Kassy Mason knows what it’s like to prove people wrong when it comes to her dreams, her business and her success. Kassy is a strong, talented, female entrepreneur kicking ass to bring joy to those around her and spreading her skills and knowledge to the community.
I know Kassy as a friend and fellow Flint supporter. Many in the community know and recognize her as the “Bike Lady” who owns and operates Recycle Bike Shop & Mobile Bike Shop with her husband Jon. It’s a story she didn’t know would become her life, but for so many reasons it’s exactly what she was called to do.
The entrepreneurial spirit is not new to Kassy. She watched her parents become entrepreneurs and small business owners. She went to craft shows as a young girl, operated a booth at a local antique shop and was involved in shabby chic home decor products. But this … this is more.
“I thought I would own a business. I never thought I would own a bike shop. I never thought I would be a bike mechanic. There was always little things I would do, but to have our own business and be successful makes me grateful,” Kassy told me. “And it’s not even just being financially successful. It’s the smiles that people have on their faces when they pick up their bike, or a person that only has an hour to get to work and their cable broke on their bike and can you fix it for them so they are able to get to work on time. That is more fulfilling to me than any financial gain I could get.”
Kassy is a certified bike mechanic, Flint resident, creative spirit, small business owner and strong-willed woman looking to make a difference in the world around her.
To her, what she does is more than a business. It’s more than a bike shop. It’s about community. It’s about bringing knowledge and assistance to those who need it.
“The idea behind our bike shop is really to have affordable option for people who don’t want high-end bicycles. It’s for people that need something for transportation, that need something just to get around town, that need something for fun and want to go for a bike ride around town with friends but don’t have $500 or $600 or $700 for a bicycle.
“We have so many options that are achievable to get you on a bike, to be that form of transportation you might not have, or to make it so you can go out and ride with your friends. We not only try to do affordable bikes, but also restore bikes that people maybe had forgotten, which is probably one of my favorite things. When someone brings me a bike that has been on a shelf for 40 years and they say ‘I want to get on this again’ or ‘my grandson wants this bike’ it is so cool.”
Kassy found a passion for bikes through Jon and the heart he had for serving a need in the Flint community. Recycle Bike Shop & Mobile Bike Shop was launched in 2016 and since then Kassy has continuously grown her skills and passion for the business.
They both had full time jobs the first two seasons and at night Jon would fix bikes. They simply squeezed it in whenever they could. During the first season, Kassy ran the cash register. The next season she started changing flats and then eventually changing out the chains.
And then last season Kassy took a risk. She applied and won a scholarship through Quality Bicycle Products to attend United Bicycle Institute in Oregon. She was one of only 16 women chosen that year to attend a two-week intense training in February 2018 to become a certified trained bike mechanic.
“The possibilities of being a certified bike mechanic are endless. If we ever want to do more or I want to do something different, I have that under my belt and it’s priceless. It really changed our shop,” Kassy said.
And it was more important than ever. Jon’s job as a contractor ramped up and Kassy needed to take over the shop.
“Thank god I had it, because I don’t know where our shop would have been last season.”
Proving them wrong
Owning a business isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Being a woman in that world is even harder.
“It’s really hard as a woman, especially as a woman entrepreneur, but I take it as a challenge because I love proving people wrong. Some people -- it’s generally guys but sometimes women which is surprising -- that come up to the shop go ‘oh where is the bike guy?’ Well I’m the bike lady and I can help you. Let’s try before you shoot me down.
“Someone will come up with a question they don’t think I will have the answer for and I just whip the answer out. And it’s very surprising for them. Defining the odds a little bit is probably my favorite thing and probably the most gratifying thing. I’ll say it’s definitely a struggle because you start off at a disadvantage and you start off with people doubting you. All you can do is prove them wrong and be strong and show them what you got."
Kassy surrounds herself with a community of other women entrepreneurs in the area. It helps keep her positive having amazing women as her support system.
“There are a lot of DIY crafters that I’m friends with, there’s a lot of small business entrepreneurs. We’re all this really tight knit group of female entrepreneurs and we all kind of have the same goal. We all have the same passion. What’s really crazy is that we all have Flint connected to our businesses as well as a passion for Flint, which I think fires our spark a little bit more and together we do things better. We can work together, we can do pop-ups together, we can bounce ideas off each other. Having that group of supportive men and women is amazing.”
The transition into full-time bike mechanic and entrepreneur was something Kassy fully embraced even though it wasn’t planned. Her job before that had unexpectedly changed and she took it as a sign to dive full speed into the bike shop.
The Flint community embraced them and their business with open arms.
“We are surprised by how many people know us, by how many people ask for us, how many people miss us when we’re not there. The support that we have, there’s no way we could have known that this town would back us like they do. I think it’s just a true reflection of Flint and the people that are in it. There are so many people here that have a true deep devotion to the city and to the companies that are here and I think that really shows.
"That’s what drew us to this town. It’s the people you have conversations with. It’s the community. And it sucks you in. There’s no sense of community like there is here."
Bringing positive vibes
Her love for the Flint community lead her down a path for her newest business, Smith & Stone Studio, creating custom laser prints that focus on Flint and positive vibes.
“It all started from a gift from one of our customers to send for Christmas. He wanted a mailable art Flint map to send to his family. So I started with maps and I kept making more and more and more. And it just evolved from there. I would set up in the coffee shop at Good Beans and I would have some prints out. I was figuring out what art I could make into prints and I was doing the laser every week for 12 hours a day if not more and getting all these prints built up.”
Kassy primarily sells Flint artifact prints or history people have forgotten, things that people don’t see anymore or know was even here. You will also see positive, empowering messages on her laser prints.
“It’s very motivational, feel good, women empowerment kind of quotes. It’s something you can give to someone who’s having a bad day that they could sit on their counter as a constant reminder that you’re amazing.”
Kassy hopes to encourage other women to follow their dreams. It’s not something that simply happens.
Her business, her success, her passions all came with risk. But it was worth every second.
“Try it. Try anything you can. At the end of the day we don't have anything to lose. If you want to set up at a craft show and sell quilts then make some quilts and set up at a craft show. You don’t know if something is going to work or not work until you try,” Kassy told me as we sat outside of the Flint Crepe Co. “Sometimes you try and it fails. But you should be able to go to sleep at night happy with yourself that you did that. For me that’s better than being 50 and wishing I would have started a bike shop with my husband. I wish I would have made those laser art prints. I wish I would have made something that made people feel better.
“Find some women and set up a pop-up somewhere. There are plenty of places you can sell stuff. Go to a coffee shop, set some stuff up and see if people have anything to say about it. You have to take a chance, you have to take a risk. You don’t get anywhere in life without growing.”
Written and photographed by: Sarah Elkins