After Robin Bylenga got divorced nearly a decade ago, she returned to the corporate world and held a series of positions in sales. In 2009, she got laid off from L’Oreal when her division was sold. Being a long-time cycling enthusiast, she decided to take a temporary job at a local bicycle shop. Soon, female customers began approaching her to ask questions such as what trails were kid-friendly and what bra she wore when she rode. This inspired Bylenga to dream up a women-specific bike shop that had fashionable cycling apparel, positive messages, and feminine décor, complete with a crystal chandelier. A year of researching the market later and with a startup loan from Michelin Development, she opened Pedal Chic in downtown Greenville, South Carolina.
More than just a bike shop and active wear boutique, Pedal Chic is a women’s empowerment center. “We provide apparel, we provide nurturing, we want to help the woman do whatever it is she wants to do,” Bylenga says. “We want to meet the women where they are. They’re not necessarily reading the top-end bicycling magazine. They’re living their lives, doing exactly what I was doing. Raising families, working, maybe not working, but what I want to do is demystify the biking world for them.”
Next week, Bylenga will be wrapping up the first (and very successful) season of the weekly group rides she hosts. In the past, she has also offered bike maintenance classes called Women With Wrenches. Pedal Chic reached $250,000 in revenue in 2011. This year, Bylenga expects to hit $500,000 and turn a profit.
Pedal Chic was recently named Best Bike Shop for Women by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. Bylenga accepted the award at Interbike 2012 in Las Vegas, saying, “We’re proud to be on the forefront of empowering women by combining fitness and fashion along with rediscovering the unique freedom of riding a bike.”