Q&A: Bikes ORO (Of Reckless Optimism)

by David D. Menzies

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University has pumped-out its fair share of impressive graduates, including 27-year-old Chelsea Koglmeier. Just last year, she launched Bikes ORO (Of Reckless Optimism) to improve the world by getting bicycles to people living in impoverished communities, helping them travel to work and school and get healthy. With spring in the air in North Carolina and bicycle enthusiasts starting to dot the roads, CarolinaTechNews thought it’d be a good time to catch up with this inspiring startup for a Q&A session to help spread the word.

Q: When was your company founded and why?

A: Bikes ORO was founded in 2015 by Duke grad Chelsea Koglmeier, who spent her post-college years working on microfinance projects and studying malnutrition in Uganda and Bolivia. After returning to the United States she had a determination to start a bicycle company, but also ensure that the company could help change lives, such as the lives of the people that she had been working with over the previous few years and those here in the United States, that simply needed to improve their health and get in shape.

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After taking a look at the bicycle industry, Chelsea realized it was geared toward the "super enthusiast" and came to the conclusion that bike shops were intimidating and overwhelming to the average consumer.  There are too many technical details and options, which make purchasing a bike a hard decision for some.  Bottom line, you need quality, utility, and a bike suited to your riding.  The company has reduced the decision variables, and they deliver the bikes directly to the end user, creating a supportive environment for them to get riding and in turn, help spread the power of the bicycle to people in need around the world.

For every bike purchased through Bikes ORO, we help get one to a student or entrepreneur in third world countries. We also see the need for less barriers to entry with riding everywhere. Our bikes are custom designed to be simple and low maintenance. We're trying to get more people around the world riding bikes.

Q: Where is your HQ and how many employees do you have?

A: We're based in a small beach community called Cape May, N.J. We don't yet have any paid employees, but we have two people working full-time on the startup.

Q: What are your company’s core products or services?

A: We build and sell simple, belt driven bicycles that directly support the donation of a bike to someone in need.

Q: Who are some recognizable members of your leadership team?

A: Our founder's name is Chelsea Koglmeier. She's a 27-yr-old Duke graduate who was previously in technology. I wouldn't say that we're "recognizable" necessarily, but we're young and doing what we can to build some good for the world.

Q: What are your differentiators from competitors? 

A: There's a bunch of people who produce "everyday" style bikes -- all the big names and some smaller boutique brands. The technical differentiator on our bike is that we've designed them specifically to reduce the barriers to entry by adding components like a belt drive, which results in no maintenance, no grease, and no rust. On the business side, the inspiration for the company came from figuring out a way to sustainably fund transportation for people in need around the world. Thus, for every bike purchased through us, we help get one to someone in need. We re-apply existing technologies to make bikes simple, accessible, and globally aware.

Q: Who are your customers?

A: Our mission is to get more people around the world to ride bikes. We're mostly talking to a rising tide of socially conscious customers who want to buy products that have a cause. We're also speaking to people who want to care for themselves, our environment, and the world with lifestyle decisions -- because riding your bike daily is absolutely a lifestyle decision.  We're helping reduce the barriers to entry for 'everyday' riding and sustainably fund distribution of bikes to people in need.

Q: What makes your company relevant to the future of your industry?

A: I think the bike industry is incredibly interesting right now and absolutely at an inflection point. Customer behavior is changing -- an increasing demographic of people are riding, alongside how people buy is transforming. We're a young company that's pushing a cleaner, simpler story both digitally and in person. There's too much information, jargon, and technical details that cloud people's comfort with riding, so we're doing what we can to reduce those and make it more linear.

Q: Will your company be participating in any upcoming trade shows or other events, or are you being featured in any upcoming industry publications?

A: We're currently at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. It's a great way to meet some of the people working in advocacy across the country. We've also got a series of events at breweries across the country -- next up is Denver!

Q: Where can people go to find out more information?

A: You can find almost everything you need on our website www.bikesoro.com/porteur.  We also have an Indiegogo Campaign live right now at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bikes-oro-socially-conscious-everyday-bikes#/