Student entrepreneurs turn fashion into transportation with Re(Cyclist)

April 2017

Elizabeth Jenike

In the broadest sense, “social entrepreneurship” is a term that encompasses both the desire to serve a need in the community and the innovative solutions necessary to build a successful business. In practice, this translates into finding the intersection between the two and thus contributing to their communities in unforgettable ways.

Re(Cyclist) sits at the center of that intersection. Created in the summer of 2016 by Jack Kellenberg (senior management and leadership major/entrepreneurship minor) and Northern Illinois University student Matt Kneifel, it is a for-profit company with a social mission of providing bicycles to homeless members of the community. While working at a bike repair shop that summer, Matt noticed that many homeless members of the community would come in searching for affordable bikes or repairs - but would quickly discover they could afford neither.

The goal of Re(Cyclist), Jack stated, is to help homeless folks - who have a hard time holding jobs due to lack of reliable transportation - achieve and maintain meaningful work in order to escape homelessness. Forty-four percent of homeless people who have jobs remain homeless - and transportation is the biggest barrier, along with education/job training.

It works like this. Jack and Matt, along with fellow Miami University student and senior marketing major Jeff Hochwalt, use recycled bike parts - the ones that would otherwise be thrown away - to make handcrafted bracelets. They sell the jewelry and funnel the profits into buying bikes and donating them to the homeless. They have workshopped their idea in two entrepreneurship classes: ESP 401: New Ventures and ESP 331: Social Entrepreneurship. They have already begun to sell their stylish, sustainable bracelets.

“Re(Cyclist) would like to offer homeless members attempting to help themselves through various work programs, a tool which grants them greater mobility, hope, freedom and opportunity,” Jake said.

So far, the young men have received great feedback from people who have purchased their bracelets. What’s more, they have items in two retail locations outside Chicago and participated in the Miami University Fashion and Design Trunk Show during the annual runway event in April. With the sales from the fashion show and the Chicago stores, they’re hoping to donate their first few bikes in May 2017. They’re also currently seeking funding from Redhawk Ventures and are a top-ten finalist for St. Louis University’s “Pitch and Catch” Competition that will be held on April 30.

“People seem to love the story and want to help us in our mission,” Jack said. “The best part of the experience will come when we can give bikes away to those that need them most. We will definitely be continuing after graduation. We can’t wait to see what’s to come.”

Sustainable bicycle chain bracelet