I have unintentionally caused pain to a team member by positioning Campfire Cycling as a business that had embraced DEI training and practices through the posting of our DEI Principals and Statement of Accountability, and then not timely following through on my plans.
In 2020 I set out to change the mission of Campfire Cycling. Inspired by the global anti-racist movement lead by Black Lives Matter, I contemplated what role a bike shop could have in being a part of change. I realized that as a new community-oriented bike shop, there was potential to positively impact our Tucson community. I updated our mission as follows: to empower all Tucson cyclists and communities by making cycling and bikepacking more accessible. Inspired by this mission, I began by hiring a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consultant to guide me in my process of developing our DEI principles and writing a Statement of Accountability, which I posted in November of 2020.
In 2021, we relocated to a downtown location and began growing our team. Throughout the pandemic, our business was gradually growing, even while facing an ongoing variety of challenges. In 2022 with the leadership of a new team member, we began working on a community engagement project.
While, as the leader of this business, I had talked the talk of building a business that cared deeply about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I’ve now learned that I made missteps in how I was walking the walk. We had embraced our DEI principles in terms of creating a community-oriented space, looking at our hiring practices from a new perspective, and looking for opportunities to engage with the community. However we also made missteps that impeded our progress. My biggest misstep was not consistently providing DEI training for our small team, both through internal training as well as with the guidance of professional DEI instructors. While we had plans for DEI training, they were too little, too late, which lead to an environment that can best be characterized as lacking sensitivity.
As I have processed my missteps, I have realized that dealing with immediate perceived emergencies can lead to the unplanned reordering of priorities, causing important goals to be delayed or overlooked—such as our DEI training. DEI training offers space within an organization where problems and issues can be looked at from a variety of perspectives. We were missing this critical element of a community-oriented bike shop.
I regret viewing DEI work as just another project to add to my unending list of projects to get to when I have a moment. Thinking of this work this way, I believe was my biggest error. The “fake it ‘til you make it”, startup hustle mindset that I’d grown accustomed to over my years trying to find success in small business, simply was not the right approach for running a community-facing business with DEI at its core. I now recognize that DEI work must be prioritized as mission critical and be well-established before pushing forward with growth.
To address what occurred, we have gone through a voluntary community mediation process, facilitated by an outside firm, in which we did our best to settle on a path for repair. During our mediation I offered an apology and a voluntary reparation as a gesture of acknowledgement. It was a difficult but important process for me to come to a clearer understanding of the pain I’d caused due to my missteps.
Moving forward from this challenging time, we are making plans to be much more actively engaged in DEI training. Having learned from my mistakes, I will be much more thoughtful and intentional in posting our DEI principles. The training and intentionality will come first, and our principles will not be posted until they are truly embodied and felt throughout our team.
This period has been made all the more challenging as it came at a time we were just beginning some community engagement projects. These projects are currently on pause, as we focus on steps for repair and establishing our changed behavior. I am hopeful that with enough time for healing we can get back on track with our community engagement, whether it is through finding ways to continue to support the projects we were involved with or by supporting other Tucson organizations.
This acknowledgement will take the place of our DEI Principles for the time being, as we regroup and refocus our efforts on establishing routine DEI training. Once we feel more grounded in our practices and commitment to DEI, we will be posting our updated principles.
To conclude, I would like to offer an apology.
To our team member, I offer you my deepest apology for the pain that I’ve caused. I’m sorry for the mistakes that I made throughout your time here. When it came to trying to build a better community-oriented business with DEI at its core, I have to admit I was mixed up in my priorities. I sincerely wish that I could have managed to create the job that you expected. I feel foolish now realizing how far off I was. And while things ended badly for us, I want to acknowledge and extend my appreciation for the inspirational leadership that you offered while working with us.
To others in the Tucson community who have been negatively impacted by my missteps, I also offer my sincere apology for any pain that I’ve caused. I know that you had placed trust in working with me and I am very sorry that my leadership within our organization has reverberated out to disrupt our work together. I apologize for the disappointment of this disruption.
– Josh Lipton, Founder Campfire Cycling