Notable Native: Vanessa Buccella


Vanessa Buccella

By Assistant Metro Editor

Vanessa Buccella grew up in a small Arkansas town and always dreamed of living in a big city. After she was accepted to New York University’s film school, she realized she could not attend because of financial reasons and eventually decided to attend Columbia College. As she drove up Lakeshore Drive for the first time in 1997, she realized Chicago is where she truly belongs. As she settled in, she quickly became involved in the fun and active lifestyle the city has to offer.

After graduating with a film degree and honors in 2000, Buccella started working as a film editor in 2006. When she bought her first road bicycle in 2008, she decided to join a cycling team. After becoming more involved in the cycling community, Buccella realized that she loved being a cyclist and film editing was no longer her passion.

Buccella still works as a film editor for a media outlet and is currently on the board of the Illinois Cycling Association. Her love for cycling has inspired her to begin a woman-oriented cycling business, BFF Bikes, with her friend Annie Decker Byrne.

The Chronicle spoke with Buccella about being a business owner, The opening of BFF Bikes and living in Chicago.

THE CHRONICLE: What is the mission behind BFF Bikes?

VANESSA BUCCELLA: Our main mission is to fill a hole. The only segment of the population that is experiencing a fair amount of growth in the sport are women. There are woman products out there that bike shops don’t carry because they don’t want to take a risk on buying a product that people don’t buy. Men own a lot of bike shops and they don’t know what women want to buy. Annie and I have never worked at a bike shop, but we have been women cyclists for a really long time so we know what we want. Our approach to BFF Bikes is to have a shop that caters to us. We want to be really inclusive, no bike snobbery. If you have never ridden a bike, you haven’t since you were a kid, if you are an experienced racer or you are buying your first bike, you are going to get treated the same. We want to get more women out there riding. We want to have a community and a space where it’s not just about riding bikes, but learning more about cycling and coming together.

CC: Why did you move to Chicago?

VB: I’m not from a huge town. Moving to Chicago, I remember very distinctly driving up here and coming up Lakeshore Drive and going underneath the overpass at McCormick Place and just seeing the skyline of the city for the first time. I was just like, “Oh my god, this is the place for me.” I had a big-city brain living in a small town and I immediately fell right in with the action and fun of living in Chicago. I don’t think I was ever homesick once I moved here.

CC: Did you run into any conflicts when you first opened BFF Bikes?

VB: Being in a partnership has its challenges. I’m probably the more argumentative one. It’s helping me to see where I can be at fault and where I’m stubborn, which is good for me. The other challenges are just finding the money. It was hard to find a location because a lot of landlords don’t want to rent to a new company. It’s all a challenge; there is nothing easy about putting up a new business.

CC: What advice would you offer new business owners?

VB: The reason I’m opening up a business like this is because I am obsessed with it. I wouldn’t open up a business unless it was about something that I’m absolutely obsessed with because it’s just so much work. If it is something you really feel like you can add to the world or be in [a] niche that nobody else is, then go for it.

CC: Do you have a life motto?

VB: The reason I’m doing this is because I cannot be the person who is waiting to retire to live their life. We’re not on this planet for very long and you can’t wait until you retire to enjoy yourself. You only live once, as they say.