Meet James, a bespoke bicycle creator, and his handsome hound Huxley

Words: Simon Glazin       Pictures: Rikki Percival

Don't let the good looks fool you. Huxley is a clever hound. And James is alright too!

A bespoke bicycle manufacturer by day (Kennedy City Bikes), and studying towards a PhD in Behavioural Economics in his spare time, James Kennedy has managed to fit a LOT into his 28 years. Previous to starting his own business, James worked a two year stint at the Future Laboratory - a consultancy for trend forecasting, brand strategy and consumer insight for many industries (a good background to have when launching your own brand!). While working there, he also did a BSc in Psychology and a MSc in Social Anthropology. He worked for YouGov before that - an international internet-based market research firm. 

An extraordinary back catalogue of work and education, all possible by the fact that: "I get up early!" 

When I went to meet James and Huxley, the first thing that went through my mind was how on earth a Great Dane could fit into the relatively small flat they, and James' gorgeous wife Florence, share. Somehow, though, it worked. Huxley, although approximately six feet when up on two legs, looked like a little pup when he took himself off to the couch. And when he needed some water, he was exactly the right height to drink straight from the tap. 

What is evident though from spending only an hour with James and Huxley, is that they are best friends, without sounding too cliche. He goes to work with James, sat by his side, they play fight, and when we ventured outside, it was like walking the pavement with two celebrities: Huxley draws a crowd! After the door closed on our visit, I imagined them both chilling on the sofa, beer in hand/paw, laughing at the T.V.

They say dogs and their owners sometimes look alike, and the picture below proves just that! Scroll down further to read some great career advice from James, and the time Huxley knocked Florence to the ground...

"Hux is a muppet. But he's certainly good for customer service. Assuming you like dogs of course. But who doesn't like dogs?" 

On having a dog like Huxley: It's pretty great to be honest. I think there's something about his size that makes his moods infectious. When he's in a good mood it's so hard to ignore that it tends to pull you up with it. Similarly, when he's knackered and snoring on the sofa it probably won't be long before you're asleep too.


On taking risks and setting up on your own: In retrospect it seems a pretty obvious decision. I always knew I'd work for myself, it was just a matter of finding the best way to do it. That I was able to work out a way to do it while doing something I was already doing in my spare time was just a massive bonus. I can't recommend risks like those enough. I firmly believe that even if it had all gone tits-up immediately I'd still be glad that I did it.


On learning the business stuff: Trial and error! I think there's a risk sometimes that we get things right by luck first time and don't learn anything. Better to make a mess of it a few times first and drill the right answer in to you.


On having a back-up career: I'm doing a PhD in Behavioural Economics. But I don't really see it as a career, just something I'm really interested in and would be studying in my own time with or without the framework of a university. I guess some day I might make use of it, but it's not why I do it. The closest thing I have to a backup is actually my wife's business, Petalon Flowers.


On Huxley inspiring work: Hux is a muppet. But he's certainly good for customer service. Assuming you like dogs of course. But who doesn't like dogs? Nobody I want to sell a bike to... just kidding. Maybe.


On their daily routine: Early! Dog owners all seem to be up early but my wife's a florist (Petalon Flowers) so it's even earlier. The three of us tend to go for a stroll around Haggerston park first thing to blow out the cobwebs before we head up to the workshop in Clapton and crack on with our day. Hux spends most of it sprawled across a Chesterfield sofa or sunbathing in the yard.


On setting up a business: Do it. There's never a right time, never an absence of doubt. So now is really as good a time as any.


On his favourite Huxley tale: Great Dane's are bred to tackle. My wife found this out to her peril while running alongside him in Hackney Downs. She gave him a bit of a nudge in the side and he promptly barged her straight over. I was overwhelmed by a mixture of concern and uncontrollable laughter as she hit the deck. Mostly the second though. (she was fine, just a bit bruised)


On fashion & style: I wouldn't say I'm in to fashion but I'm certainly in to clothes. I love a product with a story, and clothing and footwear lends itself amazingly well to that. I want a good pair of shoes, jeans or a coat to be with me for 5 years or more and pick up marks and stories along the way. For me it's all about having clothing with individuality, and owning something a long time and changing it with the way you use and wear it is an excellent way of doingthat.


On cyclists/cycling press coverage: I think they have an image problem. Luckily most of the growth these days in cycling is less from what we'd broadly term "cyclists" and more from what I'd call "people who ride bikes". It's becoming more normalised, which is exactly what it should be, and as that happens the sense of "us" and "them" disappears and we all get around a lot easier, healthier and while having a whole lot more fun.


What breed of dog would you be? Newfoundland. They're great swimmers and they always look like they're having an amazing time. Plus I love big coats.


On who would play him in a movie: Owen Wilson, because his nose is totally fucked too.


James lives in Haggerston with his wife, Florence, and Huxley.

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