Written by Abi Koh | Photos provided by Chelsea Koglmeier
Imagine taking the plunge of quitting your job to start your own business. That’s exactly what Chelsea Koglmeier did. In 2015, Chelsea combined her passion for social good and entrepreneurship, which resulted in the founding of Bikes of Reckless Optimism, or O.R.O. for short. Prior to that, Chelsea had spent time researching child malnutrition in Bolivia and working in the tech industry at a startup.
O.R.O. is a for-profit business with a social mission. The business designs and sells high-quality commuter bikes that each have 3 speeds and a belt drive, then donates a portion of the revenue to the non-profit organization World Bicycle Relief. The core mission of O.R.O. is to get more people from all over the world to ride bicycles.
Chelsea realized how empowering bicycles could be in developing areas while living in a refugee community in Uganda. Bicycles are the most efficient method of travel and have the potential to carry a load five times more than one can on foot. “Bikes are opportunity providers. If you have the desire to help yourself, family, and community, you now have the opportunity to get a better life,” said Chelsea. For example, bicycles allow people to bring more goods to the market to sell or attend a school that’s far away.
World Bicycle Relief, the non-profit organization O.R.O. donates a portion of its revenue to, employs locals to assemble bicycles in the countries it distributes them to. It conducts bike mechanic training programs in those areas of distribution while ensuring that the entire process follows cultural norms.
For Chelsea, starting her own company has not been without numerous challenges. The hardest aspect for Chelsea has been working alone; the loneliness almost caused her to quit. Currently, she’s the only full-time employee of O.R.O. She said, “It was fine for a few months because I was in this creative dream world, but when I came back down to reality, stopped traveling so much, and started staying in one place more, I really missed having a team.” However, not having a big team has allowed her to quickly adapt to trends.
Another difficulty Chelsea still deals with is the fear of failure. “There’s some chance that I may fail so hard . . . and everyone in my life will know.” However, she’s determined to not let her fears prevent her from taking risks.
Because there are very few women in the bicycle industry, Chelsea stands out in the industry. However, Chelsea has taken that in her stride and uses the extra attention productively to promote O.R.O.
The first batch of bicycles O.R.O. produces will be available in June and there will be a Indiegogo campaign prior to that in February. The bikes are designed by experienced bike builder Matthew Andrew, from Perth. You can learn more about Chelsea and O.R.O. at www.bikesoro.com.