Grant Murdoch is the driving force behind the Coupar Angus Cycling Hub, a social enterprise which aims to get more people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds on bikes.
As part of this, the Cycling Hub has a bike shop and workshop and runs a number of events in the area such as the Coupar Angus Cycling Festival which attracts thousands of people – including cycling stars such as record-breaking long-distance cyclist, broadcaster and author Mark Beaumont - to the east Perthshire town every summer.
The Cycling Hub first got in touch with GrowBiz a few years ago to discuss becoming a social enterprise and since then has received support in a number of different business areas from the organisation’s enterprise facilitators.
This has included advice on capacity building within the organisation and everything from setting up a community interest company to tax, PR and marketing and using online digital platforms for accounting and e-commerce.
The Coupar Angus Cycling Hub first came about after a local resident, John Palfreyman, wrote a book about cycle routes in and around the town and set up a monthly Sunday cycle get-together. He managed to get funding for a cycling development officer for Coupar Angus, which is where Grant got involved.
He says: “I moved to Dundee from the south west of Scotland to go to university where I was studying for a degree in product design. I had always had an interest in cycling and got elected as president of the sports union at the University of Dundee. I saw the cycling development officer job in Coupar Angus advertised and thought it sounded like my dream job, so I applied for it, got the post and five years later I’m still here.”
The enterprise journey
The Coupar Angus Cycling Hub runs a variety of projects and events throughout the year with the aim of increasing active travel, lowering people’s carbon footprint and promoting cycling for its environmental, health and social benefits.
Over the years, these events have grown to include the week-long Coupar Angus Cycling Festival, Scotland’s first ladies-only cycling series Belles and Buns, the Cateran Sportive, a cycling Santathon, after school cycling clubs, a weekly cycling for cakes group, mountain bike Tuesdays and of course the Sunday cycles.
Grant says: “It is such an exciting project to be part of, things are always changing and there are new adventures every day. I am surrounded by interesting and exciting people and it is a great career path to be involved with – cycling is not only a sport, it is also a way for people to get around and get active and can be integrated into their way of life. It is a great way to engage with people of all ages and abilities.
Grant says that the success of the project is down to the support of hundreds of volunteers who have put in thousands of hours helping out at events or in the bike shop and workshop.
“The local community has been hugely supportive of what we are doing here and all the directors of the Cycling Hub are a fantastic help,” said Grant.
He added: “This was recognised in 2017 when we were the first community in Scotland to win a gold award for a cycling friendly town from Cycling Scotland.”
In terms of financial support for the Cycling Hub, Grant says: “Since I started, a lot of time and energy has been invested in applying for funding for the project. In 2016 we got LEADER funding which enabled us to open the bike shop and workshop which has been a major step forward in terms of making the cycling hub project sustainable.
“If funding dried up now there would at least still be something in the Coupar Angus community to promote cycling. Becoming a sustainable project, and a model of best practice for other communities to come and visit and get ideas and inspiration for how they could set up something similar in their areas, are the things I am most proud of for the Cycling Hub.”
Looking to the future
Grant’s own commitment to the Cycling Hub saw him raise an incredible £10,000 by cycling 1500 miles around Scotland in just 14 days.
The money was used to buy a portable pump track - a circuit of rollers, banked turns and features designed to be ridden completely by riders generating momentum by up and down body movements, instead of pedalling or pushing - for the town which is now available to hire,
adding to the sustainability of the initiative and which in turn is raising funds to go towards the development of a permanent pump track in Coupar Angus.
The Cycling Hub currently employs a full-time mechanic in the shop and, thanks to support from the Smarter Choices Smarter People Fund, a part-time active travel co-ordinator. They also have seasonal staff for the portable pump track and the bike shop and work experience pupils from local high schools.
Discussing the challenges of running a social enterprise, Grant said: “One of the hardest things is managing everything and keeping focussed on moving forward. It is also important that we stay true to our core values at the same time as making money.
“Having said that, it is good to be ambitious and take risks. If you believe in something then fight for it.
“Community enterprise support organisation GrowBiz has been very helpful to us and the advice we have received has always been second to none.
“The rural economy is often forgotten about and it is great to have an organisation like GrowBiz championing its cause.
“Perthshire is a really exciting place to be at the moment in terms of enterprise and GrowBiz is at the forefront of that.”
For more information on the Coupar Angus Cycling Hub see www.cacyclinghub.com