People of Aalborg: Jirka Krupa “We are trying to make the industry more sustainable — while others focus on selling new bikes and increasing consumerism, we focus on repairing the old ones”
Sustainability is becoming more and more important for all companies, across industries. This comes as a direct result of individuals, communities, organizations, and governments prioritizing sustainability more as an essential aspect of our everyday lives. There are countless ways in which you, as a business, can become more sustainable, and developing your business to become more sustainable helps reduce costs, improves your reputation and creates new opportunities. FlexiFix, a known bike shop in Aalborg, is one such business. For this week’s feature of our ‘People of Aalborg’ series, we met with Jirka Krupa, the owner of Flexifix, for an interview. What caught our attention initially was a social media post about how the bike shop has been trying to be more sustainable.
Can you introduce yourself briefly?
I’m a student finishing the bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Administration at AAU here in Aalborg. I was born in the Czech Republic where I worked for two years in the finance sector. When I first arrived here, I started repairing bikes to make some money.
How did FlexiFix begin? Where did the idea come from and how did it grow from there?
The idea was a combination of several factors. The first was that we couldn’t find an ordinary job. We started FlexiFix with one of my friends: we were just walking around and saw that there were a lot of bikes thrown away. We didn’t have much money, but we wanted the bikes, so we took them from a scrap pile. We repaired them and thus started something bigger…
We noticed in your post that you’re trying to be more sustainable and zero waste. What initiated this idea?
Well, it will never be completely zero waste, because that’s very hard. It’s more about packaging in this case. There’s so much wasting, especially here in Denmark. You go shopping and see a single orange packed in a piece of plastic with a Styrofoam plate. That’s terrible.
We buy a lot of parts and you can notice that the more you buy, the better the packaging is. If you buy a big package, it comes in a big cardboard box and it’s loosely packed. My idea is not to have zero waste, but at least have less packaging on products. At first, we were renovating old bikes and we didn’t have the money to invest in the new equipment, so we tried to repair everything that was possible, even the oldest parts.
And there we learned that a lot of the things that other shops just replace the part are possible to fix quite easily. And it’s connected a lot with not having the money. You’ve probably seen our last post with the tool holders. That’s a nice example because we don’t really have the money to buy big professional Trae. So, we just see what is around and use that, if we can — like we used some old bikes for our sign.
Would you say that being sustainable is manageable; for example for more bike shops?
Most of the Danish shops sell new bikes. There’s only one official Danish shop here in Aalborg which sells used bikes. Since the rest sell only new ones, the shops can definitely be more sustainable by taking used bikes from the customers and reselling them. Some of them do that but in a very small amount. They can buy only the parts they’re selling — like clothes and helmets — with less packaging.
Do you consider this attention to sustainability important? Is it something that you incorporate into your everyday life?
Of course, it’s important. And we do it without thinking about it anymore. You can either buy a normal degreaser or cleaner, or you can buy a bio one which is degradable and doesn’t produce so much pollution.
In a way, being sustainable has been a good business model for you.
Yes, that’s one of our main businesses — we get the old used bikes that are destroyed and then repair and reuse them. So, one of the main things, the very foundation of what we do, is that we are trying to make the industry more sustainable. While the others focus on selling new bikes and increasing consumerism, we focus on repairing the old ones and try to convince people to take good care of them, so that they will last longer.
What are your goals or vision for FlexiFix for the near future? Do you plan on keeping it local, or expanding into more cities?
Right now, we’re making an online shop for used bikes. The second thing that we’ll try is to offer more stuff with no packaging, so people can come and buy things directly with a local delivery. It’s because when you send things, you need to package them, or at least put them in a paper cardboard box… We would like to make this concept local. That’s the near future regarding sustainability. We need to work with suppliers to convince people to think about it. And then if it catches on, we can think further.
What we do is interview people who are making a difference in Aalborg. For example, what you’re doing is sustainable — you repair old bikes. You have student-friendly prices as well, so you make the option to buy from you available to more people.
The sad thing is that something is not worth repairing, because the time you’ll spend doing it would cost more than a new part. But we try to encourage people by setting lower prices, which of course means that the employees are not paid as much as in other shops. By having lower prices, we try to make the people spend more, however. If a flat tire replaced in a Danish shop costs 400 DKK, then at our place it costs 250 and we can also fix the chain for an additional 150. So, for 400 kroner, you would now get two things instead of one. You get a better service and we get more work — and both sides are happy.
The zero waste is hard to do because there’re many parts on the bikes which are wearing out, like tires, brake pads, and chains. They’re made to be replaced at some point. We already stopped using parts that are getting broken fast. Of course, not everyone is willing to pay a lot for high-quality parts. But at least we’re not selling complete crap which needs to be replaced soon.
If you can carry out a message to the youth of Aalborg, what would that be?
Think about what you’re buying and why. In terms of bikes, check what’s the bike like, if it has any failures, how long it’s going to last. Think before you buy a new one because there’re many used bikes that are cheaper and will work just as fine.
Interview conducted by: Viktoriya Dimitrova & Marie-Louise Dalgaard Sørensen
Article written by: Tereza Čechová
Edited by: Věra Dvořáková & Viktoriya Dimitrova
Interviewee: Jirka Krupa, owner of FlexiFix bike shop & repair
Photography: Ayaho Katata