No Prize, But Bikes Project Will Move Ahead

Post a Comment » Written on January 8th, 2007     
Filed under: News
SAN DIEGO, CA (January 8, 2007) – Vaughn Spethmann didn’t win a cash prize at Urbana 06 to make his dream come true for establishing a bicycle factory in Zambia, but the 22-year-old says the contacts and advice he received will prove priceless in the future.

“Some people were sad for us,” says Spethmann, a member of Clairemont Covenant Church, “but I feel more encouraged and excited than ever. We have a much better idea of what we want to do.”

Spethmann, a senior at Azusa Pacific University, along with business major Dustin McBride, created a business plan that was one of seven finalists in the “Open for Business” competition at the world-famous Urbana 06 Triennial Conference that ran December 27-31 in St. Louis. Their plan was among more than 70 submitted. The duo hope to start a factory in Zambia that will provide affordable bikes and jobs for Zambians.

“Bikes we throw away cost $200 in Zambia,” Spethmann said in a previous Covenant News Service story published online prior to Urbana 06. For the few people who do have jobs, they often have to expend 85 percent of their income on public transportation to get to and from work.

Spethmann says he is especially honored to be among the finalists. When he arrived at the conference, he learned that five of the seven chosen involved programs that already are operating, but are looking to expand. “I thought it was just going to be for college students, but some of the people were in their 40s.”

Spethmann and McBride had five minutes for an initial presentation to the panel of judges that included the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the heads of several business-as-mission organizations, and the head of another non-profit organization. The presentation and subsequent questioning were done in front of several hundred onlookers.

“They asked tough questions, but they also were encouraging,” Spethmann says. “They gave us good feedback.”

The two also made important contacts as they attended workshops and networked 14 hours a day throughout the week. A venture capitalist who visited the conference with the goal of funding business-as-mission programs expressed possible interest. Another person offered to build a website for the project free of charge.

“We feel like it’s really going to happen,” Spethmann says.

To that end, the pair is re-working their business plan according to the suggestions they received from the experts. They also plan to travel to Zambia for four months beginning in September.

They hope to bring a crate of bicycles, do market research and engage in intensive language training. Another person will travel to Zambia for a month to produce a video that will be distributed to potential investors.

Spethmann hopes to raise $20,000 to fund the trip. Transportation, including shipping of the bicycles, as well as market research will make up the bulk of the costs, he says. “Once you get there, you can live pretty cheap.”

The two believe the business will become self-sufficient to support them as well generate enough profit to help fund other ministries in Zambia, such as orphanages.

To learn more about the plan, email Vaughn Spethmann or call 619-997-7371.

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