The next Small Business Award winner in our spotlight series is YYC Cycle, a network of cycle studios promoting optimism and community while getting in shape. The team won the Resilient Business Award after coming out the other end of the pandemic ready to tackle new challenges and welcome new members at each of their six studios.
At the starting line
Co-founder Andrew Obrecht started as a spin instructor, teaching at various studious, developing his mindset on what makes a positive environment for cyclists.
“I wanted people to feel welcome no matter who they were—what age they were, what gender they were, what sexual preference they were, what colour they were,” says Obrecht. “I didn’t want people comparing their first chapter to my second or third chapter.”
Obrecht started embracing people into his classes by building a community affectionately called The Biker Gang, where anyone was welcome as just one of the gang. That community spun into a unique environment and eventually YYC Cycle, where he partnered with two others to build a neighbourhood of people to come together and have fun, while spinning their cares away.
“We’re not in the business of spin classes,” he says. “We’re in the business of positivity. We’re in the business of passion. That’s our mantra.”
Exercise facilities can feel exclusive to those who haven’t been but want to be a part of health, wellness, and bettering themselves. Obrecht and YYC Cycle are part of a movement toward accessible, approachable fitness.
“I know what it’s like to be treated like you don’t belong,” he says, noting that he was a bigger kid and that he understands that fitness can be intimidating. “We truly preach that everybody’s going through a hard battle, and nobody’s battle is more important than the next. We want people to enter that room and shed the layers we present to the world—just be present and supportive.”
Locked down and building back up
Like many businesses, YYC Cycle had to shutter most operations during the Covid pandemic. In-person services like cycle studios were some of the hardest hit during this time.
“We were on this trend before the pandemic,” says Obrecht, speaking to the upward trajectory of his business and the ever-expanding Biker Gang of participants. “We’ve got a team of just over 250 people who work for us—and a Biker Gang of thousands—and we were a big part of people’s lives, not only physical health but also mental health.”
YYC Cycle went into lockdown in 2020 for ten months, five of those at less than 20% operational capacity, during a time that dramatically affected mental health. Knowing that positive environments and cardio fitness are such a boon for those involved, YYC Cycle is back post-Covid in six studios to be a space where spinners can come together and navigate their own paths.
Along for the ride
Over the next year, Obrecht and the team are going back to a startup mentality, bolstering the existing locations and building their rider base back up. He and his business partner are in the studios three days a week, on the front lines: working the front desk, cleaning toilets, folding laundry, greeting riders, to ensure the foundation is solid.
Looking down the road, Obrecht will be keeping his eye on the Canadian market, but is focused on what they’ve created.
“We’d rather grow a great company than a big company, as far as number of studios,” he says. “We’re learning from what we’ve gone through, with a lot of room to grow with our six studios to make a lot of impact.”
And in doing that, Obrecht wants to focus on the uplifting mission that helped build YYC Cycle into what it is today.
“There’s a big group of people who just want to belong, and they just want to feel welcome.”