Creating a Community and Becoming a CEO with Lisa Madsen

Interview by Tara Spalding, Founder and President of Hen House Ventures

Lisa Madsen is the founder of MADSEN Cycles, beautifully designed, sweet colored cargo bicycles with rear buckets that can carry up to four kids plus cargo, MADSEN Cycles puts a new twist on family bikes.

MADSEN Cycles was founded in 2008 based on an idea that parents in the United States would embrace a European model: Parents transporting their children via a bike rather than in a car. Lisa Madsen says, “We loved that parents, particularly moms, could have a little more freedom, and get outside more with their kids by having a bicycle that could carry their little ones plus all the cargo - backpacks, groceries, pets - that they wanted.”

The company designed a bicycle that could carry up to four children, along with up to 600 pounds of cargo. The bikes are also designed to be more conducive to riding on hills by putting the cargo weight on the rear and having nine gears. “We started just as cargo bikes were starting to make an appearance in the U.S. market, and knew it could be a big enough niche market to capitalize on...and hoped that if we could build a community and “movement” around cargo cycling, we could be successful.”

Tell us about your career transition: juggling family and your growing business?

I made the transition slowly. I had worked as a dental hygienist for 17 years, and a transitioned from that profession to MADSEN Cycles slowly until the company could fully support my husband Jared (MADSEN designer/engineer/mechanic), our employees and myself. While multi-tasking is not my forte, I found keeping a fairly consistent schedule with work time, kid time, and “me” time, made me happier and much more efficient.

As my kids grew older and more independent, it was easier for me to take on more responsibilities with MADSEN Cycles, with a lot more of my time and energy focused on the growth of the business, our community culture, and the connection to our amazing customers and fanbase.

What are your thoughts of being a woman CEO in a male-dominated industry?

A woman’s strengths are vital to a company’s well-being, community growth, and success. The tenacity and energy that a woman can bring to the company culture, community and business development are significant. I’m also pleasantly surprised and pleased by the respect and consideration I have been given by most male business owners and colleagues I have interacted with.

What would you say to other women who want to break into male-dominated industries?

Go for it! Women are needed — as much, if not more — than men in these industries. Women can play important role models and trailblazers for young girls, and the future female CEOs.

What are some unexpected things MADSEN Cycles has given you?

I have to say that I have gained a great deal confidence in myself as a woman-owned business owner. I grew up in a family and culture that emphasized a woman’s place as being solely in the home. It took some time and experience to recognize that a woman’s place in business and in the workplace, particularly as an entrepreneur, is just as valuable, important and vital (if not more!) than a man’s place in this space. It has also given me a sense of purpose for my life. Other wonderful things that the company has provided for me are amazing networks of people and new friendships, through our community, fellow business owners, and social media.

Where do you see MADSEN Cycles in three to five years?

MADSEN Cycles' mission is to get more families outside making memories. In five years, MADSEN Cycles hopes to have 10 to 15 additional employees, and be operating in our own 5,000 square foot facility. Currently, we are working towards setting up European distribution channels. We also foresee our branding being internationally recognized as a quality, innovative, creative, customer-centric company that creates a variety of beautifully engineered bicycles and accessories.

What is your favorite journey?

My favorite journey has been creating a community of totally awesome, active people, through direct customer contact as well as social media. We are so fortunate to have really fun, adventurous, and KIND customers. The people who buy our bikes are just really cool people in general, with very few exceptions. This makes our jobs easy and so rewarding. I think community-building has been the most fun and gratifying part of my whole job - and the best journey ever.

What trait do you most deplore in yourself?

That I’m a bit slow on the intake, and slow processing things. I also wish I could be quick and analytical at the same time. And I really dislike being put on the spot in front of big groups.

Which living person do you admire the most?

Sara Blakely, who is a just a pure badass, hardworking, awesome, genuine and fun, plus a mom of four. The community she has created through her products and business signifies power and potential.

What is your motto?

I’ll go with our company motto, which is “Always a Better Way.”

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