COMPANY: Atlanta Cycling Festival
Projects like the Atlanta Beltline and other urban redevelopment initiatives ensure that cycling culture will continue to grow as Atlanta becomes a more pedestrian-friendly city. Mayor Kasim Reed has made the Atlanta’s revitalization a top priority, and for Jeffrey Wisard, the timing could not be more perfect. In 2014, Wisard arranged the first Atlanta Cycling Festival, a week-long celebration of cycling culture.
The festival consisted of bike rides, bike classes and bike parties all over the city of Atlanta.
In 2013, Wisard went on a family vacation to Ireland, where he visited the city of Cork. The city hosted an event called the Cork Cycling Festival, and as a cyclist, he was enthused. “We got some bikes, checked it out and it was a lot of fun!” He was amazed by how successful the festival was, despite the city not being ideal for biking. “Cork has much less infrastructure for biking than Atlanta, the roads are smaller than Atlanta’s, and Cork has less people biking than Atlanta. But they still had an amazing festival. It was great!”
Wisard thought that bringing a cycling festival to Atlanta was worth a try. When he returned to Atlanta, he sent out emails and posted on social media asking for anyone interested in the idea to contact him. “I got about twenty-five responses, so I knew demand was there.” He then scheduled two meetings; and to his surprise, people showed up. As a matter of fact, people kept showing up.
Over two thousand people attended the inaugural Atlanta Cycling Festival in June 2014. “They’re already talking about next year. People loved it.” Wisard executed the festival with a five-person team and a budget of less than $5,000. Even more impressive, the weeklong event was profitable with only one paid event. Wisard admits that he was surprised by the turnout and even more amazed at what people will do for the love of cycling. “I mean, people took off of work on a Friday for a doughnut ride where we biked all around Atlanta trying different doughnut shops,” he says.
Next year, Wisard says the Atlanta Cycling Festival will maintain its mostly free model. “We may add a few paid events, but you should be able to jump on your bike and explore the city whenever you want. We just want to help you do that.” The organization also plans to grant $1,000 to a non-profit for a bike idea, and donate five percent of profits to the community. Wisard wants to pay-it-forward “so these organizations can grow and do what they’re really good at.” A lot of what Atlanta Cycling Fest does usually entails partnerships. “We’re all on the same page,” Wisard says. Atlanta Cycling Festival has one mission: connecting cyclists of all experience levels to the Atlanta community.
Wisard’s organization also throws single-day events throughout the year to maintain a presence around Atlanta. On Valentine’s Day, they will host bicycle speed dating for the second time. The interesting twist on traditional speed dating involves cyclists pairing up and casually biking a predetermined route, before switching companions at intervals and doing it again. Wisard says the event is the first of its kind and everybody had a great time. “People actually said the routes were too short.”
Wisard’s career has gone through some major changes since he left Tennessee and moved to Georgia. When he first got to Atlanta, Wisard was at Emory University conducting research in labs; until he came to the conclusion that, this was not the life for him. He began to seek activities that held his interest. “I was thinking ‘you know I’ve got all the talents. I know what I don’t want to do and don’t want to be like so let’s do the opposite.’” He ended up experimenting with acting, improv, web design and—of course—festival planning.
Jeffrey Wisard’s answer to why he is an entrepreneur is simple: He loves building community and he loves putting big ideas to work. “It’s a good way to feel good about yourself and do good for others.”
Wisard says that he only wishes for the people that attend the festival to have a great time, connect with people and enjoy life. “Life is meant to be enjoyed. To me, success is [creating] a positive memory for somebody. They smile. They internalize that, and when they’re 60 or 80 years old they remember that and they smile again. That’s all I want. If you do that, I’m sure all the other things people consider as a success will come.” Wisard uses this philosophy as the catalyst for the Atlanta Cycling Festival and his future aspirations.