How to Break Into the Cycling Industry – Jeff Frane of All-City Cycles
As a more urban rider, I have had my eye on the products that All-City Cycles has been turning out. They make dope fixed gear freestyle frames, along side a nice road frame (Mr. Pink), a cross bike (Nature Boy), and a touring bike (Space horse). Plus, they have a quality parts selection. I have been reading Jeff’s blog, BikeJerks for a while now, and at Interbike I had the pleasure of meeting him and talking more about All-City. After that meeting, I knew Jeff would be a good candidate for our interview series. Below is his story.
BIKERUMOR: Who are you and what are you doing here?
JEFF: I’m Jeff Frane, the Sales and Marketing Manager for All-City. I run the nuts and bolts of the day to day operations of the brand, work with the dealers and handle the marketing duties. I’m also the guy who gets to dream up our new products and bike models.
BIKERUMOR: What was your first job or experience in the cycling industry? How did you “break” in?
JEFF: I worked and raced for a shop through high school, and after college graduation I lived in my van and was a climbing / snowboarding bum. Eventually I got to missing my lady/ sick of being dirt poor / sick of living in a van and moved back to the Midwest. I got a job wrenching (I didn’t know shit) at Freewheel in Minneapolis, and that was the start of my “career.”
BIKERUMOR: What’s your educational background?
JEFF: I have a Bachelors with a twin major in Comparative Studies in Religion and Public Relations. Both of which explain why I ended up back in shop after graduation. I wanted a marketing job but was totally unemployable in the field. With no one wanting to hire me because of a total lack of experience I started my own little company, Bike Jerks (www.bikejerks.com), in order to gain experience in branding and event promotion. I figured if no one would hire me, the only way I was ever going to learn was by doing it myself.
BIKERUMOR: After that first experience/job, what was the path to your current position?
JEFF: Predictably, not being one of the senior mechanics, when fall came around I was laid off so I took up working for a junk removal service and the local climbing gym. In February of that year a buddy of mine took a job at Quality Bicycle Products and I soon followed him when I heard they were hiring a bunch of folks.
I started off in the warehouse as a seasonal employee packing boxes and picking parts, the low rung on the totem pole. Having my passion for bikes recognized, I quickly moved into other areas of the warehouse and eventually up to Bike Builder and Shock Treatment Center where I was able to polish my mechanical skills. This was around 2007/8 and the track boom was hitting hard. Unfortunately for me, QBP didn’t carry much of the track stuff I wanted such as double clips and straps.
Through my work with Bike Jerks, throwing alleycats and such, I had gained a reputation as “the fixed gear guy” at QBP and I started making requests of Lisa Snyder (AC’s Brand Manager) for parts to fill in the gaps. She listened to my requests and the parts did well, from there it was only a matter of time before we pressed Steve Flagg, the owner of QBP, to allow us to create a separate brand to give these parts some identity and life. My selfish mission in this was to create a platform to design and produce my dream track bike, the Big Block.
To my surprise Steve said “Yes” and we were on our way.
BIKERUMOR: What’s a normal day for you?
JEFF: I get up around 7:30, check email, let the dog out, then jump on my bike for the hour ride to work. Get into the office, check email again, and take care of whatever it is that needs to be taken care of that day. Every day’s different depending on the season.
BIKERUMOR: What are the highlights of your job?
JEFF: It’s pretty much all highlights. I live a ridiculous lifestyle (party, ride, repeat), get to ride my bike a whole lot, create products that enhance people’s lives, get to travel and meet amazing people, etc. etc. Of course it’s easy to get bogged down in the day to day B.S. of any job, but when you take the long view I’m pretty much the luckiest person on earth.
BIKERUMOR: What could you do without?
JEFF: The thing I struggle with the most is not owning something that I put every ounce of my life and love into. I work for an amazing company and am surrounded by people who inspire me, but at the end of the day I sometimes just feel like a replaceable cog in the machine.
BIKERUMOR: What advice would you give to someone looking to follow your path today?
JEFF: Don’t wait for something to come along, just get out there and make it happen. I don’t mean to give you the boot straps routine, but it’s true, for most of us in the world we aren’t going to be given anything. Bust your ass and make it happen.