Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Dustin McBride

Mobility & Transport

Dustin McBride's Zambikes has shipped over 9,000 steel bicycles and 250 bamboo bicycles from its warehouse facility in Zambia.

Dustin McBride is the co-founder of A.ker.fa, an organization seeking to “change lives by supporting bicycle enterprises with appropriate technologies, consultancy and capital until sustainability is achieved.” Having graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in International Business, Dustin co-founded the company with Vaughn Spethmann following a trip to Zambia in 2004.

Zambikes is A.ker.fa’s first project. Seeking to fulfill the company’s objectives of bringing about social change through bicycles, a warehouse facility was set up Kapampa in 2008. This facility produces the Zambikes bamboo bicylces, Zambulances (bicycle ambulance trailers) and Zamcarts (cargo trailers), with extra space on the land being put to use to accommodate a Caretaker’s home and Community Center. As well as offering employment and training for over 40 Zambians, the Zambikes facility has built and shipped over 9,000 steel bicycles, 250 bamboo bicycles and 900 trailers.

1. Where did the idea for Zambikes come from?

The idea was birthed in 2005 when Vaughn Spethmann and I were in our second year at Azusa Pacific University. We had recently returned from a 5- week volunteer mission’s trip to Zambia and, since we both were studying International Business, we started to brainstorm ways we could impact Zambia and provide opportunity for those in need. Through discussions and prayer, God revealed bicycles to Vaughn as a commodity that’s under-supplied, over-priced, and in dire need.

2. Some of our readers questioned the pricing of the Zambikes. What’s your response to these questions?

We are priced at a level that includes a majority profit for the Zambian Enterprise to achieve sustainability in-country. Additionally, we’ve priced the bamboo bikes with extra margin for our dealers and retailers, not to mention shipping from Zambia is a massive expense. It’s a unique niche. Currently, we can only hand-craft up to 25-30 per month so the price reflects the uniqueness and exclusivity of the specialty bike frame. If you really can’t handle the price… come visit us in Lusaka! I’ll give you a frame for $400 and you can pack it on the plane with you!

3. Can you describe a typical working day?

Get up before 7am (since the workers at the warehouse start at 7), boil hot water for coffee and grab a shower. Check on the shop, then sit on my couch and download and reply to all the emails I keep getting from people reading our article for a couple hours. Then, usually I’ll go into town (30 minute drive), meet with our sales team and/or our Zambian managers. At the end of the workday, because I live by a strict “Work Hard. Play Hard.” mentality, I’ll either play some soccer, host visitors, or go enjoy some Mexican food at the mexican restaurant I’m involved in on the side (Revolucion).

4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Zambikes?

My friends and I take weekend trips a ton. We’ll head to a Safari park, a local lake, or somewhere new in Zambia – tons of amazing spots here! Also, I usually have some alone time in the morning to think, pray, read, and journal to keep myself relaxed. Oh, and usually I’ll have a glass of wine or a drink and watch the sunset from our 2nd story side porch, which we’ve appropriately deemed “the wine porch”.

5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

Hmmm… Not sure if I’m successful yet. But I will say I’ve learned that working hard in the right direction and with the right people helps a ton. Form a great team, work hard, and you’ll probably do just fine.

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?

Everything. We say, “T.I.Zed.” (meaning “This is Zambia”). It’s the little things here that add up to drive you nuts if you’re not careful. Things don’t often go as smoothly as planned.

7. What motivates you to keep going?

My purpose keeps me motivated, and that is centered on my relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m here in Zambia because this is where God has me right now, and He is my motivation every morning. It’s a blessing to see positive results and be able to help people around you, but for me personally, it’s still in vain without Christ in the middle of it all.

8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

In some ways I would do a lot differently (hindsight is 20/20), but then again, it wouldn’t be the journey that it has been and we wouldn’t have learned what we’ve learned. For what we knew back then, and the resources and knowledge we had (and didn’t have), I wouldn’t have done anything different.

9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

Five years from now things will be different. We will be selling over 1,000 bamboo bikes a year (currently at 200/year). We will be completely Zambian run in Zambia and our products like the Zambulance and ZamCart will be distributed throughout multiple countries in Africa. We will continue to provide Zambia with reliable bicycles and other parts and accessories. Our goal would be to have over 3,000 Zambulances serving the rural communities and saving lives daily.

10. If you weren’t working on Zambikes, what would you be doing?

Probably surfing in San Diego (haha). Honestly, I would be looking for an opportunity to impact communities through international business however possible. I believe that’s what I was born to do (at least for now).

11. Tell Springwise a secret…

I’m getting married on April 14th, 2012 to Lauren Fulmer. Don’t tell anyone!

12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Vaughn and I have lived by a saying we heard from one of our college professors: “Ready. Shoot. Aim.” Make sure you don’t just like, but LOVE what you’re doing…because it will be your life as an entrepreneur.

You can read more about Zambikes in our article here, or visit the Zambikes website here.