Just three in 10 small businesses make it to the 10-year mark. As I reflect on Cycle Forward being among them, I feel every bit astonished by my longevity as I do proud. I don’t mean this in a self-deprecating way. Rather, it’s just a little bit amazing to me that I started the business in the first place and have been able to make my livelihood from it all these years.
Most people don’t know that I decided to leave my work in trails and community development in 2012. I took a position in another field, lasting just three months in a poor fit of a job. As I worked to re-establish myself, some good people offered me freelancing and subcontracting gigs (which I still appreciate to this day!). I was on the path back to trails. Before long, I figured I would just keep going with it. I built a website, ordered some business cards, and filed “Cycle Forward” as a Fictitious Name with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The state’s stamp of approval came through on 7/15/13, ten years ago this week.
I sometimes joke that the first seven years were the hardest. Honestly: It. Was. Hard. Cash flow was a struggle at times. And it took some time to start bringing in the kinds of projects that offer peace of mind and help sustain a business. There were several points, like the time I lost my health insurance because I missed a monthly payment, that made me want to go back to a job with a steady paycheck.
Another trying time was in 2019, when I had so little work lined up that I took a seasonal job over the holidays. I was reminded with that experience just how hard people have to work to make ends meet. I went into 2020 (still in a lull between consulting projects) with the time to write my book. I spent a lot of winter mornings with index cards spread across the dining room table as I organized ideas. By the time the pandemic hit, I was already three chapters in!
Since that time, Cycle Forward has grown in all the best ways. I published Deciding on Trails. I’ve taken on more and bigger consulting projects. And I’ve been able to invest in the business and plan for its future. But, yes, when I look back over the course of the decade, I’m both proud and astonished. Not an entrepreneur by nature, I do have grit, a great support system, and a true passion for the work I do helping communities to thrive through trails.
This post isn’t mean to be a personal/professional redemption story, but this milestone merits both introspection and celebration. So what am I celebrating?
I’ve worked with 50 clients across 15 states and 5 provinces (that’s a lot of fives, lottery-playing friends and relatives!). I’ve lead hundreds of talks, workshops, and conference sessions over the years. But so much more important to me are the clients who return to Cycle Forward time and again. I strongly believe that having repeat clients is one of the best measures of the quality of my work and relationships. And let’s face it, when it comes to consulting, it’s all about results and relationships. I’m also proud of the impact I’ve made on people who are working to turn their communities around and know that trails are part of the solution. I feel elated every time I hear that a discussion I lead sparked an idea or that a client moved forward on a project. It makes everyone’s time, mine included, worthwhile knowing that trail communities are indeed making progress.
I’d like to offer my sincere gratitude and appreciation to those who have helped me along the way, those who’ve entrusted me to provide consulting to their organizations and communities, and to everyone who’s out there building and maintaining trails and doing the same for their place in the world. Your work is needed and is most appreciated!
- We’re going to celebrate! Save the date for an August 26 bike ride and anniversary party. I’m still working on the details, which I’ll share in my next post. I may also have a virtual happy hour this fall if enough people from afar would like to raise a glass with me. Let me know in the comments (or by email) if you might be interested!
- I’ll be sharing a series of blog and social posts over the next few months.
- I’m going to be hiring either a part time or contract position before the year is up. If you or anyone you know might be interested, you can follow my blog on Substack to get the announcement.