After using a bicycle to overcome homelessness, Elijah set out to help others discover the power of two wheels. With a growing online business, he is able to provide opportunities to his local and global communities.
Q: Where does the inspiration for your business come from?
A: When I was 16, I was homeless for a little over a year. I went to Freewheel, built a bicycle, and subsequently was able to find a job. In turn, I was able to find housing, start a for-profit bicycle company, and graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Business Management. I assumed directorship of Freewheel when the organization was in danger of closing and greatly expanded our core mission of educating the public about bicycle maintenance and repair. This success story embodies Freewheel’s belief that access to reliable transportation is a basic human right which helps promote economic development and social justice.
Q: How has selling on eBay contributed to your success?
A: Our eBay sales are vital to the success of our organization. The peak bike season in Wisconsin is roughly six months in the summer, and sales from eBay help us pay our winter expenses. Further, eBay has expanded our customer base and increased the visibility of our organization nationally and internationally. Many of our customers purchase items from us to specifically support our organization’s non-profit mission and donate their used items to help us fund our programs.
Q: Can you share a fun fact about yourself/your business?
A: Our community service Jail Diversion Program partnership helps the state of Wisconsin save tens of thousands of dollars every year by reducing rates of recidivism and jail sentences. Through our experience working with ex-convicts, we have seen the importance of low cost, reliable transportation and bicycle maintenance education in allowing these individuals to repay their debts to society and become positive members of our community.
Q: How has selling on eBay impacted your life or organization?
A: Selling on eBay has provided Freewheel with a stable revenue stream less affected by local seasonal trends. Selling products on eBay further helps us to “work smarter, not harder” because we can work remotely. The eBay smartphone app means we can make sales at any time without having to be in our physical work space. This freedom permits us to travel to other bicycle cooperatives around the country, as well as Latin America and Europe, in order to better understand the operation of non-profits and bike culture around the world. The integration of this knowledge with our own is vital to our organization’s continued success.
Q: How has eBay allowed you to give back to the charity, community, or cause you are passionate about?
A: Proceeds from our eBay’s sales fund our mission directly to provide transportation to our community with a focus on helping marginalized populations. We have given away over 10,000 bicycles locally and in parts of Africa and the Caribbean, as well as taught over 7,000 people bicycle maintenance and repair, and diverted five hundred tons of waste from landfills. Transportation access is a cost-effective lever for change, catalyzing grassroots economic development and social justice, and bicycles promote healthy living while reducing environmental damages.