Chelsea Koglmeier made a New Year’s Resolution about a year ago “to try to come to terms with the risk of failure,” and she’s been working
to put that into practice ever since.
The native Cincinnatian was no novice in taking risks. She’d already cut her teeth in the innovation and entrepreneurship world as a fellow at The Brandery and a staffer at local startup Roadtrippers to help it scale up.
In the past year, though, Koglmeier has taken on a different kind of risk, combining her experience in entrepreneurship and her passion for social good to venture into the world of tangible products with Bikes of Reckless Optimism
Bikes O.R.O. is a social enterprise inspired by companies like TOMs Shoes that operate with a “double bottom line” of both profit and social good. Koglmeier’s goal is to sell quality everyday bikes in the U.S. and, for every unit sold, make it possible for someone in need to access a bike.
“Nonprofits absolutely have such an important role in the world,” she says, “but if businesses could do something good and have a double bottom line, what a wonderful place we would live in.”
The idea has been Koglmeier’s dream for a long time. She studied abroad in Uganda seven years ago and witnessed the power of bicycles to transform lives in places with little established transportation infrastructure. She remembers seeing children who were able to go to school more frequently if they had a bike to get them there faster and more safely each day.
Since returning to the U.S., Koglmeier has gotten even more involved in bike culture and sees the benefits of biking for the States as well.
“At the core level I wanted to get more access to people who need bikes,” she says, noting both the need for bikes around the world and the need for a different, less technically-focused kind of messaging around bikes in the U.S. “I think there needs to be a company that speaks to consumers in a different way.”
And so Koglmeier started Bikes O.R.O. in January 2015, spending the past year researching bicycle-making, manufacturing prototypes and identifying partners. Bikes O.R.O. will start its social aspect by working with World Bicycle Relief
, and Koglmeier hopes to add other partners as the company grows.
Now she’s at the moment of truth. Bikes O.R.O. launched an Indiegogo campaign
this week to fund the first batch of bicycle manufacture and launch the company in earnest. Koglmeier raised about 10 percent of her $45,000 goal in the first five hours.
“The process has been crazy, it’s been a really interesting roller coaster,” she says. “This is our proof of concept. Does this idea resonate enough to translate into a large scale purchase and potentially lifestyle decisions about whether you’re going to ride a bike?”
To go along with the Indiegogo launch, Bikes O.R.O. is hosting five launch parties around the country, including one right here
in Koglmeier’s home town. Anyone interested in Bikes O.R.O. can meet Koglmeier and her team at 5-9 p.m. Thursday, March 3 at Rhinegeist and even ride one of their unique bicycles.
Koglmeier hopes that the Indiegogo is just the beginning.
“I want to work on building a world of reckless optimism,” she says. “I want to build the company into something that can make the biggest impact on the world while building quality products.
“But I never want to lose the product of the bike.”