Support for business

Rising Sun Workshop: Sydney’s first communal workshop for motorbike fans

Ramen house meets motorcycle workshop. Find out how the unique business model works.


Adrian Sheather, co-founder of Rising Sun Workshop, was a speaker at our City Thought Leaders seminar, How innovation is changing the face of business, in August 2017. Watch the video of the event.

There are a few noteworthy things about Rising Sun Workshop besides the outstanding ramen! It’s the first communal motorcycle workshop in Australia and the first of its kind to use a social enterprise model for its business.

Adrian Sheather founded the workshop with his wife Heleana Genaus. Friends Nick Smith, Daniel Cesarano and Dimity Genaus are also co-founders.

Collaborative consumption for motorcyclists

The idea came from a real need, Sheather said, a motorbike enthusiast who was at the time living in an apartment with no garage.

“I longed for the space I enjoyed growing up living on a farm, but was relegated to working on my bike on the street, when weather permitted,” he said. “I needed an affordable space and one that was more than a place to wrench. I wanted to foster a community where people came to learn and share their knowledge with others.”

As well as being motivated by personal interest, the venture was thoroughly researched. Sheather knew that motorcycle registrations have been growing in recent years, while indoor space was increasingly difficult to come by in the face of rising living costs. A communal workshop would enable riders to work on their bike without investing in their own garage and equipment and having to store the latter when it’s not in use.

Crowdfunding a workshop

This type of business had never been done before so Sheather had no empirical experience to suggest that the idea would work. He also lacked startup funds. Luckily, support came from people who believed in the idea and put their money towards it.

We crowdfunded nearly $40,000 and, in the process, built a community of potential future members and visitors.

“Reaching the crowdfunding goal was monumental because it felt like a moonshot task. We worked really hard to sell a dream for 90 days knowing that we didn't have all the answers yet, but that we would get them when we needed to.”

Communally built and used

One of Rising Sun’s climactic moments was when the workshop finally opened in Newtown, 5 years after the idea was conceived. It is located in a 130-year-old warehouse, which was fitted out with the help of family and supporters.

People offered services as sparkies, plumbers and by rolling up their sleeves and doing what needed to be done. Members turned up every weekend.

The communal spirit that got Rising Sun Workshop off the ground is returned back to its members by the profit-for-purpose business.

“All profits go to the tool shop and benefits to members, such as road trips and other group events,” said Sheather.

Sheather believes the team that’s been built at Rising Sun is the business’ biggest achievement.

“All of the key staff who helped us open are still with us today. Of those who have left over the last 2 years, 90% did so because they either left hospitality, or Sydney, or progressed in their career.

“For an industry that can attract notions of being transient or not offering a career, we have broken the mould and I am really proud of that.”

Innovation through necessity

From the start, Rising Sun Workshop was designed to be affordable to most people. To achieve this, the bill needed to be picked up somewhere other than membership fees. This is how Rising Sun Workshop started serving ramen.

“Our business model was always to use the café revenue to subsidise the workshop until memberships reached a large enough volume to be self-sustaining.

“We decided to finance Rising Sun through crowdfunding because we needed money. We ran a pop-up with Harley Davidson.

"Rising Sun Workshop was always about the combination of the workshop and the food, with the intent to subsidise the workshop with the café revenue while the workshop membership grew big enough to sustain itself.

"The pop-up didn’t have a kitchen so we had to use what was there and anything we added had to be temporary and low cost. Nick (executive chef/owner) thought ramen was aligned with what Rising Sun Workshop was about and we only needed a tap, some gas rings to boil pops on and some bench space. Little did we know it become the backbone of our business and carry through to the permanent location.

“A great idea isn’t enough. True innovation comes from necessity and the whole thing needs to work financially,” said Sheather.

Rising Sun Workshop is a social enterprise that innovates traditional for-profit small business. This is part of our series of articles on savvy business minds around Sydney.

Published 14 December 2018, updated 29 February 2024