Meet the Pisgah Trail Fairy
There are some folks out there who, whether they like it or not, stand as reminders to the rest of the mountain bike community. Different folks function as different reminders; whether its to remember to never give up a dream, or to smile, or the always popular "it's just bikes" mantra, we have figures in our sport that help us with the less tangible but still vital aspects of bike riding. Shanna Powell reminds us to stop taking ourselves so seriously, and that's a big one.
|I may be wrong, but in my mind the singlespeed community is kinda like the land of misfit toys: we're all f*cking weird, but we all love that about each other.|
When you meet the Endless Bike Company and Mountain Air Roasting owner, you are struck by an overwhelming force of positivity. It's the same thing from the trail, to the pub, to the cafe and so on. She has an irrepressible sense of stoke that hints at a carefree existence, one devoid of any stresses of the world. The truth is, such a presupposition could not be further from her reality. Shanna hails from the agricultural community of Garrett County, Maryland and now calls the southeast mountain bike mecca of Asheville home along with her two feline companions, Mister Ripple and Miss Penelope. Her path from being a social outsider as a youth to a successful business owner in the mountain bike industry comes replete with challenges, questionable decisions, and self doubt. It's been a journey filled with unexpected twists and obstacles, like many a person's. Shanna now finds herself in high demand, from a production standpoint and a personal. There's a narrative here that could be presented in a number of fashions; none better than in her own words. Meet Shanna Powell.
"My parents got divorced when I was really young. My dad married my step mom when I was 9 and that’s when we moved to Garrett County, Maryland. Susan’s (my step mom) family is all farmers, so we’d stay at grandma’s and work in the garden or bail hay. I remember my step mom trying to convince me that “these are the best years of your life”; which of course, I didn't necessarily agree with. In hindsight it was cool growing up in the country, but not too many kids want to spend their summers in the garden. I worked in my dad’s auto parts store as well. I get my social and people skills from my dad. He’s my idea of a perfect business owner and the standard that I hold all of my bosses to. He works hard. He’s got a shitty job selling parts to coal miners. They’re a crusty bunch. But he has to deal with a lot of personalities."
"College was cool. I was a commuter at Frostburg and so I hung out with kids who grew up in Frostburg. It took me 6 years to get a 4 year degree. I told my dad that I wanted to be a recreation major and he told me no. I started with Spanish, but I realized that when I got to university from community college I had forgotten most of what I learned in high school. I didn’t learn anything new and I had to drop that class. My dad always told me that he would pay for college as long as I did well. I failed a cartography class and I took a year off after that. Finally, after telling my dad that I’m not going back until I figure things out, he just told me to go back and that he doesn’t care what I major in. So I was a recreation major and it was awesome! The truth is that I didn’t really connect with too many people in college. I’ve always kind of been an oddball. Now that’s good, but it’s not always easy to see that when you're a kid."
Up a Creek
"I took a roll clinic in college. You know, learning how to roll a kayak in the pool. It was free, so I was like, "Sure!". I did that and then I started seeing these flyers for kayaking river guiding. “No experience necessary”. Well, I certainly didn’t have any experience. The training was really hard because it was March in West Virginia and we were training on the Cheat River. One of the training days the river was running at 7 feet, which is huge. They cut off guided trips at 6 feet. We took out these antiquated bail bucket boats. We took out a few rafts and there were a bunch of safety boats. The guide flips the raft and tells everyone to swim. That’s how they weeded people out. If you got through that, you were gold. I went from guiding to kayaking. I think that’s when I started to become an adrenaline junky. I was a class IV kayaker with class V dreams. I had a lot of warnings before I really hurt myself."
"In 2007 I was still kayaking and competed in an event called Jerry’s Baddle
. It’s on the Green River with a small portion of the race taking place on the road with bikes. I separated my shoulder in a rapid and ended up swimming through another called Chief’s, which is a class five rapid. It popped me up on shore and was pretty traumatic. I could have very easily died that day and was fortunate to get through those holes and out of the river. So I pretty much replaced kayaking with mountain biking."
"I moved to Asheville in 2006. I had just gotten back from a kayaking trip and didn’t have a job yet. A friend of mine told me that a bike shop was hiring. I didn’t know much about bikes, but they were just looking for someone to help with inventory. That was kind of the beginning of my career in bookkeeping. He’d been open for two months and hadn’t really been taking care of his paperwork. So I started working for Youngblood and he let me borrow a road bike. Then I did the 24 Hours of Pisgah as a part of a team with him and some other co-workers and at that point I realized that I didn’t really like riding road bikes."
"Then Beth Roberts started working for Youngblood. They wanted to do a women’s PMBAR
team. We had never ridden together, so we started training to get ready for the event. She really boosted my love of riding. She showed me that you could
really be a strong female rider. She was really a logistical master, so she’d go out and plan our rides and I’d just try to pay attention to where we were. That’s how I learned these trails."
Getting Down to Business
"Marshall Hance started working at Youngblood when I was there. At that time, he was already running Endless Bike Company. I’d get off work and go and help him package stuff. Obviously I was into him (laughs). I went over one day and he was like “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m going to stop filling orders”. So I offered to buy it from him but I didn’t have any money. So he sold it to me for a dollar. I didn’t really know shit about singlespeeds. But I had to learn.
When I purchased Endless, I discovered a debt to Turnamics, which is Industry Nine’s machine shop. It took me 3 months to get a meeting with Clint (Industry Nine owner) and he pulls out this pile of papers. During the meeting he tells me that the debt that Marshall owes him is $8,500. I just didn’t have that kind of money available. So I scrounged up $1000 initially and over the course of a few years, I would send him a check a month for whatever amount I could afford. By 2012, I managed to finally pay off the entire debt. That’s when I asked if I could bring my operations back into Asheville. I was working with another machine shop in Florida at the time and they weren’t very reliable. They definitely screwed me a few times and it was a real struggle. I really wanted to bring it back to Turnamics and pretty much begged him to let me back in and that’s when he offered me a job at Industry Nine."
"Marshall and I did end up dating. We lived together and I was running Endless out of the house. He’d go get coffee from Izzy’s every morning and he was getting tired of spending money on coffee every morning. He told me that he wanted to start roasting his own coffee. He started roasting coffee in a spare room of the house we lived in. He was initially roasting for himself but then he started selling it to his friends. It grew from there. I had a credit card with no interest and we started using it to fund this business. Mountain Air Roasting was pretty much born from my credit card shuffle and is now a lucrative business. It came from his desire to produce really good coffee.
Our breakup could have meant the end to a lot of things. We realized that we didn’t break up because we didn’t like each other, it was because we just weren’t good as romantic partners. But, we were great business partners. He’s still one of my best friends. It’s been great to be a part of something like this. He’s a mad scientist. He has such a scientific method to his coffee production. Coffee is perfect for him because you kind of have to be a mad scientist when you’re working with it. Plus it’s just really good coffee."
Striking a Balance
"It’s really hard to manage the two companies sometimes. It’s a little bit easier with Endless. I have less involvement with Mountain Air. I just handle the paperwork, where Endless is in my face. If I don’t sell this part, it won’t sell. No one else is going to fill the orders for me. Marshall handles the operations with Mountain Air, so my main concern there is just making sure that the bills are paid. With Endless, I’m always trying to determine what the most important thing for me to be doing is. Sometimes you have to do certain things before you can do other things. Keeping my customers happy is the most important thing. The emails pile up and I sometimes struggle with the balancing act."
"We’re selling a ton of coffee. Marshall has a really good product and he’s very proactive when it comes to getting his product out to as many people as possible. He wants his coffee in the best and most respected coffee shops in the country. He sends out samples and they bite and place orders. That’s something I’ve seen for a long time with both companies: you get out what you put in. The more effort you put in, the more you get from it. The more marketing you do, the more product you’re going to sell. That’s something I struggle with; the marketing. I just don’t have a lot of time."
|Keeping my customers happy is the most important thing. The emails pile up and I sometimes struggle with the balancing act.|
"I have some changes I need to make. The community at Industry Nine is what keeps me there. It’s hard for me to even back out just a little bit. But I’m realizing that I can’t keep this up forever. My work stress comes home with me and my home stress comes to work with me. Everything can suffer when that happens. I have come to the realization that I don’t have a choice but to cut my hours back at Industry Nine. If I want my life to be a good one and not be stressed the f*ck out all of the time, that something has to give and it can’t be my businesses.
I definitely have had some moments where I ask myself why my life is chained to these f*cking chunks of aluminum. I can tell myself that they’re running my life, but really I just need to take the time to run them
more. It’s a choice I made. I need to not work for someone else when I have two businesses that need me. But I do really like being around the people at Industry Nine and being a part of what’s going on there. But that just can’t be why I’m there anymore. I can always go and visit, which I would anyway because my parts are machined there ." (laughs)
"The joke at Industry Nine is that girls don’t ride bikes. Which they do obviously and can be just as good. I was just sitting around and trying to figure out what could be fun and easy marketing. I also like the word ‘f*ck’. Don’t tell my mom. The #f*ckYeahIRideLikeAGirl
sticker came mostly from the joke at Industry Nine though. But I will go through magazines and count the amount of women that are involved and sometimes it’s just really bad. There might be two ads and a girl eating shit. Or something just not relevant. There aren’t a lot of women on single speed bikes, but we’re there still and we’re good riders."
"My major influence as a woman was Beth Roberts. She was the Pisgah Princess! She lives in Moab now and I ride with her whenever I head to the southwest. Sue Haywood is another big one for me. She’s always been this mythical rider and then I met her, and realized that she’s not only an amazing rider but she’s this fun, happy and friendly person. You’d never know that she was one of the best female riders in the world. She doesn’t have an arrogance about her. She’s a lifestyler too. Truthfully, not all women are into the idea of getting muddy and dirty like we did today. There’s this culture of “I can’t” with a lot of women today. Hopefully by doing rad shit, we can bring in more women to do more rad shit."
One Ring to Rule Them All
"If it wasn’t for the single speed community, I would have quit years ago. It’s a small, niche group of people. It’s tight knit too. To be a part of this awesome group of people that might only have this one thing in common, feels awesome. I feel like I can go anywhere in the country and not have to worry about someone hurting me and it’s because I surround myself with people from this community. They’re a rough and rowdy community. They like to drink whiskey and get drunk and ride bikes. I like all of those things too! They’re so fun. I haven’t met anyone in the single speed community who has been a dick to me in a race. They’ve embraced me and all of my silliness. They support me and my products. They have a lot of choices but they buy my stuff because there’s reciprocal support."
"I had always been a bit on the outside when I was young and had a tough time finding my place. The kayak community was a great one and for the first time in my life I felt like I kinda fit somewhere. When I hurt my shoulder on the Green, everything that I had thought my life was felt like it crumbled around me. I was scared of doing the one thing that I truly loved and my body was injured. Riding became my replacement for that activity. It became my rehab and then my passion. I even gave up owning a car for 5 years, until Endless began to require more travel and carrying capacity. A bike commuter learns a lot about what they are capable of as a human. The Asheville bike community welcomed me with open arms and riding replaced that hole in my heart and life that kayaking had left."
"I still have many friends that are kayakers, but I just can't relate to them on the same level anymore. I still understood their stoke surrounding kayaking but it made me sad that I was afraid (to participate) and I definitely went through some depression. I started riding more and meeting more bike riders and they were like kayakers: slightly crazy with a rough and rowdy and dirty edge. I like that. I've never been afraid of drowning on the trail and I've never felt sick on the way to the trailhead. Riding can be a solo activity or a group activity and as an outgoing introvert, riding is the perfect outlet. I'm a bit silly with my style and the Asheville bike community welcomes me and embraces me. I feel like I can be a wall flower or right in the mix when I need to be. It's perfect."
For more information, check out Endless Bike Co
and Mountain Air Roasting