‘Lectrifying’ donation: $100K of e-bikes to CityServe
Story by Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University CityServe Warehouse Manager Nathan Cooper chatted with a woman last week when he was giving a tour. She had been scouring the internet to buy a couple of electric bikes for a refugee family.
That’s when Cooper’s eyes lit up.
CityServe – the initiative on campus that takes donated goods from major retailers and puts them in the hands of those in need — would be receiving a delivery of electric bikes in a few days.
“She canceled her order, and now we’re able to get them e-bikes for the refugee family. They’re using them to commute to work,” he said.
Phoenix-based Lectric eBikes on Wednesday delivered 110 electric bikes worth about $100,000 to the warehouse at the 27th Avenue business complex. They sit alongside the pots, pans, mattresses, sofas and other goods housed in the warehouse – goods from major retailers, such as Costco, Home Depot and Lowe’s, that will make their way to more than 70 community partner organizations, dubbed PODs, and then to the community members they serve.
The donation has been vital in opening another avenue of giving that GCU CityServe has not yet tapped into — transportation.
In the 10 months CityServe has been in operation at GCU and making a transformational change in the community, the warehouse has housed and distributed mostly home goods. The operation has received more than $2.1 million of items from retailers and distributed more than $1.5 million of those items to PODs that have helped around 5,000 families, many of those families right outside GCU’s gates.
“We had one e-bike go out already today to a vet,” said Cooper on delivery day. “And tomorrow, we have two going out to a family.”
The donation came about through Cooper’s relationship with Lectric eBikes co-founder and GCU alumnus Levi Conlow. The fellow Minnesotans were classmates when they were GCU undergraduates.
“Lectric (eBikes) is fortunate to be in a position to give back. … It is our mindset to try to do good and be a force of change in the world,” said Conlow, who launched the company in 2019 with Robby Deziel, both recently recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30. The co-founders, since kickstarting the startup with retirement funds from Levi’s dad, Brent, have translated that investment in just three years into what is now one of the fastest growing e-bike companies in the world. The final e-bike prototype designed and built by the pair resulted in sales of $1 million in just three weeks in 2019.
Ask why the company would donate so many e-bikes, Conlow said, “We saw an opportunity to donate bikes to a really great cause. Why NOT would be the better question, right? We could try to sell those and blast it out through our own location, but think of the impact we can have with injecting these bikes into certain people’s lives who really need a form of transportation.”
The company over the holidays gave more than $100,000 in toys to Arizona foster children and distributed $2,000 to each of the company’s employees to donate to a charity of their choice.
It’s a mindset Conlow has always had, he said, even as a kid with a paper route. That desire to give back is something he continues to share with GCU, where he received his bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurial and small business operations and his master’s degree in leadership.
Cooper said the bikes are such an important addition to what CityServe offers precisely because of the impact it can make for families in need who don’t have transportation.
“This will allow them to maybe go to and from work, as well as running errands, getting groceries at the store,” Cooper said.
Conlow, whose goal in starting Lectric eBikes was to create affordable, accessible transportation, said about half of the trips people take in cars are less than 6 miles. A donated Lectric eBike — the foldable bikes have a range of around 45 miles — will allow users to not just commute to work but to the grocery store and help them do whatever they need to do: “It’s a real transportation solution,” he said.
In the age of the gig economy, e-bikes also are being used by customers to create their own businesses.
Conlow said, “We have so many customers in urban settings right now. They use our e-bikes for food delivery, all of those things. It does create an opportunity and a pathway to create a job, so we’re just really excited.”
The donation comes at a time when gas prices are pushing the $5 mark and families are feeling the strain on their pocketbooks. Conlow said the cost to charge the battery on a Lectric eBike is 6 cents.
“That’s cheaper than gas right now, that’s for sure,” he said.
And then there’s the environmental impact.
Conlow said if Americans can replace roughly 15% of their short, sub-10-mile car trips with e-bike miles, it would reduce carbon emissions in the United States by 12%.
The hope is that this donation of 100 e-bikes won’t be the company’s last.
“What we want to do is build an ongoing relationship, and as CityServe finds people who are in need and can help them once they get through these bikes, we’ve really got to do our best to try to continue this relationship and do more,” Conlow said “ … Nathan and CityServe, I can’t speak highly enough about, so that is where my love is and where this just makes it a perfect relationship.”
He added how Cooper already has shared a story with him about one of the recipients of an e-bike.
“That stuff gets you excited,” Conlow said.
The impact, Cooper added, “It’s huge.”
GCU Today senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.