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Impact Engine – Part 2

VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan – Investor and man about town,

as told to John Jonelis

Impact EngineLoop Lonagan here at IMPACT ENGINE Investor Day. This is the new Chicago incubator fer companies that do well by doin’ good—and doin’ it profitably! Think of it—we’re gathered here to get richer by makin’ all them other poor slobs around the world prosper! This I like!

The keynote speaker is FK Day. (He calls hisself  FK fer short.) And he tells us a story that knocks us outa our seats. This is a real unusual chain of events that speaks about the virtues of capitalism doing alotta good by helping folks raise their own well-being.

Buffalo Bicycles

Here’s the shortlist:

  • The story starts with SRAM that makes high-end bike parts.
  • Then FK starts World Bicycle Relief—a not-fer-profit.
  • That leads to Buffalo Bicycles—a self-sustaining company.

Impact Investing

The Chase Auditorium’s packed with serious investors. Them’s the only kind they let in the place today and this hall seats over 500 of them rascals. They’s all squealin’ ‘n’ squirmin’ to get a piece o’ the action. Sheesh—I ain’t seen so much money in one room since I…well I ain’t s’posed to talk about that so lemme move on. I’m here to do summa that Impact Investing, just like da rest o’ these clowns. But first lemme get back to the keynote speaker

(Note to Editor—All that coffee I swilled down‘s got my eyes buggin’ out ‘n’ I feel a whole lot more coherent. I’m gonna give you the skinny on this thing. But I want you should cut me some slack—just in case I get something out o’ order.)

(Editor’s Note—Nobody’s perfect. I’ll print it just as you dictate it.)

Okay, so dis story starts after FK pioneers bicycle shifters ‘n’ brakes at SRAM. His stuff’s in high-end bikes AND in all the big international races. Even poor disgraced Lance Armstrong uses SRAM components so you gotta figure that FK knows a thing or two about bikes.

Hey—this is a Chicago company, okay? Don’t get no better ‘n’ that, right? Well actually it does as you’ll see in uno momento.

Bicycles WBR 1

World Bicycle Relief

Remember that big tsunami in Indonesia? FK and his wife go there to lend a hand. They’re lookin’ for a better solution than the NGO relief organizations. So they asks people lotsa questions.

Turns out nobody can earn a living or make any economic progress ‘cause there’s no transportation. Everybody’s on foot. That ain’t too efficient. There’s kids spendin’ six hours a day walkin’ to school ‘n’ back. Mothers carryin’ groceries long distance. And get this—businesmen haulin’ their wares to market 5 or 10 miles on foot.

You think da rush hour here in Chicago eats into yer day? It’s nothin’ compared to this. This is no way to do business. This keeps folks in poverty.

The Power of Bicycles 3

FK’s a bike guy, so he shows up pre-loaded with the natural solution to the problem. He runs experiments and finds out alotta things. Turns out a bicycle can increase the income of a poor family in a big way. Looks like it’s the single best way to fight poverty in these primitive areas.

So he creates the not-fer-profit organization, World Bicycle Relief, which is a real big deal. They partner with WorldVision and alotta other organizations.  They give out 24,400 bicycles in Indonesia.

Bicycles WBR 2


FK starts a buncha 9-day trips to Zambia to fight HIV/AIDS and creates a special bike for it. Bicycles WBR 10

His folks first task is to assemble their bikes so’s they can get around. Their last task, before they leave, is to turn over their bikes to the villagers.


FK gives out 90,000 bicycles this way and learns a lot more about the problem.


By now he’s got three well-defined areas he wants to impact:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Economic development

Bicycles WBR 3

I think education tugs at him strongest.  Kids in these countries gotta travel a real long way to school and still have time to do chores not to mention homework.  With bicycles, they can get to school more often.  That builds up the whole culture by givin’ these people a future.  Givin’ ’em hope.  Summa these folks wanna be teachers, doctors, engineers.  Somethin’ as simple as a bicycle can make that happen.

Lemme get you started with a terrific video. Have a look at it ‘n’ then I’ll tell you more.

Pretty good stuff, doncha think? Bottom line—bikes carry more weight farther and faster than shoes. Bikes get kids to school, people to clinics, and they get businessmen to markets!

Bicycles WBR 11

FK tells the story of a dairy farmer in Zambia. With a bike, he can get to the co-op twice a day insteada just once.

That instantaneously doubles his income! 

Summa these guys mount homemade cargo boxes on these bikes and use ‘em like trucks.

Bicycles WBR 6

According to FK, the most powerful bike in the world is one in the hands of a mudder feedin’ her family or a fadder making a buck fer his family or a kid gettin’ an education to claw his way outa poverty. All o’ these takes transportation. And education is real important. You gotta learn readin’, ‘rightin’, and ‘rithmetic and how to speak yer language da right way or yer never gettin’ nowhere in dis here world.

Bicycles WBR 7

Buffalo Bicycles

Lemme go back to the hardware development phase. FK takes this jeep trip down them things called roads in Zambia. Whadaya think he sees? Busted bikes in the ditches ever’place he goes—every brand ‘n’ model on the planet. Says it looks like somthin’ outa The Andromeda Strain. (That’s a movie in case you fergot.)

Bicycles WBR 8These bikes come from well-meaning charities. But it’s all wasted. People in Zambia take to callin’ ‘em Chinese Junks. Off-the-shelf bikes is way too flimsy fer this kinda terrain.

So whadaya think the average lifespan is for yer typical off-the-shelf bike? 30 days! That’s it! And there’s no way to fix ‘em neither! Too many different brands. No parts. No mechanics.

FK figures what they need:

  • Standardized bicycle
  • Standardized parts
  • Real, real rugged
  • Trained mechanics
  • Supply Chain

Bicycles WBR 14 THE BIKE

The Buffalo Bicycle is a rugged design like no other. It can withstand rough roads while carrying a load o’ trade goods to market.

Here’s a video of FK in Africa riding the roads with folks:

Da Business

Charity’s a good thing.  But how do ya make it self-sustaining?  How do ya make it grow like a hockey stick?  You turn it into a business.  Business can be a helluvalot more powerful than an outstretched hand.  A little capitalism can be good fer da soul and FK’s a capitalist at heart.  

FK sells the Buffalo Bicycle to third-world businessmen at a profit.  That makes the project self-sustaining.  He trains and supplies mechanics.  And that maintenance network is self-sustaining too. So far they got 124,754 bikes out there where they can do some good. 

He shows us graphs ‘n’ charts. He’s gonna be building 100,000 bicycles in eight African-based supply chains in 2015.  This program is scalable and sustainable.

Bikes from website 2

Remember all that research I told you about? FK makes a key point about that. He learned everything he ever needed to know from the end user. We need to stay deeply in touch with these people. The answers almost always come from there.

Bicycles WBR 13 Wrigley FieldAnd to me, the amazing thing is that he went and figured out da problem and da solution ‘n’ engineered such a wonderful outcome.  He bootstrapped all o’ this starting with lotsa fund-raising drives like the annual Wrigley Field Road Tour which is a part of Chicago Cubs Charities. 

Here’s a candid video of FK thanking his volunteers after a small fundraising drive–one of many:

Next up is a company called ThinkCERCA. Meanwhile, check out summa the other articles about Buffalo Bicycles below.  Ω



Go back to Part 1

More Reading

Wrigley Field Road Tour


World Bicycle Relief on Wikipedia


Article in Forbes


BBC Article in TON



Da Contacts

FK Day

FK Day

World Bicycle Relief website  http://worldbicyclerelief.org

WBR on Facebook  www.facebook.com/worldbicyclerelief


SRAM Corp.  http://www.sram.com/


IMPACT ENGINE website  www.TheImpactEngine.com


[ Photos and video courtesy of World Bicycle Relief ]

Impact Engine

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved



Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Characters, chicago, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, CORE Insight Story, Economics, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Impact Engine, Impact Investing, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, Kellogg, loop lonagan, Social Entrepreneur, vc, venture capital


Lovendar Logo

Your calendar reminds you this is the anniversary of the day you first met. That’s a great heads-up because if you’re like me, you sometimes don’t remember the things that are truly important in a love relationship. How many years has it been? How can you create a surprise? Do you have a clue what to buy, where to go?

How much of your day do you spend poking around stores and websites for ideas? Or is Ellona Fersonit already 5pm on your anniversary—too late to get those theater tickets and you don’t know how to bust loose from the office?

What if love knowledge opened up to you and freed you to spend quality time building your relationship? Wouldn’t that be better?

Enter Lovendar.


No Action, No Marriage

Lovendar is a free calendar-driven mobile app—an intimate Pinterest.  It’s a relationship tool that turns wishes into actions.

It prompts you with new ideas, day to day. It reminds you of the important days. Where will you go? What will you buy? What special meal will you prepare? You and your spouse already entered personal wishes on the site. Lovendar is telling each of you exactly what the other wants at just the right time and how to find it using a seamless connection through online vendors.

Lasting relationship and lasting intimacy is built around small things—the day-to-day thoughtful surprises—the frequent expressions of love—the celebration of the special days.

Have you ever been faced with the question, “What have you done for me lately?” Well, Lovendar keeps a record of it all, so you’ll never find yourself tongue-tied.

Ellona Ferson - Lovendar CEO

Ellona Ferson – Lovendar CEO – jaj

 Ellona Ferson is the perfect spokewoman for this company. Her striking appearance and personal magnetism lead the listener to long for a perfect relationship. Her strong, articulate presentation skills, her knowledge and professionalism project acute business acumen and will lend confidence to any investor. In person, she is warm and real. You can’t help but like this gal.


Contact Ellona Ferson at http://Lovendar.com

Find BNC Venture Capital at






Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


Filed under BNC Venture Capital, Chicago Ventures, CORE Insight Story, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Internet, Mobile


Rocco SpumoniVERBATIM – from a recording by Bill Blaire and Jim Kren. Transcribed and formatted by Janet Case.

[Begin Recording]

“You know I ain’t got no time to waste readin’.” Bill Blaire’s tall beefy frame towers over Jim Kren’s desk at the Chicago Venture Magazine offices and his huge fists are clenched. “Then I gets blindsided,” he says. “Big-time. Pierce O’Shea reads that article to the boys—out loud, real loud, hamming it up—and they laugh me outa the bar.” He pauses. “So what you findin’ so funny, smart guy?”

Jim’s eyes are closed and he’s quietly chuckling. Finally he wipes the tears away with a sleeve and chokes out a few words. “Slow down Bill.” He clears his throat. “You’re almost entirely incoherent when you get excited.”

“Shuttup you scrawny SOB. Doncha use them thee dollar words on me.”

“Jim smiles. “You’re not stuttering yet. That makes you upset, not angry. Your feelings are hurt. Is that why you’re here? For a shoulder to cry on?”

“Shut yer face. Yer makin’ me out some kinda soft-headed idjut.”

“Nobody called you soft-headed.”

“Funny guy. From now on, clean up my talk when ya print it ‘steada havin’ yer seckertary copy exactly what I sez the way I sez it, you lazy good for nothing’—”

“Impossible.  This series is called Verbatim, and that’s what it is—Verbatim.”

“I told you—quit with the three dollar words.”

Jim sighs.  “Stop the big act, will you Bill?  You can’t fool me.  Your vocabulary isn’t any weaker than your biceps.  But whenever you get over-excited, you talk like you never saw third grade.  So if you want clean copy, bring down your blood pressure and clean up your mouth.  If it takes a couple drinks, okay.  I can’t make your report sound pretty just to salve your ego.  John would fire me the first time I tried it.  I’m supposed to print what you say.”

“Here—take yer stinkin’ MP3 player and shove it—you know where.”

Jim takes the recorder and examines it.  “Just for my personal interest, let’s get more specific.  Where exactly would you suggest I shove this thing, Bill?”

Bill glares at him, then shows a set of yellow teeth.  “I got somthin’ you oughta hear about.  After Pierce mocks me to the boys, Rocco follows me outa the bar and lays out a sweet deal.  Says he’ll make this whole problem go away—permanent like.  And he gives me a good price.”

“Bill, are you threatening me?”

A pause.  Still standing, Bill looks at his two massive fists as if surprised they’re balled in anger.  “Well, yeah.”  He squints at Jim.  “Cancha tell?”

“I’m disappointed to hear you take that tone.  That Pierce O’Shea mob is nothing more than a pile of dirt–and that’s putting it nicely.  Hell, it’s probably the fifth alias I’ve heard Fingers O’Hanrahan smear around.  And that’s not his real name either.  The guy’s not even Irish.  He stole that name to make himself sound highbrow.  And Rocco Spumoni is an outright hoodlum.  It’s a violation of your parole, hanging around known felons.  You’re not in the unions any more.   I hook you up with a high-grade crowd and what do you do?   You embarrass me.  You’re with a top-flight company here.  Don’t mix with the mobs.  Hell, if you want to intimidate people, you don’t need any help—your physical presence is enough to scare most anybody.  And if that isn’t enough, look at your face.  That’s what made you such a good boilermaker superintendent.  That’s what made you such a good union contractor where others failed and still fail.”   Jim picks up the MP3 player and turns it over in his hands.  “Hey—this thing’s still on.  I think I’ll—”

[End Recording]

Bean's Spumoni Ice Cream

[Next recording]

Bill squints down at Jim.  “What da hell did ya do to that thing?”

“Put in a fresh flash card.”  Jim pats his shirt pocket.  “I’ll just keep the old one for a while and make some copies.  What do you suppose will happen if the DA hears it?  Could mean a cozy new home for you, pal—in an orange suit.  I don’t think I’ll be hearing from Rocco and the gang any time soon, either.  When I print this, maybe they’ll come after you instead.  Hey Bill—Bill, you’re turning purple—don’t bust a blood vessel.  Here.”  Jim pulls a bottle of single malt from his desk, pours three fingers and slides the glass across.  “Park yourself.”

Bill drops into a big soft chair and swills the whiskey in one gulp then licks his lips.  “You just make me mad is all.”

“You’re still not stuttering, so I think I’m safe.  But you lay one of those sausage-sized fingers on me and you’ll regret it.  Listen.  You have no idea why you’re so valuable.  Let me spell it out for you.  You’re big, right?  Real big.  A scary retired boilermaker out of the bowels of Local 1.  Now you traded in your coveralls and always wear the same cheap blue sport jacket.  Looks like it’s going on five years without a pressing.  You shoot your mouth off and never hold anything back.  But even so, you’re not banned from any meetings like that guy Rong Mayhem, and you’re actually a lot worse than he is.”

“That don’t sound nice, Jimbo.”

“I’m not done yet. That means you found a place with these people. They respect you just the way you are. And nobody can intimidate you. Your slant on these new ventures is completely unbiased. You never get swayed by the crowd. You’re intelligent—maybe cunning is a better word—but you hide it and hide it well, so people tell you things they might hold back from the others. You know business. Since you gave up the tools, you made a success as a contractor then sold out for big money so now you’re on the loose as a qualified investor. That gets you invited to all the best events. Besides all that you’ve got an instinct for picking winners. You’re a natural, Bill. You’re in your niche. I can’t afford to lose you.” Jim slides the MP3 player across the desk. “Here, take your recorder. It’s all ready to go. Get out there and give me your best, just like you always do. Stop some place and get your head together so you can speak more like a gentleman. But stay away from that Pierce O’Shea bar. He tosses a set of keys and Bill snags them with a big mitt. “Use the Mercedes. Pick up John on the way out.”

“You want I should pick up Mr. Jonelis? What’s he need me for? It’s his school. I never got no MBA.”

“Multiple events, Bill. Last time I checked John can cover only one at a time. And don’t give him any lip. He gave you this chance because he saw something of value in you. Don’t screw that up. You’ve got three assignments—reporter, chauffeur, bodyguard.”

Bill tilts the glass again to capture the last drop of single malt then slammed it down on the desk. “Okay Jim, I tries it one more time.”

[End recording]

Comment on this article–name and email optional.

Find Chicago Venture Magazine at
Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.


Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.




Filed under Chicago Venture Magazine, CORE Insight Story