For Dan Austin, Social Entrepreneurship is Just Like Riding a Bike

by   |  09.14.12  |  Distinguished Speakers Series, Entrepreneurship, Griggs Center, Social Entrepreneurship, Special Speakers

This Wednesday the Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy kicked off its Entrepreneur Speaker Series with a lunch presentation by Dan Austin, co-founder of 88bikes.

With an audience of nearly one-hundred-and-fifty, Dan spent the better part of an hour regaling his audience with tales of life as a social entrepreneur.

Dan Austin, Co-Founder of 88bikes

Originally an author and filmmaker, Dan began his journey with 88bikes in 2006, when he and his brother, Jared, took a biking trip across Cambodia. At the conclusion of their journey, the two donated their personal bikes and 86 additional bikes to children at the Palm Tree Orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Seeing the joy elicited by their gift of 88 bikes, the pair was moved to action, and they began pursuing their vision of “joy-inspired philanthropy.”

Since their initial gift of 88 bikes, Dan and his coworkers (none of whom receive salaries) have connected donors with children all over the world through their one-to-one giving model.

Because of the unique giving model implemented by 88bikes, donors know exactly where their money goes. Furthermore, they receive a picture of their child standing next to their new bike with a picture of their donor in hand. Through this photo exchange, 88bikes is able to create a unique international connection.

Children receiving bikes and photos of their donors from 88bikes

As Dan explained, this one-to-one connection is fundamental to 88bikes, and—in his opinion—to any social entrepreneurship venture.

As part of this presentation, Dan offered three critical pieces of advice to budding entrepreneurs:

 1.  Connect one-to-one.

2. Raise the bar.

3. Go local.

As Dan went on to explain, the success that 88bikes has found is largely due to these three components.

88bikes’ one-to-one connection creates loyal donors who are truly invested in the organization and the children it serves. In addition, the organization raises the bar set by traditional aid agencies by focusing on the intrinsic human need for joy as well as physical needs like hunger. Finally, 88bikes employs local bike merchants and mechanics in order to boost the local economy. As a result of these strategies, 88bikes is continuing to grow and thrive.

Cassie Powers, a junior here in COBA, is currently in a Social Entrepreneurship class. “The biggest issue that I have learned so far in social entrepreneurship is that you need to set yourself up for failure because it is going to happen,” said Cassie. “You have to work around it to make it work or come up with a new idea.”

Dan talking with ACU students after his presentation

While listening to Dan, Cassie was really impressed with the way that she saw her class curriculum align with Dan’s real world experience and advice. “It really connected when Dan Austin spoke about the barriers he had,” continued Cassie. “One thing he said was to have your organization grow organically. Meaning if it happens it happens.”

All in all, the inaugural event of the Entrepreneur Speaker Series was a huge success, and undoubtedly had a profound impact on everyone who attended.

Be sure to check out the next speaker in the series, Jarrod Brown, who will be joining us next Tuesday to talk about his work in Honduras with Mission Lazarus. For more information on the Entrepreneur Speaker Series, please click here.

For more on 88bikes and the incredible work that Dan and his organization do, click here, and be sure to thank the Griggs Center and the members of our CEO organization for all that they do to make these events possible.

Dan with COBA students after his presentation