Cowgirl Bike Courier

Through our company, and our actions, we create the change we wish to see in the world.

Cain Ramirez and Amanda Muehlbauer are pretty busy these days. As co-founders of Cowgirl Bike Courier, a bike messenger service out of San Jose, they have been working to keep their business running smoothly since it first opened about six months ago. “Now that we have a much higher volume of deliveries, [our couriers] have adapted gracefully to our growing demands,” says Muehlbauer, the company’s CFO. While she deals with the financial side of the business, Ramirez—CEO and bike courier—can be found making deliveries around the South Bay, delivering everything from Chinese takeout to CSA boxes to medicine.

Why did you decide to start a bike messenger service, and why in San Jose?
San Jose has not had a proper bicycle messenger service for almost two decades. There used to be a few companies back in the ’80s, but by the time of the Tech Boom, email and fax made conventional messengers redundant.

We found it intriguing that Silicon Valley had no bike courier service of its own. With the support of our local community, and a lot of personal time and energy, we spent a year researching what it would take to launch and operate a bike courier service before opening Cowgirl Bike Courier for business this past September.

Tell me more about your mission to empower women to take part in a male-dominated industry.
According to The League of American Cyclists, 24% of bicycle rides are by women, yet over 80% of women are in approval of bike use. By putting women at the forefront—in our company title, mission statement, and logo—when it came time to hire couriers, out of the 35 applications we received, 22 of them identified as women. Through our company, and our actions, we create the change we wish to see in the world.

How many couriers do you currently employ?
We currently have eight individuals working for us as independent contractors. Each courier makes 50% commission on every delivery charge they fulfill.

Is there such a thing as a typical day in the life of a bike messenger? If so, what’s it like?
A lot of waiting, actually. We typically have scheduled deliveries between 9am and noon, which are fun because we can take our time traveling across the valley. Then, there’s generally a period of calm until 5pm, which is when our restaurant clients open for dinner and make use of our delivery services. On a good night, we’ll be going nonstop from 5:30pm to 9pm. The night hustle is what appeals to a lot of our couriers. Riding at night, navigating through traffic, all the while moving fast to ensure food deliveries stay hot.

You’ve partnered with Veggielution to deliver their CSA farm boxes. What other businesses do you have partnerships with?
We’ve been very fortunate to partner with quite a few local businesses and nonprofits. Aside from Veggielution, we’re very fond of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and all of the work they do for cyclists in the Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

We also work very closely with La Dolce Velo bicycle shop. They’ve been rooting for us since day one, and continue to support us through thick and thin.

What’s the interview and hiring process like to become a Cowgirl Bike Courier? Do you have any advice for aspiring bike messengers?
Oh, man. We put our first batch of couriers through interview hell. It took part in two portions, with the first being a typical interview process at Roy’s Coffee in Japantown. We had two of our friends conduct the initial interview. What the couriers didn’t know is that the interviewer would be taking notes of what their initial impression was of the individual. After this, our friends stuck the note in an envelope, addressed it to a booth at B2 in San Pedro Square Market, and sent the courier off to make a delivery.

Every applicant took off at Mach speed, in an attempt to be a fast courier. We weren’t concerned with speed. We wanted someone who could be calm and cool under pressure. Amanda and I were the ones due to receive their delivery, and of course, each applicant that showed up was dripping in sweat, completely ecstatic with the opportunity given. A third of the applicants took the note to the wrong spot and left. They were cut instantly.

When the courier made a successful delivery to us, we introduced ourselves as the owners of the company, and asked them to take a seat for the second part of the interview. Each applicant, hopped up on adrenaline and endorphins, had to keep their cool while trying to convince Amanda and I that they were the right person for the job. This was to replicate the process as if they were delivering legal documents, as our clients would prove to be even more cutthroat than ourselves when it came to professionalism and dependability.

What is the weirdest delivery you’ve ever made?
Medication for a client’s pet. It’s definitely an untapped market that we’ll be looking into.

Written by Flora Moreno de Thompson
Photography by Gregory Cortez

Article originally appeared in Reveal Issue 7.0

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