Out of business in Leeds 2022 | Complete edition
“The bicycle has done more for women than anything else in the world — it gives her a sense of confidence and independence as soon as she sits down,” said civil rights activist Susan B. Anthony in 1896.
Today, women still ride bikes for the physical and psychological benefits that can sometimes be life-changing. But not as many as you would think.
Brett Donelsen and his wife see an opportunity every day to change that. Inspired to help young women, in 2013 they founded The Cycle Effect, an Eagle County nonprofit that encourages underprivileged girls to develop self-esteem and healthy lifestyles through cycling.
“We had no business experience, but we kept saying ‘yes’ to opportunities instead of focusing on the 99 ‘no’s we got,” Donelsen said.
The program offers girls bikes, exercise – and an escape from the stress of school. When they learn to ride and compete as a team, they not only improve their overall well-being, but also learn to work together and overcome obstacles.
None of them start out with any mountain biking experience – but they all develop a passion for it in the end. “We are not very competitive. We’re a bike team, but actually a mentoring program that uses the bike as a tool,” he said. “I’ve never been part of a sport where you learn so many lessons that are metaphorical for life,” like the struggle to get up a hill, the freedom to let go and the confidence to push forward without fear.
Many of these lessons apply to him as he builds his nonprofit organization. A few years after its inception, he attended two Demystifying Entrepreneurship workshops in Vail.
“The workshops gave me the certainty that I am not completely lost. I could ask questions and realize I’m not crazy,” he said.
“The best thing I got was confidence and networking; Sitting in a room with like-minded people was so precious. I had thought partners – I wasn’t alone.”
Today he is focused on developing outreach programs and expanding to new locations throughout Colorado. In ten years his goal is to work with thousands of children.
“I love what I do. I love learning how to start things — and now that I’ve done it once, it would be a lot easier the second and third time,” he said.
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