Shawn Walton

COMPANY:  WeCycle Atlanta

AGE: 28

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Now twenty-eight, Walton rode a bicycle for the first time when he was two-years old. This, he said, was his first experience with freedom. Later on, when he was in third grade, the 1996 Olympics were held in Atlanta. Walton recalls following the torch ceremony on his bike as far as he could. “Until they started hitting those dreadful Atlanta hills,” he says.

Walton experimented with some bike initiatives while in college, but turned his operation into a full-fledged business when he graduated. “I could have been a teacher with my degree in early education, but I figured I [could] build a curriculum around cycling, kid’s health and [the] environment.” Walton hopes to use his passion for education and cycling to improve his lifestyle as well as support other people’s lives. “Biking has brought so many positives into my life; I figured I thought ‘how can I package it and give it to everybody else?’”

WeCycle Atlanta’s most acclaimed program is 40 Hours and a Bike, a program where children conduct community service in exchange for a bicycle. The program has four segments: ten hours of co-op gardening, ten hours of bicycle maintenance, ten hours of bicycle safety education and ten hours of bike advocacy training. After completing the program, children become members of WeCycle Atlanta. Their membership allows them to use WeCycle’s tools to repairs their bikes free of charge. Forty hours of community service must be completed each year to maintain WeCycle membership.

Walton is constantly seeking ways to integrate lifestyle and community in a way that is fun, healthy and educational. He says he is not just an entrepreneur for himself, but for others as well. “I was driven to become an entrepreneur to inspire people to have their own, be their own and create their own.”

The journey of WeCycle Atlanta has not always been smooth for Walton. He remembers occasions when the organization was out of money and he felt like quitting. “Some people would tell me I have no reason to go through the pains of a startup, and [that] with my talents I [could] easily just get a job.” Still, WeCycle always found a way to survive. Walton considers it a valuable lesson. “I didn’t know how important it is to persevere and just do it. You never know how close you are,” he says.

WeCycle’s mission is to revitalize the Historic Westside of Atlanta through health, environmental and economic intelligence through biking research and fellowship. Walton ultimately wants to start a bike shop to act as the headquarters for WeCycle Atlanta activities. “The dream has been to create a central community bicycle hub to engage youth and residents in healthy living activities and lessons.” However, after a campaign to raise $50,000 fell short, Walton made a pivot. The organization is now hoping to build a mobile boxcar bike shop as a solution until a commercial property can be secured. WeCycle started fundraising campaign for their boxcar bike shop on GoFundMe, and is now $1400 away from achieving its goal.

Walton believes being passionate about what he does has definitely helped. He says that, if anything, it makes it easier to keep the course. “You’re making a way for yourself, but also paving the way for others.” Walton’s philosophy seems to be paying off. “I’ve taken a risk. I bet on me. [I’m] hoping my business cannot only aid my community, but improve my life as well.”