A report by Raul Menchaca for Xinhua.
Nayvis Diaz does not regret selling her Peugeot car to finance the opening of her bicycle repair and rental shop in Havana, three years ago.
Now, seven women work in VeloCuba, which Diaz opened after leaving her job at the Ministry of Foreign Trade to take advantage of Cuba’s economic reforms.
VeloCuba’s beginnings in September 2014 were not easy but its owner did not give up and took charge of everything: the workshop, accounting, even distributing advertising flyers.
“I did it absolutely all. One of our employees used to be a professional cyclist and she brought all the technical knowledge on fixing a bike,” she told Xinhua.
Accompanied by Dayli Carvo, a former national cycling team member, Diaz has helped cycling stand out in Havana.
As advertising opportunities are extremely limited in Cuba, Diaz’s clientele was built up through word of mouth, including the fact that only women are employed in the workshop.
“The objective is to empower women in different activities they seemingly cannot do,” explained Diaz.
VeloCuba saw rapid success and, after a year, it expanded to offer rentals, road repairs, servicing at home and offering five bicycle tours through the capital. Guides on these tours can offer them in Spanish, English, German and French.
“We place great emphasis on knowing historical matters. We are very keen for our visitors to discover architecture, art, new places they can go at night, and learn about Cuban society,” said Diaz.
Now, VeloCuba has two workshops, one in the central neighborhood of Vedado and another in Old Havana, among the city’s busiest districts.
The lack of a large-scale market for bicycles is the main problem of VeloCuba, which has had to buy bicycles from foreign tourists visiting the island.
However, as a service to the community, the workshops repair and maintain wheelchairs for free.
“It is our way, as a company, to offer some help to society,” said Diaz.
VeloCuba has a coordinated partnership with Cuba’s sports authorities to establish activities for children, including cycling.
“I dream that, on one or two days a week, only cycling is allowed in the city,” Diaz said with a smile.