Entrepreneurship: The Cycle Effect | Leeds School of Business

From Business at Leeds 2022 | Full digit

A group of cyclists taking a break.  The team leader is pointing the camera to the left.

Brett Donelson leads a group of cyclists on a ride. The Rural Entrepreneurship series helped give him the confidence to establish and now grow Cycle Effect, which Donelson started with his wife in 2013.

Civil rights activist Susan B. Anthony said in 1896, “The bicycle has done more for women than anything else in the world—it gives her a sense of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat.”

Today, women still ride bikes for the physical and mental benefits, which can sometimes be life-changing. But not as much as one would think.

A woman jumps on her mountain bike.Brett Donelson and his wife see every day as an opportunity to change that. Inspired to help young women, they started The Bicycle Effect in 2013, an Eagle County nonprofit that encourages underprivileged girls to develop self-esteem and healthy lifestyles through biking.

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“We had no business experience, but kept saying ‘yes’ to opportunities instead of focusing on the 99 ‘no’s’ we got,” Donelson said.

The program provides girls with bikes, training—and an escape from the stress of high school. As they learn to ride and compete as a team, they not only improve their overall well-being, but they learn to work together and overcome obstacles.

None of them start with previous mountain biking experience—but they all become passionate about it. “We don’t focus too much on the competition. We’re a bike team, but really a mentorship program that uses the bike as a tool,” he said. “I’ve never been a part of a sport where you learn so many lessons that are metaphorical for life,” like on the hill. The struggle to climb, the freedom to let go and the confidence to move forward without fear.

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Many of those same lessons apply to him as he builds his nonprofit organization. A few years after his start, he attended two demystifying entrepreneurship workshops in Vail.

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“Being an entrepreneur is very lonely, because it feels like you’re making decisions with the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

Brett Donelson, Founder, The Cycle Effect

“The workshops reassured me that I was not completely lost. I can ask questions and understand that I am not crazy,” he said.

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“The best things I gained were confidence and networking; Sitting in a room with like-minded people was so valuable. I thought partners – I was not alone.”

These days, it’s focused on developing outreach programs and expanding to new locations throughout Colorado. Ten years from now, his goal is to work with thousands of children.

“I love what I do. I love learning about starting things – and now that I’ve done it once, the second and third times will be a lot easier,” he said.

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