Gillian Forsyth is helping people get on their bikes and ride
Running a business

Gillian Forsyth is helping people get on their bikes and ride

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the stories of the amazing women in small business that are conquering male-dominated industries and working to #breakthebias.

Name: Gillian Forsyth

Location: Chicago, IL

Business: BFF Bikes

What does your business do?

Retail bike sales, bike repair, clinics, and training. 

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started? 

I actually purchased the business from another woman who founded BFF Bikes. I decided to do this because I was pretty miserable for a very long time in my work life. I wanted to do something that would make a positive impact even if in a small way. 

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

As a business owner you have to have some knowledge about every aspect of the business, from finances to marketing to human resources. 

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

How much energy and time it takes. And yet you get to make your time your own. 

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it?

Human Resources management. This was an area I didn’t know anything about. I used webinars and city of Chicago resources.

How does running your own business make you feel?

Excited and accomplished. I love helping others. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner? 

Not knowing about all the red tape and forms and payments to make every month.

What are your proudest moments? 

Seeing beginner riders complete our Tour de Cure ride where we rode 50 miles raising money for the American Diabetes Association.

What are the next big plans you have for your business?

I am hoping to create a beginner and accessible triathlon training group.

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner? 

My background in finance, my propensity for hard work, and being passionate about bikes.

What challenges do you feel are unique to female small business owners?

Wanting to create a niche for other female riders but not excluding any other groups. I also can lack self-confidence which can interfere with running a business. After being in the corporate “men’s club” for so long it is hard to find my voice sometimes. 

What is it like working in an industry that some might see as traditionally male-dominated? Have you come up against any bias? 

Yes, for sure. We see it all the time, especially when it comes to trying to help male customers.

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Find other women to become part of your life who are in the same industry. Find your tribe.

Is there anything you want other women to know about working in your industry?

Find other women to become part of your life who are in the same industry. Find your “tribe,” so to speak. Guaranteed that what you are facing others have and will face. 

What advice would you give to other women starting their own business? 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

Selling a bike to a customer who comes in and says “I haven’t ridden a bike since I was a kid.” Seeing that mix of fear and excitement in their eyes is so fulfilling.

How can female business owners support one another and their community? 

Join your local chamber of commerce and start networking!

What’s your “power song” and why?

Believe it or not, “Till’ I Collapse” by Eminem.

To learn more about BFF Bikes and to support the business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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