Jeyda Heselton is CEO and Co-founder of Handlebars, a network of bike repair stations across London (with her eye on nationwide expansion). She was originally Programme Manager at JustPark and Product Manager before that. Not only has her interest in the mobility of future cities created a new, exciting opportunity, but she’s also a pun-loving door fanatic (you could say that she’s on the right track to opening new doors…). Here she talks side hustles and how they’ve shaped her work life.
Handlebars is a bicycle repair business. We’re building what will be the biggest network of bicycle repair workshops in the UK. Part of our model is to take empty or underused space and adapt that into workshops. Some of that land is parking spaces, some of it is just office space – we think there’ll be a tonne of interesting spots as we grow. What we’re trying to do differently, on top of choosing interesting locations, is to provide a better customer experience than you typically get. Most bike shops are independently run, owned by great people who love fixing bikes. They’re in it because they love cycling and bikes but it’s a bit of a different mindset to thinking about how business can like this scale or how the modern consumer likes to interact with the things that they pay for. So we’re trying to change that experience and make it much more inline with everything else that a cyclist pays for. They’ll probably have ClassPass, Treatwell and other service apps on their phone but when it comes to bike repair, it’s often like the 1900s. We want to change that and I’m super excited about that opportunity.
The thing that makes this business survive and thrive is the people: it’s a super people-focused business so you need to have mechanics that are not only technically able to work on bikes but also super organised with systems and ordering. And then they’re really good at dealing with customers, honest, and friendly. That’s actually quite difficult to find so we’re trying to build our own training academy. We want to join various schemes so we can take on apprentices, and we’re trying to find out about working with ex-offenders and ex-armed forces. Our goal is breathable cities, so if I can help contribute to sustainable travel in that way, then great. If I’m also running a business that has social impact so it gets people into meaningful work and it creates jobs then I’ll be really happy. Business is business, and we have to make money, but if we can make money while doing those other things, so much the better.
It’s exciting to be running my own business but in this day and age it’s hard to go into something and think “I’m going to make money.” If this ticks over, profit is the icing on the cake. I think that profit tends to follow actually if you’re doing something good and you’re doing it well.
I joined JustPark 2014 when I think there were about 15 to 20 of us, max. We went through a lot of growth which was really, really fun. I actually moved to London for JustPark. Previously I went to uni up in Leeds and then I spent a year doing any old job and travelling. Then when I came back to England, the second day I got back, I saw an advert for JustPark; applied for it and within a week or so, I was moving down here, which was really great. I joined JustPark when it was still fairly young and it was at a time of my life which I guess was quite formative so I feel like I grew as the company grew. I’m not sure anything can quite prepare you for running your own business because there’s a lot involved in it! I also couldn’t have told you six years ago that this is where I would be. But I think being in an early stage start-up is as good as you can get for preparing you for what it’s like day-to-day and the different challenges that you’ll face.
I was Product Manager then Programme Manager, working on lots of different projects. Lots of our research kept leading to bikes, Oren (JustPark Chairman) had had this idea in the past about a bicycle repair business. And when I started looking at it and looking at the numbers and working through the business cases, I thought, “Actually this could work.” So, we went for it and now I’m steering the ship at Handlebars! I’m CEO, I own a percentage of the business and JustPark is one of the lead investors. It entails doing lots of different things and I guess it kind of plays to my strengths because I like variety, I like getting things done, and dipping my toe in lots of different things. I joke that I’m a jack of all trades and master of none – I’m reasonably competent in a variety of areas – but that’s what you need to run a business.
The people who are investing in Handlebars are all super interesting individuals and I think of them as very smart and capable. It’s really encouraging that they can see potential in this to the point that they’re investing.
I started taking photos of doors in 2018. Well, I’ve been doing it all my life, I just didn’t really realise! But that year, I started an Instagram page where I posted door photos. It actually came at a time in my life when I was struggling with anxiety and I found that walking outside was really helpful. It was nice having this weird sense of purpose through a somewhat meaningless activity. People started liking the doors which was surprising to me but I loved it. Having done it for a while, someone at the BBC got in touch and said it was their mission, “to get your knockers on the homepage of the BBC”. Obviously, I said, “Absolutely!”. That feature increased the reach of my doors account by a decent amount. From there, a company called DOORCO got in touch and said they’d love for me to be involved. So now I not only send them some photos every month, but I also write a blog every month and a piece that goes into an industry magazine, Glass News. I’ve become a self-appointed Chief Doork. I do door-related projects with them too. At the moment, I’m designing my own glass panel range to go into doors, the profits of which will be going to a homeless charity. I’ve designed a few different ones and we’ve put it to the public to vote on their favourite ones. Next on my list, I’m designing some knockers. It’s extremely odd because I’m not a designer but I have seen a lot of doors – I know what makes a cracking door. Taking all these photos has developed into a bit of an unsuspecting niche for me.
Lots of people send me photos of doors and my friend was doing just that when she went on holiday. Then on the plane on the way back, she was reading the magazine and I was featured in the Easyjet magazine! They hadn’t told me they were going to do that. I was like, “Wow, international coverage!”
It’s really good fun, I go on door walks and spot interesting doors. And I have some future intentions for my door life which I can’t give away right now but you can follow me on Instagram for all the latest!
If you haven’t got a specialist interest with a large following on Instagram, fear not. You can create a secondary revenue easily by renting out your driveway or garage through JustPark. It takes a few minutes to set up your listing and from there you can withdraw your earnings as often as you like. As a space owner you could be earning between £500 and £3,000 a year and the first £1,000 is tax free!
This story is part of a series about side hustles and passive income. Interested to read more? Find out how Frani found a way to share her expertise with a broader audience and how Mike created affordable geo-tracking for SMEs. Or, if you’re thinking about a side hustle of your own, read our top ideas for boosting your income.