I had the pleasure of speaking with a talented young woman setting out to change the world one bicycle at a time. Her name is Chelsea Koglmeier and she is the founder of Bikes O.R.O, a socially conscious company seeking to help get bikes to those in need. What does the O.R.O stand for you ask? It stands for, of Reckless Optimism. I knew I had to ask Chelsea how she came up with the name. I am drawn to the name for so many reasons, one being I feel people view optimistic people and ideas for that matter, a little bit recklessly. I, however, believe optimism is a choice, a view point, a belief in something that sometimes just doesn’t fit in with the confines of society or “logic”. It is in those optimistic moments in which you believe so strongly in something I truly feel, great things happen.
So how did this motivated twenty seven year old decide the name of her company? Well, she said, “I was having a girls night in with a friend”, (and as any awesome girls night in goes, wine is definitely involved). She continued, “I had decided I was going to leave my tech job and go head first into starting my bike company. When I began to tell my friend about it I said, ‘It is with reckless optimism that I tell you I am leaving my job to start my own company”. Her friend replied “that has to be a part of your company!”. They popped another bottle to celebrate and it was in that moment the name had been created.
I knew from the story this was a girl I could relate to! I also knew, the rest of the interview would be fascinating. I asked if I could face time with Chelsea so the interview felt more personal. She happily agreed and was able to sit down for a FaceTime after one of her days at the National Bike Summit. As a woman still in her twenties, I would definitely not call Chelsea average. Taking a gap year between high school and college, Chelsea chose to join the program CityYear (a part of Americorps) where she worked at the inner city High School, Samuel S Fels. After one year with the program Chelsea began attending Duke University. Her passion to help led her to set out to Uganda after her freshman year at the University. While there, she volunteered at a refugee camp helping those fleeing the Uganda Sudan conflict. Chelsea learned a great deal living in that community, and the experience would impact the decisions she set forth for her company. In 2012 Chelsea graduated from Duke University with her Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy. Life continued on and after graduation she took a job as a founding team member of the app, Roadtrippers. As in all tech apps, the goal was to figure out how to give users what they need and make money off of it. Chelsea admitted it was something she was pretty good at. So why would an intelligent young woman with a steady pay check and a bright future in tech choose to leave and take on the winding road of an entrepreneur? Well here’s what I found out:
How did you come up with this idea? The idea of the bike as well as the piece in giving back.
The inspiration came after my time in Uganda. Children were being sent on foot to school a great distance away. It wasn’t safe for them, nor time efficient. Children and families work together to complete chores and work. For children to have to travel such long distances on foot it just wasn’t really realistic they would be able to make school a priority.
While at Duke I was able to attend the Clinton Global Initiative (Chelsea was chosen as a representative for Duke through DukeEngage) and was able to attend Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS, lecture. I thought the concept of his company was amazing. It also made me think, how good of a world we would live in if every company thought this way. You go girl I thought! So true!
I loved the concept of creating a bike because I have always used a bike as a way to get around and I also compete in triathletes. Riding a bike for pleasure as well as for transportation, it is a very versatile piece of equipment. I enjoyed my time at Roadtrippers, but was interested in selling something tangible. This felt like an interesting way to do it. Sell a bike, help get a bike to someone who could use it to change their life. I knew it would be complicated though.
If you don’t know a lot about TOMS, the company is founded on a one to one basis. You buy a pair of shoes a child in need gets a pair of shoes. The company has expanded beyond just shoes. The concept is brilliant and positively impactful.
Why was it important to you to give back?
Giving back has always been a part of my life. I took a gap year in between high school and Duke to work in an inner city high school. I was always very socially oriented and even helped found a non profit. I learned I was pretty good at growing things. Non profits are amazing and necessary. However, businesses have the pocket books and abilities to contribute huge positive changes in the world without having a lot of the constraints a 501c3, a registered charity, has. Structuring your company with a double bottom line helps you stick to your dual mission. Fascinating I thought. I asked Chelsea if she would mind explaining to me a little bit more about companies with a Double Bottom Line.
Of course. Any company can give to money to causes to help impact change. Companies that seek to have both a bottom line in terms of making profit and impact social change are double bottom line companies. Those companies are created in what’s called a B corporation or some time of LC3 corporation. By doing so they are saying to the world we have a dual mission, a profit one and a social one. Ben & Jerry’s, TOMS and Patagonia are a few companies with dual missions.
Tell me about the actual bikes
The bikes are made in collaboration with Matthew Andrew of Flying Machine. We’re very excited to be working with him, he’s a very experienced builder all the way from Australia. The bike is also belt driven so no grease which is great. They are simply designed, have three speeds and a little bit bigger tires. They are chromoly steel and a sleek silver color. The social aspect comes in because every bike purchased covers two tires for a bike at World Bicycle Relief.
What made you decide to partner with World Bicycle Relief?
I wanted to know exactly where the money would be going and how it would be used. WBR is a very established company and they has two different ways to help get bikes to people. You’ll enjoy this Ashley, they are headquartered in Chicago. I sure did enjoy hearing that. Yay, Chi-town! World Bicycle Relief was also just named one of the 50 most innovative companies of 2016 by Fast Company. World Bicycle Relief has designed a bike geared specifically toward helping people. It is highly durable, highly weight bearing allowing it to also be used to transport goods. WBR works with more localized non profits to help do deliveries. Bikes are hot commodities and you have to be careful of who is actually getting the bikes. They can easily be stolen or get into the hands of those you didn’t intend to. Another reason I chose WBR is they even employ people in the communities where the bikes are going, whether it be to help build the bikes, maintain them or deliver them. I am very happy to be working with World Bicycle Relief.
Can you explain to me how Indiegogo allows you to help your brand/company?
Indiegogo is critical to the success of my company. If we don’t raise the money that we need and get pre ordered a certain amount of bikes we won’t have enough to fund the first batch of manufacturing. By launching through Indiegogo our goal is to have enough people preorder the bike, which would allow me to show an investor we have built traction. From there we can test actual bike sales. To this point I have been doing side work and using my savings to help launch the company. We have some events planned at breweries in a few cities to help promote the campaign. So if you’re in the area come on out and you can see one of our bike models as well!
How exactly can supporters help your Indiegogo campaign?
Right now we are pre-selling one of our three bikes. It’s the Porteur model and my personal favorite, it’s very utilitarian. The plan is to launch the other two models in 2017. There are a few different ways you can help us reach our goal depending on what you can give. We have the purchase of a bike, a tricycle as well as smaller options beginning at $15. If you pre order the bike you’ll also get the preorder price as a thank you!
The bikes are very attractive by the way. They will eventually launch their old school wooden tricycle and let me tell you my heartstrings want to buy one right now. The nostalgic look and feel of it is stunning.
All this sounded very familiar …Would you ever do Shark Tank?
Chelsea laughed and said they would probably tear her apart. I have a different business idea with the social aspect not just the money aspect. But I love the show and think it’s a lot of fun.
You’re so young, what advice would you give to young individuals who have an idea for a project, business or organization but aren’t sure where to start?
First, starting your own business can be very romanticized and put on this big pedestal, you have to be ready for the biggest roller coaster of your life when you start something like this. Secondly, take responsibility for everything going on. Sometimes starting your own company is portrayed as easy, but you have to learn things you don’t know, be ok with being uncomfortable and always keep moving forward.
The fitness girl in me has to know. Is biking your favorite way to stay active-it seems like it? Do you have any other favorite activities?
This might sound shocking but roller blading is actually my favorite. I love biking don’t get me wrong, I just also like a variety of activities, not just one.
I know this may not be your main focus right now, but do you hope to expand the brand of O.R.O? Do you have any other ideas on the horizon?
I built this idea not with huge margins or huge profit in mind, but with optimistic view that I can help positively impact the world- that is the world of reckless optimism. I want to continue to create the vibe and the brand and include products with the same goal. Finding companies that beg the question, how do you build your life with reckless optimism? I would love for O.R.O to be a hotspot for finding those types of products and passions and help share them with the world.
Inspired by Chelsea’s story? Support Bikes O.R.O and their Indiegogo campaign. Just think, if you had the opportunity to support TOMS back in the day you’d be pretty proud of yourself, I imagine. Don’t miss that chance now. After speaking with Chelsea I have a good feeling she’s going to take her company to great heights.
No matter how big or small check out ways you can help. Aside from the actual bike and the tric, I love the Lacelets made from baseball gloves for $45. If you’re in the area you can also head to one of the events which seems like a chill vibe good kind of time. The events will even have one of the bikes there for you to check out in person.
You take a look here - Bikes O.R.O Indiegogo campaign
Have a fun and fit day,