We chat to Kirrien Wilson, Managing Director of cycle delivery start-up ZEEM Logistics, about the inspiration behind the business, Clean Air Zones and the future of urban logistics.
Founded by two seasoned cycle couriers in 2020, ZEEM Logistics offers an ethical and environmental solution to cargo delivery in Manchester.
Powered by its fleet of electric cargo and fixed gear bikes, the business began operating in January 2021 and already provides services ranging from takeaway food and parcel delivery to hotel-to-airport luggage transfers.
The company has been working with the Hub’s Green Technologies and Services Sector team, who have provided advice on tenders, funding, and sales and value proposition to support its ongoing growth.
What inspired you to set up ZEEM?
Myself and my business partner are cycle couriers. We met outside a fish and chip shop in May 2020 whilst on the job and got chatting, and we agreed that we could do it a lot better than the big company we were working for. We were both fed up with working for a company that treated us poorly and wanted to work for a business where financial gain for directors and shareholders didn’t come at the expense of the ethical treatment of staff.
A week later, we were writing a business plan and had begun talking to other start-ups doing a similar thing elsewhere. Two months after that we registered the company and began speaking to potential investors, and by January 2021 we were making our first deliveries.
What makes your service different?
We’ve proved that we can do things better. On average, all of our deliveries arrive 5-10 minutes early. Our customers are happier than they were with their previous provider. All of our staff are on at least £9.50 an hour and every year they will get a wage review – if the company is performing well, all staff get a wage increase. Our riders are on a minimum terms contract, so they are guaranteed a minimum amount of work, and usually get more than that.
And we’re a green cycle company – everything we do has to be environmentally friendly. We run on a fleet of fixed gear bikes for smaller items, and electric cargo bikes for larger items of up to 80kgs.
We also consult with our clients on how they can become greener themselves. For example, one of our clients uses reusable packaging that was being thrown away. They are now using our service to encourage regular customers to keep the packaging so we can collect it when they order their next delivery. Not only does that stop plastic being thrown into landfill; it’s also reduced our client’s costs.
How did you end up working with the Hub?
I got referred to the Hub by Transport for Greater Manchester, after complaining that there wasn’t enough start-up support for businesses like ours in Greater Manchester. We’re glad they did because the Hub has been very supportive.
When we’ve needed advice from our advisor Jack, he’s been very helpful – even in the event he’s not able to answer our questions, he’s gone away and found the information we needed, so it’s been great to have access to that kind of support.
Why is cycle logistics a growing trend?
We’re in a situation now where businesses are realising that they can’t just keep using vans in cities, not just from an environmental perspective but also from an economic perspective. When you look at the research by companies such as Pedal Me in London, who transport people as well as goods, cargo bikes are far more efficient and get from A to B quicker than vans and cars.
As Clean Air Zones come into play the business case for cycle logistics gets even stronger, especially as the market for electric vans isn’t quite there yet. Even as electric vans become more mainstream, we can still expect to see far more cargo bikes on the road for shorter distance journeys.
What difference do you think Greater Manchester’s Clean Air Zone will have?
The GM Clean Air Zone is going to have a direct impact on our ability to increase business. London has its Low Emission Zone and Congestion Zone, and from our contact with companies there, business is better than ever. There are around 15 cycle logistics companies in London alone and all of them are busy
Birmingham has just started its Clean Air Zone and we’re already connected with a start-up there that’s at a similar stage to us. If it’s managed properly, the zone will be fantastic for our business and fantastic for the environmental health of Greater Manchester as well.
What does the future hold for ZEEM?
Our aim is to cover the whole of Greater Manchester within five years. Every area in Greater Manchester will have a hub of cyclists and bikes, in effect creating an interconnected cycle network that can transfer goods from one area to another. In ten years’ time, we want to expand to other cities like Liverpool or Sheffield. Our ideas are definitely bigger than just Manchester.
In the near-term, we’re in the process of negotiating with several parcel companies within Manchester, and we’re already getting orders that require bigger bikes so we’re planning to expand our bike fleet with an electric cargo trike that can carry up to 300kgs in weight. As the saying goes, no job is too big or too small!