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July 26, 2014

RAGBRAI XL11 and the World of Work

by Diane Twait Nelsen

I had the wonderful experience of being part of the planning committee preparing for last week’s RAGBRAI visit through our home town of Ringsted.  We are a small community of only 422 people so it certainly took the whole community and loads of hard work to pull off being the breakfast stop for this moving small city of bicyclists!  Yet we did it and it was a great day! As I have reflected this past week on all the whole RABBRAI preparation and process, not just for Ringsted but for the state, I am amazed at the work force needed to pull this off.  That of course got me thinking about the specific jobs involved and how people transitioned into those jobs.

One of the most interesting jobs that I learned a little about was a “bike smith” a person who works in or owns a biking shop.  RAGBRAI of course has several such people who follow the week long pedaling experience and stay very busy but what was even more interesting was that most of the these folks have full time bike shops scattered throughout Iowa or neighboring states. Biking is on the increase in Iowa (and nation wide) and more and more Iowans are turning to specialty bike shops for their bikes and biking needs.  Bikes are often custom fitted to meet individual needs and biking situations…..and most of the serious riders go to bike shops for all their repairs.  It appears to be an industry that is seeing somewhat of a revival in the state. There are a few specialized training programs for this type of work , some who work in the filed come from related fields like mechanics, but many have learned through their own experiences  or apprenticeships.  Do you know someone who would like to explore this field?

Then there are mobile vendors.  We didn’t have many of these in Ringsted…opting not to open our community to out of town vendors since we had local groups and organizations that planned on serving the riders for their quick pass through our community.  The larger overnight stops for RAGBRAI did however have many commercial vendors in their communities selling everything from food to clothing to bike accessories. What does it take to be a successful mobile vendor?  Some are affiliated with established commercial businesses and are just part of what their company does.  Other vendors are “Mom and Pop ( family) ” establishments that came up with an idea, found it marketable and literally took it on the road.  Backgrounds and past educational experiences of these vendors are many and dependent on what they are selling but several things that they all had in common were the ability to work hard, be mobile, and to flow with the changes occurring in the different vendor avenues they were selling in.  Many of these vendors do numerous types of events throughout the year requiring the flexibility to go where the work is.  Additionally they often are far enough away from their homes that they need to stay frequently in hotels/motels or have their own RVs.  Needless to say this type of work requires a person to be outgoing, hardworking, and have the ability to market their wares, and successfully run a business. They also need to be able to follow local and state licensing procedures.  Does this sound like something that you or one of your students (son or daughter) would have an interest in?   Skills in sales and merchandizing would be a useful background along with specialized training in the fields that most closely relates to what they were selling.  The new wave of food truck vendors is a related field and an industry that is growing in some areas of the United States.  Another career area not often talked about but maybe a great fit for someone you know!

I will be sharing a few other RAGBRAI related jobs in the near future with you in hope that it jump starts some “outside of the box” thinking when it comes to think jobs and careers in the future!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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