After leaving Tumi in Lesotho, we headed to Gaborone, Botswana to visit our distribution partners and see the The Bike Shop, which Jere helps run. Our distribution partners in Gabs are Rob and Paul from WhiteTree and they have been instrumental in supporting our Sister Shops. If you remember, we formed what we like to call the Robin Hood Model a couple years ago. WhiteTree is a proper distribution company that serves Southern Africa and they have several high-end brands in their portfolio, Wilier and Specialized (SBC is Botswana only) bikes and BikeSmart accessories being the primary brands. In exchange for our support in getting them access to high end product, they deliver our donated bikes and parts at no markup to the Sister Shops. This allows the shops to buy at more affordable prices and manageable quantities than an entire container and gives them a greater chance at success.
This combination is most visible at their shop in Gabs called The Bike Shop. It is common to see a wealthy expat deciding whether to go with the Epic Comp or Expert before this year’s Cape Epic along side a local security guard choosing between the donated bikes so he can get to work more reliably. [Bike Shop Pic]
The primary purpose of the visit was to check in on the progress for the new distribution facility. Rob’s other company (along with his brother Andrew) is GMR freights. GMR owns a now empty warehouse in Gaborone that will serve as the primary distribution center for all of their brands, including the bikes for our Sister Shops. This will be hugely beneficial for our Sister Shop program as there will now be a proper place to sort, inventory, and prepare our donated bikes for the Shops. When our container lands and the hundreds of bikes are unloaded, they will be sorted by style and condition. Some bikes are not fixable but have parts that could be used on other bikes. These can now be stripped and organized to make repairing other bikes easier and faster. The end goal here is that Tumi and the other shops will get their deliveries of bikes in sellable condition and we prevent the scrap pile from growing. It allows us to get the most out of the bikes we do receive, train and employ more mechanics in Gaborone, and lessen the burden on our Sister Shops.
Another major benefit of this new facility is that it will allow us to begin the hunt for new bike supply. A main focus of our entire program is sustainability and a traditional model of buying and selling new bikes is a huge step forward. New bikes can smooth out the peaks and valleys that we face due to only being able to send a container of 500 bikes when we have received that many donations. It can also allow us to expand our network of shops as it allows the donated bikes to be spread thinner across more Sister Shops. We envision the new DC in Gabs to be much like our own here in CA. New bikes arrive unassembled and a team of mechanics does the work to prepare the bikes for the stores. Then the shops can order the right mix of bikes and price points based off of their market and consumer demand. It’s pretty damn cool to be this close to having built a proper distribution channel that can reliably supply bikes to communities where access to bikes was impossible or very challenging. Now we just have find a new bike source that is affordable enough for these markets and durable enough to last. Easy, right?