Vaughn Spethmann – Co-founder of Zambikes

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Vaughn Spethmann has been working on developing world transportation solutions for almost 5 years and has been at the helm of scaling up and producing new ideas for bamboo bicycles and medical and cargo entrepreneurial trailers. Living in Lusaka, Zambia, Vaughn, co-founder of Akerfa, a 501c3 non-profit in the US which helps start bicycle enterprises in developing countries. Akerfa has projects in Los Angeles’ skid row, Zambia, Congo, Uganda, Kenya and are expanding fast. Vaughn works very closely with Akerfa’s first enterprise, one of the most successful bicycle manufacturing and mechanic facilities in all of Africa, called Zambikes.

Vaughn Spethman also started a pig farm in Lusaka and is doing small projects trying to find more efficient ways to build and create sustainable, green energy in the developing world.

In 2007, Vaughn graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in International Business.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on finding more wholesale partners to purchase bamboo bikes in Europe and the USA. The more bikes we can make the more Zambians/Africans we can employ as well as give mentoring and opportunity too.

Where did the idea for Zambikes come from?

Zambikes came from my business partner and I going on a college trip to Zambia in college. We saw good bikes were non-existent in this part of the world and if someone had a good bike it could change their lives. Medical workers could see three times or patients in a day and entrepreneurs could take good from rural paces to market and make great livings. We saw they were missing bikes and soon after being on the ground here saw they were missing spare parts as well as bicycle ambulances and cargo trailers.

What does your typical day look like?

I do not have a typical day. Either I am following up on bamboo bike sale leads to people all over the world, sometimes I am trying to get funding for bicycle ambulances to very remote rural health clinics or I am consulting and brainstorming better processes for Zambikes operations. We have a great Zambian team that is constantly improving and becoming more dynamic though.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring ideas to life by writing down where I am, writing down where I want to be and then physically writing down how to get to where I want to be. Oftentimes there are questions you need answer but I find by writing all this down it focuses me and gets me going in the right direction.

3 trends that excite me.

1. The amount of cell phone growth and use in the developing world.

2. The triple bottom line growing in importance compared to a single bottom line.

3. The love of many for green, sustainable products.

Tell us a secret?

A secret is…I did not ride bikes much till I got to Zambia, I would have rather played soccer or surfed. We chose bikes though because it can help people in developing countries in so many ways.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

Read E-Myth because it will show you how to create a system for others to follow to make your idea come to life, not have your ideas come to life because you are pulling your ideas all yourself.

What is the one thing you did as an entrepreneur that you would do over and over again and recommend everybody else do?

Don’t be afraid to try, ask specific questions and try some more. My business partner and I like to say ready shoot, aim.

Why do so many leave after trying startups in Africa?

Most people start enterprises or NGOs or projects in developing countries get burned out and leave in 6 months and tops 3 years, The reason this has not happened to us is we found good friends to ask questions (don’t be too prideful too!) and we made sure to turn off work at the right time and have a ton of fun along the way.

Connect:

Vaughn Spethmann on Twitter - @Akerfa

 

Connect with IdeaMensch Founder Mario Schulzke on Google Plus.
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