FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A Big Boost for Bicycles in Africa
Village Bicycle Project and the Mike's Bikes Foundation partner to bring bikes to Sierra Leone.
SAN RAFAEL, California (November 23, 2010) - The Mike's Bikes Foundation and Village Bicycle Project have partnered to initiate a project in 2011 to distribute bicycles throughout the West African country of Sierra Leone. This partnership ushers in a new era of involvement in Africa for Mike’s Bikes, and enables both organizations to extend their reach into new areas and serve more people.
Since 2007, Ken Martin and Matt Adams, co-owners of Mike’s Bikes, America’s largest locally-owned bike shop, have used their expertise in bicycle retailing to increase access to bicycles in Africa. Adams explains, “We believe that by getting people on bikes, it improves their lives. Bicycles have an even greater positive impact on society in Africa than they do in California, because people's mobility is so much more constrained there. In parts of Africa, a bicycle can make the difference between living in abject poverty versus receiving healthcare, getting an education, or realizing employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.” In 2007, the pair traveled to Ghana and used their retail knowledge to instruct mechanics on proper bike assembly and train independent bike shop owners about the importance of the customer service experience to creating financially sustainable shops. They founded the Mike's Bikes Foundation in 2008 to continue the work to increase access to bicycles in Africa.
The Foundation has established three locally owned and operated “Mike’s Bikes Sister Shops” since that time. In 2008, Jonmol Bicycle Services was established in Botswana, MakVeto was opened in rural Namibia in 2009, and MK Cycles opened Zimbabwe this past October. All of these shops received seed investment in the form of hundreds of bicycles donated by Mike's Bikes customers, as well as parts, supplies and a combination of micro-loans and direct cash assistance from the Mike’s Bikes Foundation.
The vision for the new Sierra Leone collaboration includes Mike's Bikes sponsoring, training and mentoring the owner of an existing shop in the capitol of Freetown in the art of running a full-service bicycle shop. Topics will include general business practices such as accounting, sourcing, marketing and the customer experience, as well as specific mechanical instruction to achieve high quality bicycle repair. This shop will then serve as a processing hub for all the bicycles and parts that Village Bicycle Project needs for its many initiatives out in the countryside, where VBP is the proven expert in small-scale rural distribution. In this way, each non-profit can focus on their core capacity, and use their expertise to enhance the work of the partner.
“We are very excited about our partnership with the Village Bicycle Project, “ says Ken Martin. “They have been very successful at getting bikes into the hands of ordinary Africans in remote rural villages. By collaborating with them in Sierra Leone to build a solid distribution center combined with a Mike's Bikes Sister Shop, we will all be better able to accomplish our philanthropic goals.”
Ken Martin, Founder & CEO
Mike's Bikes: is the largest independently operated bicycle shop in the US, with eight Northern California locations. The company formed The Mike's Bikes Foundation in 2007 to leverage their retail experience and bicycle expertise to help build the bike culture and improve everyday life in Africa. The Foundation’s goal is to jumpstart self-sustaining local businesses and create supply chains of new and used bikes to those parts of Africa that can benefit most from the personal mobility that only a bike can provide. More information can be found at MikesBikesAfrica.com
Village Bicycle Project was founded in 1999 to increase bicycle use in Africa by sending donated bikes to Africa, teaching bike maintenance, supporting mechanics with tools and spare parts and address the special needs of African women and girls. To date they have sent over 100 containers to Africa to support their programs. More information can be found at VillageBicycleProject.org