo bikes, and bike commuting.

But before we jump into all of that, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself? Who is Sarah Johnson? How did you get into biking and how did you get started in the bike industry?

Sarah
All right, well, it’s really great to be here. Thank you, Kristen. So my name is Sarah Johnson. I am currently the COO for Bunch Bikes, the leading front-loading cargo bike in the US.

I got into the bike industry a little bit unconventionally. So I started my career as an actuary, which, if you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s basically a combination of finance and statistics. I worked in both life insurance and pension. And while it’s a very stable and lucrative career, I really didn’t like it. I tried really, really hard to like it. I changed jobs a couple times. And, you know, really tried to make myself stick with it. But I finally accepted the fact that the actuarial life just wasn’t for me. So then I set out on a mission, and I decided, “You know what, I’m going to leave the actuarial industry. And I’m going to find something that I love and something that I’m passionate about.” So I actually started seeing a life coach who helped me talk through and identify what my values were and what I was looking for.

And around that time, it was really serendipitous. So I was bike commuting to an actuarial job that I wasn’t super thrilled about. And I was unusual, being a bike commuter to this consulting firm. But one day on my bike commute, I happen to hear another cyclist, and I was very much accustomed to being blown by. It was usually a dude who just flew by me, another commuter flying by. But this time, it was different. It’s like, huh, this person is commuting like the same pace as me. That doesn’t happen very often. I happen to look back, it’s another woman, and we started chit-chatting. And coincidentally, her name was Beth, and she worked for Quality Bicycle Products in Human Resources. And at first, I had never heard of this company before. And I thought, gosh, that’s curious that a bike shop would have an HR department, but okay. So I started asking her some more questions, and she cleared it up. She was like, no, no, no, no, we are a bike distribution company. We distribute bike parts all across the country. I thought, oh, and it was like, the clouds parted and I knew aha, this is what I’ve been looking for.

So I remember that night I went online and I just devoured QBP’s website and learned everything about it. And all of their values resonated so strongly with mine. I’m like, “Oh ha, I found that I know what I’m going to do.” Well, at the time, I looked at job postings, and I think the only posting was for an entry-level buyer position. And I didn’t care. I applied, I’m like, I don’t care if I haven’t had any buyer experience. I just want to work in the bike industry. So I applied, and HR did give me a call. And they said, “We think you might be overqualified for this position. But there’s another position we’d like you to consider.” I think it was a financial analyst position. And I came in and I interviewed, and sadly, I came in second. And I did not get the job. But this life coach that I was working with, she encouraged me to be persistent and maintain connections. So I got a number of business cards during that interview.

And periodically, not obnoxiously. But every once in awhile, like if I saw some news about QBP, I drop a little line, “Hey, I saw, you’re having Santa Drive, I hope it was a great event. And you know, just want to let you know, I’m still interested if anything opens up.” Well, it took about a year. And finally, I was hired on to QPB as a supply chain analyst. And I have to give the company a lot of credit, like they waited for the right position for me. It utilized a lot of my math and analytical skills, it was absolutely the right position for me to come into in the industry.

Sarah
And one thing that I like to encourage your listeners, and I think in your last podcast, you touched on this as well. You don’t have to be a mechanic or an engineer, or you don’t have to do any sort of job where you get your hands on the bike. If your skill set is in marketing, or it’s in, you know, analytics, or it’s in finance, or whatever, like there are a ton of different ways to get involved in the bike industry. And you don’t have to have that know-how of bike mechanics. I am terrible when it comes to bike mechanics I tried to understand but I just, it just isn’t my thing. And that is okay, you can be in the bike industry, and not know all of the things you don’t have to be a gearhead.

So unfortunately, QBP they wanted at the time I remember they were looking for, you know, not necessarily conventional hires, you know, the typical hire in the bike industry is someone who started in a bike shop when they were 16 wrenching on bikes. And yeah, that’s how a lot of people get into the bike industry, they started as a bike shop. Well, if you think about the demographic of who that is, it’s going to be pretty homogenous. So I was really fortunate with QBP, that they were looking into ways to diversify their employee pool. So I started in 2012, as a supply chain analyst at QBP. I was there for five years, it was a fantastic experience, fantastic company to work for. But, I was getting a bit antsy and ambitious. And I had a former colleague who left QBP and went to Specialized and he suspected that may be the case for me, and he kept contact. And you know, let me know, like, hey, if at any time you’re looking for, you know, something more, then please do reach out. And so I did get to that point where I was really curious about “Well, what more can I do in the bike industry?”

And I took a leap and I went to Specialized. I started as a demand planner. And with Specialized, things happen really fast. They’re perpetually changing and growing in that company. And so I was with Specialized over the course of four years. And I think I moved positions four times. And when I left Specialized, I was the leader of Global Planning. And it was during the pandemic, yeah, which was an incredibly stressful time because essentially, my role was, I was the gatekeeper of inventory for the entire world. And there was not enough inventory for the entire world due to supply chain issues. And so I joked with friends that the whole world just hates me right now. It really was a challenge, but I really appreciate having experienced that challenge. I got to work with markets all over the world. Work with them to help make a situation that was not awesome. Tried to help them work through it as best as we could. Very challenging time.

Um, around that time I was going to grad school, I graduated from the Executive MBA program from the University of Utah. And so I was naturally along with all my cohort we were kind of keeping your eyes out for, “Okay, we’re graduating from this MBA program. What’s next?”

Sarah
Coincidentally on LinkedIn, my final week of grad school, I saw a former colleague of mine hosts the COO position for Bunch Bikes. And I read through the company description, the position description, let’s watch the Shark Tank episode. Yes, I learned all about the company. And I’m like, wow, here’s a company that really resonates with my values. So I had mentioned that with QBP, that I really connected with the values of that company. And a lot of their values were bike commuting, sustainability, community connection, that sort of thing. At Specialized, their focus is on performance and innovation. And they have incredibly high-performing innovative bikes like their bikes are amazing to ride. But what was lacking for me at Specialized was getting back to, you know, the community, sustainability, and those types of values. I am not a racer, I am not fast. And so like I just had a hard time relating with Specialized.

And so that was part of the motivation for looking at Bunch. And yeah, a Bunch definitely gets me back to the things that I most care about, which is number one is community. And then also living sustainability values, which for me, I show that through my bike commuting. And so it’s Aaron just released, I think it was yesterday, he posted a really nice Instagram post or reel on our bunch bikes account. I think it’s just @bunchbikes on Instagram, and it highlighted how family is his priority. And so he really balances that when he’s running the business. When he goes home from the business, he puts his phone in the closet. He rarely works on the weekends. Like he is a family-focused business owner, and I really appreciate that about him.

Kristen
Absolutely. You mentioned also community – how is the company – one of your values is community – how is Bunch doing that?

Sarah
Um, well, I will say, so the company is based down in Denton, Texas, and I am remote in Salt Lake City, but I go down to the company about a week every month. And I’ve been with the company a short time. I started in August of 2021 and I already feel like I am integrated into the Denton community. So Bunch has employees that are involved in various rides and events. There’s a Thursday night Denton Community Ride, and I’ve gone maybe three or four times to it, but people know me there. They say “Hey, how you doing? Thanks for joining us again, good to see in town.” So like within Denton, there’s a strong community presence. Also Aaron has a relationship with a co-working space called Stoke down in Denton. And they have a program called Accelerate Her. Aaron is a mentor to that program is up and coming women entrepreneurs within the Denton area. I’ve been a guest speaker for them as well. So there’s just a really strong presence in Denton.

Outside of that there’s a strong Bunch Bikes community, we have an ambassador program. So our customers who are really stoked about our product can have the opportunity to share their product share their bike with others within their community. So we have a nationwide network. So like for instance, Salt Lake City, you can look up, I want to try a Bunch Bike, who can I call? And I’ll say in Salt Lake City, you’d probably be meeting me and I would be very happy to meet people who are interested in trying a Bunch bike. But yeah, throughout the country, we have ambassadors, we have boots on the ground. A lot of them are parents with little ones. And they want to share the joy of their bike with other people and get more people on the bike because it really is a way of life.

Kristen

I want to pause there because I can just imagine a bunch of folks listening and they’re like, What the heck is a Bunch Bike? And we don’t have any way to show people in a picture what a Bunch bike is. So maybe you can just describe it real quickly.

Sarah

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So it’s a front-loading cargo e-bike. So what the heck does that mean? Well it means that in the front of the bike, it’s actually a trike. So it’s got two wheels in the front and within those two wheels, there is a box. And that box has benches and seat belts. There are a couple different versions, our original version, it seats four children, four little ones.

bunch bike

You can also attach like toddler seats and the infant seats for littler ones in there. And then the bike is electric assist. So you might be thinking like “My goodness, if I have four kids in this bike, how am I ever going to pedal it?” Well, you have electric assist it’s it’s got a throttle to give you a boost at the beginning if you need it, and then it just gives you a little bit of a get up and go while you’re pedaling.

And I have a bunch of bikes here I found so I’m going to back up a little bit. Pre e-bikes — e-bikes are all the rage right now – pre e-bikes. I was kind of a purist I kind of put my nose up in the air. I know I know a lot of cyclists who have done this as well I’m like, “Ah, you know I’m gonna ride up real bike.” No, no, no, no no in e-bike is a game-changer. So an e-bike allows you to ride your bike get some exercise, and you’re not all sweaty you don’t have to wear all the spandex you can be comfortable and have a comfortable ride. And so another thing that I had been a purist on was like “Oh, I’m never going to use a throttle.”

The throttle is actually very helpful like when you’re at a stoplight and you need to get up and go and you know there’s a car behind you who wants to make a right turn you hit that throttle so you can get out of their way really quickly. So yeah, it’s got a little throttle to get you going if you need it, and then just a little bit of a pickup there are five different levels of assist so if you want hardly any assistance at all, you can put it way down at one. But if you want to have a turbo mode to crank it up to five which I tend to crank it up to four or five I’d like to go faster.

Kristen
Yeah and I’ve got to mention that I so I have a Bunch bike I think I’ve mentioned it on the podcast before. I have several e-bikes I use but the Bunch bike is the bike that I go to when I’ve got my son with me who’s nine and he doesn’t fit on a lot of cargo bikes now. So he can go in there. I put my yellow lab in there and cruise around and that works really really well. I take all my camp chairs and soccer ball to soccer practice and it is just like – it’s like a minivan for e-bike families right and it’s fabulous.

And yes, the electric assist is so great. I was the same way total purist before about electric bikes and now that I’ve incorporated them into my life, I just can’t imagine not having electric bikes because it makes giving up a car or using a car much less frequently more possible.

Sarah
Absolutely. And I mostly ride just e-bikes now which if you would have asked me 5 or 10 years ago I would have said no way. No way. But now it’s completely been a game-changer.

Kristen
It is absolutely. Have you ever tried any cargo bikes other than the Bunch bike?

Sarah
That’s a great question. I actually have not okay, yeah, yeah, Bunch Bikes is the only cargo bike that I have ridden. So I know that like rear cargo bikes are probably they’re more common in the US right now. Like the long tail. Yes, the front-loading cargo bikes, though that is right now – not a lot of people know about them, which I’m really glad you asked me the question. Can you tell people what this race cargo bike is? In Scandinavian countries, front-loading cargo bikes are just a way of life. It is just how your family gets around. And it creates such a fun, inclusive experience with your family. And it’s something that we really want to catch on in the US and it is starting to catch on here.

One of the things that made me recognize right off out of the gate that this was a special product was when I went down to Texas to interview – Aaron let me bike his kids in this front-loading cargo bike. I had never biked one of these before. And it does have a different feel than a regular bike. So I was a little bit quite not pulling out like, “Oh, I don’t know about this.” But I got the hang of it. And the thing that really stood out to me was while I was biking, his kids were having a conversation with me. His daughter loves chickens. And she was telling me all about the different breeds of chickens, which I didn’t realize there were all those breeds of chickens. But we were engaged in having this fun conversation while we were riding our bike to the park. Whereas that’s, I think, the deficit of like, having the Burley Trailer behind you, or you know, having a kid in a seat behind you, you’re not really able to have that engagement or conversation. I really do think that that’s how Bunch Bikes and front-loading cargo stands out.

Kristen
Yeah, I totally agree with that. That’s I’ve always, you know, I have another website called Rascal Rides, where we review kids’ bikes and products for biking with kids. And that’s always been something I’ve advocated for instead of having like a rear-mounted bike seat to have a front-mounted bike seat for a little one. And the same thing with cargo bikes, instead of having them behind you have them in front of you, because A.) you can see them and keep an eye on them and B.) it’s much more interactive, it’s a lot easier to have a conversation and like have fun with them while you’re biking.

Sarah
Yes, yes.

Kristen
There are some other very similar front loaders on the market. Like a lot of times, I’m biking around way see here. And I’ll almost think I see somebody with a Bunch bike and it’s a different bike. But what sets Bunch apart? Or what makes Bunch unique? Why should someone choose a Bunch bike over maybe one of the competitors?

Sarah
Oh, there’s, I mean, there are a lot of reasons. One, I would say we really stand out with our customer service. And that is our number one company value is to wow customers with our service. So if if you have any sort of issue or anything, you call you email, you’re gonna get a hold of Kyle, who’s our customer service representative. Or you might even get directly to Aaron Powell, the owner of Bunch Bikes, and they will help you, you know, if something breaks, like, we’re gonna get that part shipped out to you. ASAP. And we’re gonna help arrange you know, a repair person to come out and fix something. You know, just really, if you have questions about how the Bunch works, or the functionality or need ideas on how to better situate your kids or anything like that, you reach out to the company and someone is going to be there and they are going to be happy to help you.

Kristen
Very good. And for somebody who’s listening who is brand new to bike commuting, or just wants to start doing it more frequently. What are some of your top tips?

Sarah
Oh, that is a really great question. And one that I get stoked about. I love getting people on a bike and bike commuting. So if you’re brand new to it, start with a short ride. You know, like, for instance, I have a grocery store that’s a mile from my house, start with something short, like that. Don’t go all-in on equipment right away. I think I’ve heard you on a podcast say that as well. You are going to learn so much as you get experience about what you like and don’t like. So wait until you have more of that information from your personal experience. And learn what your preferences are before really spending a lot of money on your gear. And I’ll also say you don’t need to spend a lot of money on gear. Like for instance, I’ve done a lot of hack jobs. That might look ridiculous, but I don’t care where they work. So for instance, the crates cabled on the back rear, you know, it works. And it works. Yeah. Um, so I would say just, number one, try.

Start small, don’t force yourself. Don’t force yourself to say like, “Every day, I’m never going to drive the car again. I’m going to bike every day from here on out.” Don’t make that kind of commitment upfront, like ease yourself into it and really understand what you like and don’t like and what works for you. I went to a former colleague of mine at QBP, Doug Seidel, he would give commuting seminars and not just that keep up but at large scale corporations. And he actually – this surprised me – he actually encouraged people to be fair-weather riders. And I like, “Well, why why would you do that, like, get people to ride all the time?” And he said, “If people are miserable, they’re gonna give it up. So be that fair weather rider, there is nothing wrong with it.” And then if you want to be a bit more adventurous then tackle some of the harder situations. I, I am one of those unusual souls who does the I do year-round biking? So I’m pretty gritty. I lived in Minneapolis a lot of years and did the year-round biking. That is not for everyone. I fully recognize I’ve got a little bit of like, not mainstream not.

Yeah, there’s so so yeah, I think that’s the big thing. Like, start, start small. And also seek support. Like if there’s someone within your community, you know, who likes to bike – you know, go ahead and ask them. Now, I will caution you on that, though. But be how do I put this? Find someone who’s not going to overwhelm you when you ask for help. There are some people who may get too caught up in gear and tack and provide too much information from the getgo. That can be really overwhelming. So look for someone in your community who you find empathetic who bikes and just ask them if they’ll help you out.

Kristen
Yeah, I think the one great thing about you know you mentioned being scrappy is that commuters tend to be a little bit different than like road cyclists or mountain bikers. You don’t have to have like all the best gear and all the cool, you know, yeah, yeah, they’re just a little bit more down to earth and whatever you have works and whatever you’re wearing.

Sarah
Yes, I’ve always had this feeling of like, “I’m different,” you know, as a bike commuter, because you’re right, like, I am not like I, I have the gear to do the road cycling, I have the gear to do the mountain biking. And that just that just comes with working in the industry, you gather so much gear over time when you work in the industry. But that’s not my natural go-to. My natural go-to is just tooling around the city on my bike and comfortable clothes and just experiencing the city.

That’s one of the things that I absolutely love about bike commuting, you experience things that you just don’t experience in a car, the sights, the smells. In a car, you’re going so fast that you don’t notice, like a little restaurant that’s open on the corner, like you see those things when you’re on the bike. And one of my favorite times of year to bike is like nighttime summer rides, when the city is quiet. And then like, I’ll see raccoons or all see a fox or you know, and it’s just amazing to see in this, you know, what’s normally a bustling city. It’s so quiet. And then you see wildlife in the city. It’s really neat.

Kristen
Um, you had mentioned earlier that you are from Minnesota and like through the winter and all that. What tips do you have if somebody were telling everybody to start out as fair weather? But if somebody does want to be biking year-round, what kind of tips do you have for them?

Sarah
Yeah, so the number one tip is: Dress is key. Make sure you have the right layers. I’m sure – so there was a website I used to reference that is no longer up that had like, if it’s this temperature and clear, here’s what you should wear. If it’s this temperature and it’s raining. Here’s what you should wear. And Kristen, I don’t know if you have any resources. But if you can find a site like that, like this, bookmark that page. Yeah, reference it.

Kristen
Let’s see what kind of resources I can find.

Sarah
Yeah, just having something or like take notes. You know, what do you notice is enough or not enough when you’re riding at certain temperatures, but in the winter riding, so what’s key is your extremities if you don’t have your hands and your feet warm enough, you’re gonna be absolutely miserable. A few things that work for me, and I have to be very careful because I have something called gray nose. Oh, yeah. Which is, yeah, poor circulation in my fingers and my toes. And so for me, some things that worked were, you know, the little Oh, I can’t think of what they’re called the hand and foot warmers.

Kristen
Like the chemical warmers?

Sarah
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So using those if you need them. I don’t like using single-use stuff. But sometimes in that case, like, I just had to. What one thing that was key for me for my hands was the bar mitts. Yeah. So it’s basically over your handlebar, you can put it’s like an extra layer of mittens you stick your hands in. And so you are shielded. Your hands are from the wind and the cold. Cold when they’re in these mittens, and you’re shifting and braking. Yeah, those were so clutch for me.

Kristen
One thing you’d mentioned, you didn’t like using the single-use, and I haven’t tried using them. But there are like battery-operated mittens and like socks you can get too. So I do know some ladies who use those that bike year-round and have trouble.

Sarah
Yeah, I’ve started to I started to hear about those as well. And I want to take a look into them. The ones that I saw were a little –

Kristen
They are expensive. Yes.

Sarah
Keep looking. Yeah, yeah.

Kristen
Um, let’s see, circling back around to your experience in the bike industry and being a woman in the bike industry. And I just want to say first off that congratulations on your COO position, because that’s huge. And I was just at Sea Otter and I went to a panel there on diversity in the bike industry. And the woman moderating the whole thing said, you know, it’s great that the bike industry keeps talking about diversity. But what really matters is women and people of color in the C suite, and the C suite is still overwhelmingly male and white. And so that’s a big deal that you are a woman in the C suite. And that speaks a lot, I think to Bunch as a company too.

Sarah
Yes, it does. Thank you for that. And it is a bit surreal being in this position. And I do I credit Aaron a lot for being open to bringing me on. And one thing that I had to manage, and this was mentioned in a recent podcast of yours, impostor syndrome, that’s something that I’ve had to wrestle a lot, especially when you’re one of the only, yeah, you know, in that position, it’s like, “Oh, do I belong here?” And I have to remind myself, “Yes, I belong here. Yes, I can do this.” And it really is, like, perpetually reinforcing. Like, I can do this, I can do this. And something that really helps me in getting here. You know, I, I completed that executive MBA program at the University of Utah. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t join the program, because I set out to be an executive. It was more because, you know, I mentioned community before and how important to me it is.

The Executive MBA Program had a cohort system, which meant you went through the entire program with the same 55 students for the full two years. So we had our community of students. So that really was the draw of the program. But by the end of the program, from the support within that cohort, I realized I can be an executive, I had many of my classmates and my professors who were very supportive and encouraging. And let me know, “Sarah, you belong there.” And so it was that community in that support that made me believe I could even apply for a COO position. You know, prior to that program, I wouldn’t have put my name in the hat. No way. No way. I would have thought that’s too far above and beyond. But because I had that encouragement, I went ahead and did it. And I know that was a message in your prior podcast as well. Put your hat in the ring. Apply, apply, apply.

Kristen
Absolutely. What, aside from applying, do you have any other tips for women who are interested in getting into the bike industry?

Sarah
Yes, absolutely. The big one that I have is networking. Connect with people in the industry. Use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is great. LinkedIn is how I learned about the Bunch Bikes COO position. A former colleague posted it. So yeah, reach out to people and introduce yourselves, introduce yourself to me. Find me, Sarah Johnson, at Bunch Bike COO. Find me on LinkedIn, shoot me a message. I’m happy to connect with you and connect you to other people to learn that have informational interviews, and learn about the bike industry. Because the bike industry is a very small world.

I started at QBP, and now I know people at basically all the major bike brands in the industry because we all just like there’s a constant evolution of you know, everyone’s careers are changing and growing. And you never know where people are going to end up. So yeah, networking is He reached out if there’s a company that really intrigues, you reach out to someone there and say, “Hey, I’m thinking about getting into the bike industry. Would you mind having a short conversation with me to learn more about what you do?” And you might get crickets, you might get no response. So what? Try someone else, you will get someone who is willing to talk to you. So yeah, that is the two things: Apply and network.

Kristen
What’s your experience then being a female in the bike industry? And have you seen places where the bike industry needs to improve, I guess?

Sarah
Um, I mean, definitely, the bike industry needs to improve. I have been involved in a lot of equity, diversity, and inclusion programs that QBP and Specialized, and I use my voice in that respect at Bunch Bikes as well. And the fact of the matter is, you know, it’s not uncommon to have 25% of your workforce are women at a bike company. And so what I’ve learned in being involved in EDI initiatives is a big part of it is, where are we looking for candidates? And like I mentioned earlier on, a lot of it is, oh, let’s ask at the local bike shop, if they have someone that they know, well, you’re gonna get the same types of people, if that’s what you do, because my impression, and again, this is just my impression is the bike shops are struggling more with this than the bike companies, the bike brands, because, frankly, the bike brands have more resources to put behind it, you know, bike shops, small, small businesses, I mean, it’s hard to have resources for everything that you need. So that’s not meant to be a slight to bike shops, but just recognizing that there’s more of a struggle there.

So yeah, my experience, being a woman in the bike industry, you know, one of the things for me, I guess, in a sense, you could call me feisty, like, if I see something that’s inequitable, if I see something that’s not fair, I’m gonna fight for it. And so I tend to get involved at my organizations advocating for those who, who are disadvantaged in the workforce. So like I keep up I helped develop, they had a, a, an internship to help encourage women trans get into the bike industry, that has since expanded to a broader diversity initiative. At Specialized, I was involved in elevating women, that Specialized initiative, and that was recognizing exactly what you brought up before, as you get higher up into the organization, it gets thinner and thinner, the percentage of women gets smaller and smaller. So for me in the industry, there’s been a lot of advocating, which is hard, it’s really hard. I, I see a lot of things, when your eyes are open to these issues, you can’t close them. So I see a lot of things that I think the average person probably doesn’t see in the industry because they haven’t spent the time creating that awareness. And so, one thing that I struggle with is, what is the right amount of bringing awareness without people drowning you out? Or being like, “Oh, there goes Sarah again on her feminist rant.”

You know, I’m trying to figure out like, how can I effectively convey awareness within the workplace? Outside of working in EDI, and just in, in my day-to-day like, I, I have spent countless times being the only woman in the room and being a senior leader is the only woman in a room. And that’s a difficult position to be in, because I find myself where I have to assert myself. But then I can come across as harsh, which I’ve heard that word used to describe me, okay. And, and so it’s a balancing act. It’s like well, do I assert myself and be heard or do I not be heard or you know, and, and constantly trying to figure out like, how do I approach situations with empathy and assertiveness, so that people will hear me? Yeah, it is a constant struggle, and it’s frankly exhausting.

Sarah
You know, at Bunch Bikes, since it’s so much smaller, it’s, it’s not prevalent, like I’ve experienced in the past. But still, there are times where I bring awareness to issues that, like, for instance, that Aaron just isn’t aware of. And he’s like, “Oh, I didn’t think of that. I wouldn’t have thought of that.” And so I recognize that that is part of my place in Bunch Bikes to, you know, raise awareness on diversity issues within the workplace.

Kristen
Yeah, I heard so much of what you said is just being an issue for women in the workplace in general, not necessarily distinct to the bike industry, although the bike industry is even more of a challenge, maybe?

Sarah
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Kristen
Um, have you been able to connect with any other women in C suite positions within the industry? Or do you have any female mentors within the bike industry?

Sarah
Um well, at Specialized, I was part of a pilot program a mentorship pilot program. And I was fortunate in being partnered with the C suite woman at Specialized. And she directed strategy at Specialized. So I felt really fortunate in that, like there was a woman at that high of a level that I could be mentored by. And it was a unique, a unique program, because it was a whole mentorship program. In that we would alternate weeks who was mentoring who, and so I’m like, “Whoa, should I be mentoring Kim here? I don’t know about this.” But we had such distinct experiences that we really were able to give each other helpful insight, even though we were at different levels. In addition to that, there are a few women that I have been in touch with, not at the C suite level. But nonetheless, even though they’re not C suite, I look up to them. And it’s only a matter of time that they’re going to be in that position. and I are always thoroughly enjoy connecting with them. And I am making a point of connecting with other women in the industry, because there’s nothing like feeling understood, like really understood. And so when I speak to these women, it’s like, ah, someone else gets it. And it just feels really good to just feel that validation, like, “Okay, what I’m experiencing like, this is not just me, this is a thing.”

Kristen
Absolutely. I want to say, before we start wrapping things up, I just want to say you are so inspiring. I love that the story that you shared at the beginning about not just being complacent in a job and that you didn’t love that you went out and got a life coach and made things happen for yourself and gotten into an industry that you were interested and passionate about. And that you have, you know, despite the imposter syndrome, you spoke about that you gotten yourself into a C suite position and just super inspirational. So I want to thank you for being a good example for all of us listening.

Sarah
Great. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. And please to your listeners. If you’re interested in getting in the bike industry. Please do shoot me a message. Again, you can find me Sarah Johnson on LinkedIn COO for Bunch Bikes.

Kristen
And for a bunch of bikes. If people want to learn more about Bunch where can they go to do that?

Sarah
Yes, they can go to bunchbike.com to our website to learn more about. You can see pictures of what is this bike that we’re talking about that’s so different from the rest.

Kristen
Awesome. I’ve got three final questions for you. The first one is what bike or bikes do you ride?
Okay, well there are three in my current rotation. Number one is the Bunch bike and tooling around town and getting groceries or going to the office. I actually moved from a co-working office space last week. And I have a couple pictures off I can send them to you where I have like my computer monitor and my office chair and everything stacked up in my Bunch bike and I was able to bike at home. So that’s one of my rotation. The other one around Salt Lake City, I have a Specialized Vado that I tool around town like I mostly e-bike. I said before – I do. So I love it’s so much fun. And then when I’m down in Denton, I have a Sirrus, a Specialized Sirrus that I keep at the warehouse. So when I go down to Denton, I stay there for a week and I do not rent the car. So I’m either walking or biking everywhere that I go and you’ll see me on the Sirrus. So I’m a purist in Denton but not in Salt Lake.

Kristen
Second question is, what is your favorite place you’ve ever ridden your bike?

Sarah
Oh, my goodness. Are we – do you want an exotic answer?

Kristen
No, just whatever your favorite is. It could be your neighborhood.

Sarah
Okay, so okay, I have a couple. Oh, gosh, I have a couple of answers. One is Singapore. When I worked for Specialized, I had the opportunity to go to our office in Singapore. And it was amazing. It’s like a jungle in a city. It was the most beautiful city. If you haven’t seen the movie Crazy Rich Asians, like see the movie, it highlights the gorgeous city. It’s amazing. So that was just an experience like no other biking around Singapore. Number two would be the Greenway in Minneapolis during the winter, where it’s you know, you think you’re a little crazy out there biking. But you run into other cyclists and it is this bike path that is in the heart of the city. It’s so amazing. You are just in the middle of the city, but it’s bikes only. It’s a super cool experience. And then locally here in Salt Lake City. Frankly, I just like biking to my coffee shop, Alchemy Coffee, one of my favorite places here in the city to just I don’t know, feel like part of the community, it makes it feel like home here.

Kristen
I love it. Final question is: What is your favorite thing about riding your bike?

Sarah
My favorite thing about riding the bike is it makes me feel like a kid again. And the sensory part of it. You smell you feel you just like you’re immersed in your surroundings. And right now it’s spring time. Best time of year for biking, smelling all the blooms. I love it.

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A podcast for women who love bicycles! We we celebrate all forms of riding and all forms of women, so whether you’re a road cyclist, mountain biker, or bike commuter, you’ll find your community here. Each week we’ll week bring you interviews from inspiring women, and offer tips and tricks to help you thrive on the bike.

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