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Name: Jon Dengler (WellBuilt Bikes)

Jon Dengler is the executive director The Well, a local non-profit comprised of a community of people committed to living in direct relationship with the materially poor. The Well, based in Tampa, seeks to meet needs and provide support for the poor, to accomplish the vision of, "Needs met, bridges built, a city made whole.” To support this vision, The Well has created their first social enterprise, WellBuilt Bikes, which refurbishes and sells bicycles. The profit from these bikes goes directly into their "earn a bike" program, which provides bikes for the poor in turn for community service. Learn more about WellBuilt Bikes and how you can get involved below.

Media

Years in St. Pete

located in Tampa. Been here for decades.

Hustle (job)

Executive Director, CEO of WellBuilt Bikes

What do you do?  

WellBuilt Bikes is a non-profit bike shop. We sell refurbished bikes at affordable prices and then invest the sales revenue into an "earn a bike" program so that those that lack money can access the transportation they need to get around town by putting in community service.

Why do you do it?

It's incredible to see what people can do when the tools are put in their hands. Rather than giving someone bikes, we go here's parts and tools, you can build a bike. One dude that we got a bike throws a trailer on the back, a lawnmower in it and starts a business. We actually run a lawn business now that he handed off to us when he got another job.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

One night in college, I ate a bunch of LSD. And I had a religious experience, and it ruined me. I've never been the same since then. I got into philosophy and religious studies. Something convinced me that the poor are valuable and maybe God can be found in the poor. One night I heard of a church - they were going to share food. So I went and shared food with this guy in an alley, and I kneel down with this guy. So we just have a conversation, tell me your story, what's up with you, and he shares this story with me. And I went home that night and I was bothered. I never journal, but I did that night. I still have this. The line that sticks out to me is, "I think people do this to feel good, but I feel like shit. I have extra clothes in the closet, a refrigerator with food in it, a car in the driveway, air conditioning, running water, hot running water, an extra pillow all of these things I take for granted while this beautiful brother sleeps in an alley." I decided I don't want to live in a world that works that way. So we started sharing our own shower, sharing our own washing machine, started befriending neighbors in need. And with each story and each person I met, it just continued to grow and haunt me really. Their stories, their beauty, their pain are the things that compel me, and the things that have led me, really.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

The people that we work with. We work with folks that are materially poor, that live on the streets, and there's a lot of folks that would think that they're lazy. I've met such hard workers and geniuses and leaders, and there are a lot of my mentors, some of my best friends that are on the streets. We take bikes that aren't valued and people that aren't valued and realize that there's a lot of value in both of those things.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

I think the post challenging part is just the workload. The need is just never ending, the bikes that need to be repaired is seemingly eternal, and just the people that need them. There's just so much there. Its been hard to grow fast enough, have enough hands and enough finance.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

I often think of something I heard from Mother Theresa, she said "I was called to be faithful," rather than successful. I think that's been something that's echoed in my mind a lot in terms of staying the course, and being about the cause rather than the fruit that it bears. But then it does bear fruit.


What's next?

WellBuilt Bikes is what's next. This is a recent iteration for us, launching this social enterprise. We want to just build it up, stabilize it, staff it. Hopefully hire some of the guys we've been working with as mechanics. We want to continue to develop social enterprises, like our lawn crew, like the bike shop.

How can people help?

We need donated bikes, if you need a bike, we sell bikes, we do bike repairs. We can use hands if you're a bike mechanic or even if you just want to pitch in a little bit. We run on and can use volunteer hours. Really any gift that anyone has that they want to hit us up and make available, we will find a use.

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