Brompton of London wants to supply coronavirus-focused NHS staff with its iconic folding bikes and launched a £100,000 crowdfunder on April 2 to build 1,000 machines, all to be painted in NHS colors. Within hours the crowdfunder had raised more than £40,000, including £250 donations from celebrities such as the Virgin Radio presenter Chris Evans and BBC broadcaster Jeremy Vine.
“My team worried about this, but I said ‘we’ve just got to fucking do it,’” Brompton CEO Will Butler-Adams told me.
“The bike industry has been allowed to stay open—that’s a privilege; we have a responsibility to do our bit.”
Two weeks ago, Brompton was approached by St. Bart’s hospital in London, asking if the company could supply bikes to key staff “worried about jumping on cramped tubes or rammed buses,” says Butler-Adams.
“They wanted the independence and freedom that comes with whizzing around on bikes—we organized 50 bikes; they went in three days. Now we have 500 people who’ve registered for bikes, and we’re crowdfunding to make them, and another 500.”
Butler-Adams was speaking to me via cellphone from the Brompton factory in Greenford, West London.
Even if the company raises the required funds, it would still lose money making the bikes, says Butler-Adams.
“We have zero footfall in our [company] stores, sales are down by 35-40%, about a third of our staff are self-isolating, and we have major supply-chain issues, but doing nothing [about the crisis] is not an option.”
He adds: “We are digging deep, and we are going to invest in those bikes. We’re going to make no profit; in fact, we’re going to make a loss because we’re going to be piling all in, but we need a bit of help [from the public] if we’re going to get these bikes out—we need people to contribute, it doesn’t matter how small.”
Butler-Adams says he has looked at the soft loans on offer from the U.K. government but doesn’t rate them.
“Instead, we have sought a £3 million overdraft from our bank,” he says.
“Hopefully, we won’t need it, but it’s there for an emergency.”
Brompton has reconfigured its manufacturing to allow for social distancing, with 160 staff still working in the factory.
“We’ve got a bit of stock,”” says Butler-Adams, “”and we’re frantically sourcing more parts, but it’s an hour-by-hour worry.”
I asked how many of those NHS staffers requesting bikes might be new to cycling?
“It’s hard to say for certain, but there is definitely a decent quality who are new to bicycling as a mode of transport,” replied the affable Butler-Adams.
“That has to be a positive for when this crisis is over.”
Looking to the future, he adds: “This could eventually have a massive effect on how people travel in cities.”
The bike industry has to “remain nimble,” he reckons.
“There are extremes of outcomes, and like all businesses, we don’t know what’s going to happen if we’re on lockdown for many months, but this [crowdfunder] is our way of at least doing something now.”
The bikes supplied by Brompton to the NHS will be loaned out to key workers for free.
“We plan for this to have a lasting impact beyond the current crisis,” states the campaign, hosted on Crowdfunder.
“Afterwards, the bikes will continue to be used by NHS for a nominal maintenance fee of £1 per hire, and some of them will be donated to hospitals to manage as a fleet or for graduate doctors and nurses. Brompton Bike Hire will not profit off any of these hires or bikes produced.”
Any additional money raised beyond what can be used by the factory will be donated to NHS Charitable trusts, states the campaign.
Source: Forbes Business