Back in the day when we were just starting our in 2017 we met The Coursiers Bordelais who had just started their bicycle delivery co-operative. Setting out to get away from the exploitative, Uber style, business models that were offering the only way of getting paid to cycle at the time. In the early days they used our coffee shop as their office but we don’t see as much of them lately. So we thought we would catch up with them to see how they are doing.
Is the business now what you imagined it would be when starting out ?
One of the objectives when we started the business was to be able to earn a living by doing what we love, that is to say, cycling. So in that respect, that has turned out pretty much how we imagined. We do big days of cycling in all weather conditions and we come home exhausted in the evening.
A second thing we wanted was to create a work environment based around our group of friends where everyone has a say in the decisions. We managed to create this well-balanced little group in which everyone has weighs in and this gives rise to debates and ideas that keep us advancing.
We started very quickly without really planning because at that moment we thought it was now or never. So the company is what it is today without having had a clear vision at the beginning. We took things step by step which has put us on the path of a little adventure that continues to grow.
How have things changed since the beginning ?
When we first started we had to make ourselves known. We called a lot of companies, went to see traders and journalists. This was really tough and to be honest we did not enjoy it. But today, we are approached every day by new people, whether they are potential clients, journalists, people who would like to join us or even people who are looking for information to launch the same kind of initiative. This is one of the main changes for me, the fact that we have become a visible element of the Bordeaux landscape.
Another big change is that we have defined precisely what we can do. There was a lot of trial and error in the beginning and it took time to make adjustments to our offer. Today, with experience, we have a lot more opportunity to be creative, it’s more fulfilling. A bit like you at Musette when you launched the Rando Mollo.
What do you find is the most rewarding part of running Coursiers Bordelais ?
There is one thing that we are all proud of, we finally managed to create our own jobs with satisfactory working conditions. Coming from a world where meal delivery platforms forced us to become auto-entrepreneurs, a proper job with workers rights seemed incredibly distant before starting out. Being able to free ourselves from a system that we didn’t like but which we were dependent upon is really gratifying!
There is a second thing. I do not know if the whole team agrees, but for me personally a busy, sunny day, where all deliveries follow one another is the best thing. As a cycling enthusiast, spending a day like this and telling yourself in the evening that it didn’t happen by chance, that’s super fun!
What were the first major milestones for you ?
I think that a really important step was hiring people for the first time last year. Opening up to different visions was testing but still a very rewarding step. We reorganized and we learned how to to manage ourselves in a mixed team.
A second stage, I think, is the one we are currently experiencing with the Covid-19 period. We had to reorganize very quickly and that pushed us to find new ideas and launch new projects. We forged strong links with associations that dealt in particular with the food emergency during the confinement period. Now we are trying to orient our model towards something more virtuous.
What kind of bikes do you use ?
We use two types of bike. Our classic bikes that we use with a backpack. These are all gravel bikes. They are super for daily use in the city ; they are strong, comfortable, super responsive and with powerful disc brakes. In addition, we are all fans of cycle touring, and this kind of frame is perfect once a few panniers are added! Otherwise we also use cargo bikes to transport heavier loads, and we even have a trailer.
We understand you have just starting delivering food from restaurants to peoples homes. This puts you in direct competition to your arch enemies Uber and Deliveroo ! How are you going to be doing things differently ?
Indeed, this is a project that has been close to our heart for a long time and we think that it is time to get started given the current situation of restaurants. We all started the job of courier by delivering meals on the type of platforms you mentioned and we all ended up by being disappointed with them. The basic objective of our project was to attack them on their own turf, but when we first started we didn’t have the technical means or the experience to do so. Today our situation has changed a lot and we feel strong enough to finally get started!
The service will be very close to that of our competitors. You just have to choose your restaurant, then your dish on our platform on which it is possible to pay directly, then we will take care of the delivery. The main difference will come from the social model we adopt. Not only are we and future deliverers all contracted employees, but we will go further with the cooperative model because each person has the same weight in decisions and will therefore be in control of working conditions. In our view, this model brings the flexibility much praised by delivery platforms to justify the exploitation of the self-employed while giving the stability of a real job.