In the epicenter of LA’s Black community where sidewalks buzz to the rhythm of drum circles, nestled among Afro-centric boutiques and performance spaces sits something unexpected - a small cycling shop with big aspirations.
Cycling may not seem synonymous with Black entrepreneurship, but Adé Neff, owner of Ride On! Bike Shop/Co-Op, hopes to positively impact, educate and empower his community through cycling. In his brightly colored shop is a huge mural of Marshall “Major” Taylor, the first Black American to integrate any major sport and win two cycling World Championships in 1899 and 1900. Ade is quick to point out cycling is nothing new to Black people.
“The Buffalo Soldiers used bicycles for the United States Army. So with regards to bicycles and Black folks, we've been in that conversation. We've always been around it,” said Neff.
Neff says he started Ride On! to give people in his community access to safe and affordable transportation. He knows that need firsthand, as a bike was his main mode of transportation for almost a decade.
“I went everywhere, Long Beach, Santa Monica, wherever, on a bike. And what I noticed was that there was no bicycle shop here in [Leimert Park]. So if I needed to fix my bike, I'd have to go eight miles up.”
Working with a banker from Wells Fargo, Neff was able to change that. “Wells Fargo [is] intent on supporting small Black businesses and figuring out grants [so] we can get to be a service to the community.”
The amount of Black-owned businesses in the United States continues to grow but the numbers suggest that there is still much needed to be done for equality. According to recent US Census data, though Black Americans are 13% of the population, only 3% of businesses are Black-owned. Commonly reported obstacles include unequal access to capital, difficult entry into robust professional networks and unfamiliarity with financing tools.
Understanding that financial health is rooted in the community, Wells Fargo proudly offers a wide range of business solutions to help diverse owners thrive and initiatives to expand Black business credit to ensure that the businesses stay in the communities they serve.
Neff became a Wells Fargo Small Business Grant recipient via a $1 million commitment to the Los Angeles Urban League (LAUL), a highly respected civil rights organization that has been serving African-American communities within Los Angeles for over 100 years. A separate grant from Wells Fargo helped Neff and his neighboring Black entrepreneurs obtain the funds to purchase the building in which their businesses reside.
“In a time when small businesses in Black communities are being displaced, we're here for the long haul. This is [our] home.” Ride-On! doesn’t just provide space, tools, rentals and equipment to teach people how to fix their bikes; it also serves as a hub for community engagement and inspiration for Black proprietorship.
For Adé Neff, he doesn’t feel comfortable calling himself a legend, but he is very confident about how he’s creating a lasting legacy in his beloved Leimert Park.
“Legends and Legacies means that I am doing the work within the community, that’s being recognized by the folks in the community, and that they see an example that they want to emulate.”