At the time of this visit, Tumi’s shop has been open about 2 years. In that time, due in large part to Tumi’s effort, cycling has exploded in Lesotho. When we first opened his shop, it was rare to see anyone riding around on a bike. Now they are everywhere! And with the formation of more clubs, the Lesotho Cycling Association (with Tumi as its president) has seen incredible growth. All the while, his shop has grown into the hub of the local cycling community. This growth has not been easy and as with everything that starts small and turns into something larger, the strain of managing that growth presents serious challenges. In addition to running his business and the LCA, Tumi is a husband and father, one of the fastest cyclists in Lesotho, and has taken on several community projects that help develop cycling (the biggest of which is coordinating the distribution of almost 1000 donated bikes from our Chicago friends, Jeff and Dave). As we dug into his business with him, it became apparent that the shop had not been getting the attention and focus required to grow a small business from scratch. It was our opinion that everything Tumi was involved in had grown to a point that it is now impossible to manage it all successfully. We helped him develop a plan in that allows him to focus his efforts where it’s most needed, his business. The LCA is now in a place where it can succeed without Tumi’s direct leadership and we advised him to not run for re-election and reduce his involvement to an advisor role. The next element of our plan was to institute more financial discipline so he can keep his debt manageable and maintain the vital flow of inventory to keep his business operating. (Remember, after the initial startup funding provided by the Mike’s Bikes Foundation, we assign a cost to future bikes that covers the freight and duty of landing those bikes at his door. Covering the transport costs of the inventory is a major step towards the ultimate goal of sustainability.)
While here, we were fortunate enough to be introduced to Peter Joel, an American who had spent many years in Australia, and now lives in Lesotho. He’s a business consultant by trade but spends a considerable amount of time helping out where he can. And he offered to help Tumi. We think this turn of events was extremely serendipitous and we’re gracious for the help. Regardless of the time we can put into advising Tumi from California, regular face to face communication and mentoring has a massive impact. With his accounts settled, Tumi will receive one more order on credit before he’ll need to start paying upon delivery. Peter has been tasked with helping Tumi develop systems and discipline that will ensure this happens. Tumi’s wife, Mamonyane, handles the bookkeeping, so Peter can also advise her on proper procedures and structure as well.
One thing was clear on this trip - Tumi’s energy and passion for growing cycling in Lesotho is incredible. He has built a foundation for the sport to thrive. Whether it’s working with the government to build a BMX track for kids, supporting the racing scene in both mountain and road, or growing his business to be able to fuel this growth, cycling in this country is ready to explode. The Kingdom of Lesotho owes a heartfelt thanks to Tumi for everything he’s done. But now it’s time for him to focus on only a couple things, and let others take what he has built and continue to grow them.
It was amazing to able to relate our own experience in growing Mike’s Bikes and what we’ve learned along the way. Tumi seems to truly understand what we advised him to do, and we're excited to see the outcome of his renewed focus. Add in Peter’s assistance, and the future is bright for Tumi’s Bike Shop and cycling in Lesotho.