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For young entrepreneur, biking led to business

Kayuh Bicycles, which sells custom and refurbished bikes, is among the businesses “paving the way” in Francisville.

Izzat Rahman, opened Kayuh Bicycles at 19th and Girard Ave in Philadelphia in 2012. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)
Izzat Rahman, opened Kayuh Bicycles at 19th and Girard Ave in Philadelphia in 2012. (Alejandro A. Alvarez / Staff Photographer)Read more

IT WASN'T a particular love of bicycling that prompted Izzat Rahman to start his business, Kayuh Bicycles, even before he graduated from Temple University.

"I'd say that biking is an interest, but entrepreneurship is my passion," Rahman, 24, recently said.

In 2009, Rahman, then 21, came from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to study at Temple as a transfer student. "Kayuh" means "pedal" in the Malay language.

Initially, Rahman started his business in the basement of the house where he was living as an undergraduate.

He started out buying used bicycles, fixing them up and then reselling them.

He graduated from Temple with a business degree in January 2012. And only months later, in June 2012, Rahman opened a real bike shop in Francisville, on Girard Avenue near 19th Street.

Rahman said he had been living and studying in Philadelphia for a year before he started to use a bike to get around the city.

When he had to write a business plan for his final paper, he thought of a business model of a bike shop that specialized in selling used, refurbished and custom-made bikes. His target market was fellow college students and people from his North Philadelphia neighborhood.

To complete the plan, Rahman had to conduct research.

In addition to starting a small business selling used bikes from his basement, he had an internship one summer at a bike shop at 27th Street and Girard Avenue where he learned the basics from the head mechanic, Paul Hill.

After he graduated, Rahman said, he was riding along 19th Street one day and saw a "For Rent" sign in the window of the shop he now leases.

He said he is happy to be in Francisville, where he sees a lot of new development "with a lot of young people like myself, in their early 20s, or just out of college" moving into newly renovated or newly constructed homes.

By the time he opened Kayuh Bikes, Rahman had asked Hill to come to work with him.

Kayuh isn't the only relatively new business that has opened in Francisville in recent months.

Shadonna Pitts and Jabbar Burk, a husband-and-wife team, opened a new hair salon called 7 Unisex Salon, on Ridge Avenue near 18th Street in January.

Penelope Giles, executive director of the Francisville Neighborhood Development Corp., has long said the organization's goal was to revive the area's main business corridor, Ridge Avenue.

"I'm very happy that people are interested in being on Ridge Avenue," Giles said. "It's clear that things are going in the right direction. These are the people who are paving the way."