Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Laura and I’m the owner of Mad Dash Bicycle Courier Service. We’ve (I’ve) been in business twenty-four years and I can’t believe I’m still at it.
We have had customers who have been with us for all twenty-four years.
Mad Dash does a variety of things—Post Office box pick up, banking services, interoffice deliveries, outgoing mail and real estate flyer distributions.
What sparked this idea for you? When did you know that you wanted this sort of small business?
Well the idea of starting a business sparked when my husband and I were on an extensive journey around the world. We kept a little journal as we travelled; writing down the what was special about the places we stayed in from guesthouses to teahouses to treehouses. The thought was that we wanted to have a little guest house, backcountry lodge or something like that. And then [laughs] reality set in.
We finished up our travels and moved back to Bellingham and the idea of starting a business was still brewing. I thought you know, what about a bike courier service? That would be ideal for Bellingham. It’s a small enough community. It’s bike friendly.
I had done couring for a summer in Seattle. I worked for a company called Bucky’s. I had a little taste of doing that and it was a lot of fun. So I thought why not give it a whirl.
Did it take a while to start up?
It did. It took perseverance. It was a lot of knocking on doors—poor man’s advertising. I think for the first year I probably made three dollars and fifty cents a day,
Enough to buy a hot coffee.
Yeah. Just enough for a cup of coffee. Exactly. Hey, I broke even.
One of my first deliveries, on my first day of work, was a pick-up from a flower shop. It turns out it was a bouquet of flowers from my mother-in-law to me.
After about a year I got a call from a customer who wanted to have their Post Office mail picked up. After that I thought wow, there’s a very custom thing that I could market. So I did. I slowly started gathering those types of clients.
It evolved from a general delivery service focused to more specialized custom service?
Yes. I originally thought Mad Dash was going to be an on-call delivery service. But we really don’t end up doing much of that, if at all. We have all contract customers now. But that isn’t to say we wouldn’t be open to on-call deliveries.
What would you say that people most often misunderstand about Mad Dash and what you do?
I think they misunderstand that we are year-round and we we do ride in the rain and wind and sleet and snow. I don’t usually get that kind of feedback from people but I would venture to say people don’t understand that we very dependable and professional and have outstanding customer service.
But I don’t really know. But once they hire us they stay with us and I think that’s pretty telling.
We do a really good job. We are super dependable, flexible, customer service oriented and have some of the best employees available—riders who have such a positive outlook on life. Our customers truly appreciate our work and I’m always getting unsolicited positive feedback from the them about our fantastic employees. It’s nice.
Mad Dash is always looking for more business. I encourage everyone to give us a try because I am confident they would be happy with our service.
Do you get a lot of people asking how much you have to work out in order to do this job or how many miles you log a day?
I do get a lot of comments about my fitness. People will say, oh you must be pretty fit or it’s nice that you don’t have to go to a gym after working.
Is that true? Do you use your job as a courier as your fitness routine?
I do on the days that I work. But then on the days that I don’t work I am definitely out running, hiking, mountain biking, or skiing. I am constantly moving.
Are you a Bellingham local or did you grow up elsewhere?
No. I grew up in Tacoma. We moved here in 1981 to go to school up at Western. So I am a graduate of Western. We had to move away for an internship. My husband—my boyfriend at the time—and I moved down to Seattle and lived there for about five years and worked in the real world. I worked for Headstart and ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program) as a family healthcare outreach worker.
We planned and saved like crazy and then my husband and I set out on a year long journey around the world…which turned out to be 16 months. My parents sent us a letter…yes a letter back in those days stating they were driving our Subaru across the States and would meet them in Boston. So after traveling around the world my parents tasked us with driving across the States (they flew home). We took our time visiting various places we thought we might want to call home. But guess what?. After that we landed back in Bellingham which so many people do.
Yeah. I hear that from a lot of Bellinghamsters. Do you still travel quite a bit?
We do. It’s the thing that makes me the happiest.
I am trying to figure out how to get away again.
We try to take a bigger trip about once a year. And we have been able to do that and bring our kids along as well which has been really awesome.
Where was your last trip?
We were in Guatemala last December. The whole family went which was awesome because I now have a son who is a second year in college. I just grab any opportunity I can to spend time with him. Oh, you are going to make me cry.
I’m trying to figure out something we can do this winter. My family kind of wants to stay home so I’m going to try to figure out a trip that lasts only a few days.
I do feel so blessed that my kids are able to come with us and that they even want to come with us. We’re going to keep pushing for that.
What do you like to do here in Bellingham when you are not on your work bike? Where is your favorite spot to hang out?
Well, I mean there is just so much. I am an outdoor person, a nature person, so I like to go to Galbraith Mountain for mountain biking.
I love to go down to Taylor Dock and walk the lit dock at night into town for dinner. I love to set-up picnics down at Taylor Shellfish Farm buying fresh seafood and using their outdoor picnic tables and BBQ’s.
And of course there is skiing at Mt. Baker.
There is so much I like to do in Bellingham on an outdoor level.
Does Bellingham have a best kept secret?
Yeah. I think one of the secrets about Bellingham is that if you live here you are about ten minutes from everything. Ten minutes to a cool, little independent movie theater. Ten minutes to good bagels. Ten minutes to Chuckanut Drive. We are so lucky that have that. The fact that you can access the water, the mountains, good food, and culture in such a small radius is fantastic.
I ran into a lady the other day while hiking at Fragrance Lake. I was feeling pretty empowered to be out there doing the hike by myself because I don’t normally do that. I said, “isn’t it cool that we can be out here by ourselves?” She said, “Yeah!” “Yeah. My son is behind me, but it’s great.” She was from Vermont so she was asking me about Bellingham and what the cost of living is here and so forth. That was my comment to her when she asked what I thought of Bellingham. “It’s ten minutes to everything.”
If you live in Seattle it’s an hour to an hour and a half to get to any sort of nature. And then you have to think about traffic.
I also think that Whatcom County has the most green space in the whole state of Washington. That is pretty cool. There are so, so many trails to access.
If you could change one thing about Bellingham what would it be?
Well, I can give you the bicyclist’s perspective.
I think we need some better bike lanes. There are a few scary places to ride your bike. Samish Way is one area. There are a lot of people that ride up to Lake Padden or out to Galbraith using Samish Way. The ride out to the Community College is kind of scary. Hannegan is also sketchy.
Though the city is trying to educate drivers with the green sharrows and bike lanes painted on the streets throughout downtown and neighborhoods.. Bellingham is really trying to be bike aware and bike friendly.
My fifteen year old would say that we are lacking diversity. [laughs] We have gotten better though. If you are really craving diversity you can definitely drive an hour to Vancouver or drive hour and a half to Seattle. I think that we do have some good culture here. There are a lot of good things that come through—some good music, events, speakers, etc.
I would like to know what does a normal work day looks like for you?
Well, I have kind of a nice kushy start. I leave the house around nine fifteen.That’s kind of nice. That gives me time to get some stuff done in the morning. I stretch, gear up for the day and maybe put some air in those tires. I start my day at the post office. I have fifteen regular customers that I pick up mail for. I load up the bike then drop off their mail in the various locations.
I start in the Downtown. I ride down Roeder Avenue to Squalicum Parkway. Over to Barkley. Up to Lakeway Drive and back downtown.
In the process of dropping off some of my customers mail I also pick up some of my customers outgoing mail and some bank deposits.
I have a mid-day round-up of bank deposits for the doctors over at the hospital.
We have a three hour shift in the morning then in the afternoon we go back to some of the same customers and do an outgoing mail service.
Then on certain days of the week I have a real estate distribution service. I go to the eight major real estate offices in town and I take out flyers on their listings for them. So that’s something that I wrap into my week as well.
And of course you are a mom and a wife too. So I’m sure your day doesn’t end there. You probably go home and work some more.
I have a fifteen year old who I am excited to have start driving.
Yeah, that’s a constant source of entertainment and work. [laughs] It definitely keeps me on my toes. It’s a cool, fun job that I am most proud of. Raising two boys. I’m constantly learning.