HBIC in Action: Jude Gerace

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Jude Gerace

Founder, Sugar Wheel Works

Jude lives in Portland with her husband, and is the founder of Sugar Wheel Works, a shop that specializes in top-quality, durable, maintainable wheels that are deliciously fun to ride.

Wolf & Heron: Tell me a bit about the values that are most important to you.

Jude Gerace: I want to leave things a little bit better than how I found them. I see that the most on the community level. I’m into cultivating a sustainable small business that has a meaningful impact on my community.  It’s what I spend the majority of my time doing.  That, and taking care of my health and fitness.  That’s also very important to me.

w&h: In the future, what are you hoping to achieve?

JG: I’m in an industry that’s stuck in the 1950s from a gender perspective.  There’s so much sexism and misogyny, and there aren’t a lot of women in the business to counter it. When I started my business, I didn’t know of any other woman who owned her business alone. There were a few co-owners, but no single women doing bike stuff. It was terrifying and really hard, and I had to endure a lot to get established. At the time I didn’t do much to change things because I didn’t have the track record, but now I’m at the point where I’m ready to reach back and mentor other women - particularly women that want to live nontraditional lives, those who want to start their own small businesses, and especially those in the cycling industry.

w&h: What’s the difference you want to make in the world?

JG: I used to think I was going to have a big, expansive impact on the world - on the caliber of Nelson Mandela or something.  I’ve realized the simpler impacts of living a really good life and being an incredibly good person makes a difference for the people in my community, and that really means something to me. I spend a significant amount of time with my husband mentoring a child in our neighborhood. It’s giving me a chance to explore what it means to be a non-traditional mother. My husband and I have made the choice to not have our own children, but I still can have an impact on the next generation through nurturing and mentorship and it doesn’t impinge on the rightful job of the mothers. I want to represent other choices of motherhood and show people - especially women - that those choices are there. Mentoring is not easy, but my husband and I have created a connection with this one kid and his mom. Those connections are full and dynamic relationships that have really taught me what being a community member is all about. It’s love on a completely different level. I want to suggest this as an option to show that you can have a full and meaningful life, without having children. Plus, it frees up a tremendous amount of time for me to work on my business.

w&h: How do you show up as your best self?

JG: I’ve gotten into mindfulness meditation thanks to the app Headspace and really good community members. It’s very helpful for reducing anxiety. I'm an incredibly anxious person which stems from when I was growing up.  For example, my dad would be in the garage doing something, and he would tell me to pick up a broom and help. He taught me that if you’re not working when others are, you’re in the wrong. So from childhood on I learned to use every spare minute and that resting is “bad.” In the last year, I’ve overhauled my approach because I was always showing up grumpy and resentful. Now I make sure I have some time for myself. I wake up at 5:30-6 in the morning every day so I can exercise, meditate... and make time to be me. Historically, my day is death-by-10,000-little-cuts -- I’m pulled in a million different ways -- but now I'm showing up more fully because my morning is my space where I don’t do work. I also prioritize leaving town once a month completely for restorative reasons. The trips are not for my business, they’re just for me and my partner to ride our bikes and explore!  It’s so good for my physical and mental health. I need to be in a headspace where I forget about time and just ride or do something else for two or three days. Then, when I come back to the business, I’m in a much better state of mind and better able to focus.

w&h: How have you been influential?

JG: I run a fundraiser for a bike education program for kids.  It teaches kids how to ride bikes, especially in traffic. The fundraiser is all about bringing the community together and raising money for the program. Typically it raises about $5000-$7000 each year. That’s ok, but not awesome.  Last year, I decided we were going to raise $10,000, so I asked myself what we could do differently. I ended up turning the fundraiser into a storytelling event.  I worked with a speech coach to develop a compelling speech that would make the case for donating. Then, of course, we had to get the right people in the room. In the end, we raised $17,500! I felt so humbled and powerful at the same time.

w&h: What advice would you give a girl getting started in her career?

JG: When you’re young, you don’t realize how much things are a tradeoff.  Yes, philosophically you get it, but not in your gut. When I was in college, I worked jobs all the way through - I was a loser because I was working all the time, but I didn’t end up with any debt. Not having debt liberated me in my 20s because it made it possible for me to travel. I adopted this philosophy that your 20s are for learning, your 30 are for action, and your 40s are for mastery. I spent my 20s well. I did a lot of traveling, working and learning - it was about experiencing life. The key thing was I did it without accumulating debt. I think all those choices were worthwhile.  When I decided to open a business at 26, all of that adventure spirit in me died. If I could tell my 26-year-old self something, it would be to HAVE MORE FUN! I’d tell her to go home after working 12 hour days instead of putting in 16 hours. It’s probably because now I’m 34, and I’ve come out the other side of it, and I see how important it is to enjoy the process, and not just the end goal.

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Jude's Words of Wisdom

On Purpose

"I’m at the point where I’m ready to reach back and mentor other women - particularly women who want to live nontraditional lives."

On Brand

"I prioritize leaving town once a month completely for restorative reasons.  The trips are not for my business, they’re just for me and my partner."

On Living

"If I could tell my 26-year-old self something, it would be to HAVE MORE FUN! Now I see how important it is to enjoy the process, and not just the end goal."

"You can have a full and meaningful life, without having children."