Name: Chelsea Koglmeier
Business: Bikes ORO
Location: Cape May, New Jersey, U.S.
Industry: Consumer Goods
Reason for starting: The inspiration behind Bikes ORO was to find a way to sustainably and consistently fund distribution of bikes to people in need. I spent time living in Uganda about 7 years ago and, at the time, had been so overwhelmed by the power a bike could have to change someones life. Simple access to mobility gave entrepreneurs the ability to sell more and farther, and kids the ability to get to schools that spoke the right language (when otherwise they would be walking for hours).
The model is not totally new — TOMS, Warby Parker, and many others have paved the way with social consumerism and products that “give back.” This type of product has not been proven with such an expensive, utilitarian product like a bicycle though.
How do you define success? To me, success is building a business that is good for the world, which means it gives back to the world intentionally, cares for our environment, supports localized structures, and builds community. For this company, I also wanted to build an incredible quality product and create a small company that employs 3-5 people over time in good, balanced, creative work.
Biggest success: Outside of building a beautiful and incredibly quality bicycle — which is a gigantic success — I see our biggest success in our Ambassador team. Twenty-seven individuals (and still growing) from around the world have stepped up to be part of the movement to get more people on bikes. They help us tell the story digitally, help us run on-the-ground events, and help give people the opportunity to try out one of our bicycles.
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? Our top challenge was designing the bicycle. I have no prior experience, nor any close friends/family, who are bike designers. I needed to find someone to help out and ended up stumbling upon an amazing, boutique bicycle designer in Perth, Australia called Flying Machine. They liked the cause we’re working with and designed the first line of bikes in partnership with us.
It’s a crazy thing when your personal life doesn’t stop when you are trying to start a company. I don’t know if others feel this way, but a particular significant personal situation absolutely derailed the company for a month or so in the middle of critical growth time. When you are the only one energizing and moving an idea forward, it is very hard when your personal life gets you distracted. The wonderful thing is that you can come back from a time away. The hard this is that you will have forever lost that time.
Who is your most important role model? Honestly, companies are my most important role models. Warby Parker – for their quality product and social mission. Patagonia – again for quality product, incredibly intentional decisions, care for employees, and environmental focus/activism. Ben and Jerry’s – for their unique startup story and ongoing personality.
Edited by The Story Exchange