Following the container unloading adventure we provided lunch for all of the workers. We also announced a donation to Mutjiku Youth Against Crime, who had been such a great group of helpers that morning. Almost immediately the youth group decided to use the money to have t-shirts made. This again demonstrated the popularity of the custom t-shirt in Mutjiku, but it also would be quite practical as most of the clothing the kids were wearing was in a very sorry state of repair.
The next step was to talk some business with Erasmus and Ludwig, and though we had been hearing amazing things about them from Kami we really didn't know what to expect from the guys in this regard. We headed back to Kami's house in Buffalo with the boys to look at some spreadsheets she had made with them and go over their receipt books.
Within an hour or so, we were pretty much floored. These guys really had excellent heads for this kind of thing. They had been keeping records of all of the supplies and expenses they'd had to date, and most everything was accounted for from our initial get-the-ball-rolling donation to them. They had set up a bank account and had already agreed that they would employ Mukena and Elisabeth on a volunteer basis for the first two months, before they had enough revenue to pay salaries. And they had pledged to not pay themselves at all until the business had started to earn a profit. It seemed most everything they had done so far was sensible and prudent, and frankly, it was impressive.
We helped them determine the best methods of keeping records for goods that they sold, and how best to track their expenses. Standards for calculating profit and loss were set, and Erasmus and Ludwig sucked it all up like sponges. We even had some discussions about marketing, and were enthused about the plans they had made in this regard. They were going to make flyers and ride to all the local villages to distribute them on bikes. They were even planning on organizing cycling events and group rides and claimed that there was already much interest in this within Mutjiku and the surrounding towns. We even heard the words 'bike race' spoken more than once, and we only hope there is a chance that we're somehow around to witness what a bicycle race on the Caprivi Strip would be like.
The entire theory behind the Mike's Bikes Sister Shop program is that with good management, hard work, a little time, and the kick-start of donation bikes, these fledgling shops would be able to bring more and more bicycles into their communities—many times more than just the initial donation container. With tools, training, and access to supply lines, they would also be able to service and repair bikes to keep them on the road and serving their owners. And, most importantly, they would be a completely self-sufficient force in establishing the use of the bicycle for transportation in areas where people have no other options.
While we were astonished at the steps Erasmus and Ludwig had taken before our arrival—not the least of which was constructing a free-standing office hut complete with a concrete floor, mind you—this meeting cemented in our minds the fact that these guys had the brains, the talent, and the sheer gumption to make this thing work. If anyone could establish a bicycle transportation movement in the Caprivi region of Namibia, Erasmus and Ludwig were the guys to do the job.