The Big Blue Bike is striving to be the world's premier ethical and eco clothing brand with social impact.

The Big Blue Bike is striving to be the world's premier ethical and eco clothing brand with social impact.

Organization type: 
for profit
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Big Blue Bike (BBB) intends to protect colored alpacas which are facing severe shortages since larger companies request only white alpaca fiber (easier to dye and sort). By increasing demand for colored alpaca fiber, the BBB encourages their protection and stimulates their numbers. The BBB is also offering a luxurious, eco friendly alternative to cashmere whose goats are causing deserts in Asia by their destructive grazing habits and excessive water requirements.

This approach to solving the crisis in the colored alpaca population is simultaneously empowering marginalized communities of Lima. The fiber will be processed by Small-to-Mid Size Enterprises (SMEs) in the poorest areas that will then manufacture garments made from the fiber with a strong emphasis on quality and design.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Democratic elections were recently held in Peru where former Peruvian military officer Ollanta Humala won. The new president still needs to demonstrate that he is keen on strengthening democratic institutions and tackling poverty in Peru, which affects about 50% of the population. Lima has a poverty rate of 14.1% and carries over a third of Peru’s population. The city's poverty problem has a strong gender component. The level of women’s participation in the labor market is low and their access to health and education is still inadequate. The project therefore places a preference in providing job opportunities for poor women. Poverty predominantly affects single women households with one or more children (below 14yrs, or adolescent) - which make up 25% of households in the urban areas of Peru. These poor women (either divorced, separated or widowed) also face the highest levels of domestic violence, or have been victims thereof (58.1%). Alpaca herders and value: There are over 170,000 families in Peru producing alpaca fiber, predominantly poor and living in rural areas in the South of Peru. Their socio-economic vulnerability is a reflection of centuries of exclusion. The alpaca herders can potentially make 50 times more their current earnings. The demand for alpaca fiber is projected to grow with exports to Western nations. This brings the need to improve links between herders and treating/processing capabilities to provide them with better market access.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Alpaca fiber is an eco-friendly alternative to cashmere with luxurious attributes. Baby alpaca fiber is just as soft and lightweight as cashmere, however, far more durable and insulated. The demand for cashmere has caused an overpopulation of cashmere goats in Asia (especially inner Mongolia). The goats' destructive grazing habits and requirement for excessive water & food resources has caused deserts in what used to be grasslands. Alpaca fiber is the best alternative to cashmere on the market, without the environmental footprint. Through the clothing manufacturing line, the BBB is working directly with alpaca herders in Peru and creating demand for the fiber. By collaborating directly with the producers we create direct supply lines, creating increased financial value for the producers rather than going through intermediaries. The BBB will also work directly with women-focused SMEs within impoverished communities of Lima, who will manufacture and create the BBB's clothing line. By working with these SMEs, the BBB is directly addressing one of the biggest problems in the poor districts of Lima - creating job opportunities for vulnerable women. The BBB’s approach to provide quality, eco friendly products that utilize local craft and resources will be marketed at trade shows to retailers, through partner distributors and directly to consumers through online media. The BBB’s emphasis on quality and design encourages consumers to buy eco-friendly products that protect the environment while creating job opportunities for disadvantaged communities.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Adsila, a San Francisco based global virtual incubator is providing the BBB with project management, advisory and support services, assisting the accomplishment of the following primary objectives: I.To protect and increase colored alpacas in the Andes Mountains, by stimulating demand for the fiber -Identify and select colored alpaca producers that treat and process the fiber, who will also receive training from local NGOs to improve breeding practices and treatment of the animals. -Identify and select local SMEs to work directly with the BBB, that will process and treat the fiber and those that will turn it into yarn with respect for environmental standards, creating market-linkages and adding value to the supply chain. -Encourage retail stores and consumers to purchase eco friendly products by placing an emphasis on style and quality II.To increase job opportunity for the poor in Lima, especially women, working within SMEs. -Identify and select poor women working within SMEs in close consultation with local NGOs that facilitate the BBB’s engagement at field level. -Develop an on-going relationship with local NGOs to help in the engagement with SMEs and measure the project’s impact -Manufacture directly with SMEs, creating a direct relationship with them, instead of going through intermediaries. -Create long-term employment opportunities by working directly with the target group
About You
The Big Blue Bike
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

The Big Blue Bike

Organization Country

, TX, Harris County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, LI

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

With a truly global upbringing, the founder, Shudhan Kohli, was born in a small fishing town in Kenya to a mother from India and father from England. His education brought him to the US where he got a degree at the University of Texas at Austin. Passionate about the world and an avid adventurer, the founder found himself in the Andes Mountains of Peru where he noticed a disproportionate amount of white alpacas compared to colored ones. Researching the animals, he realized that their fiber can serve as an eco friendly alternative to cashmere (due to the animal’s hardy nature requiring minimal water and food resources and non destructive grazing habits – a stark contrast to cashmere goats as they cause deserts in what used to be vast grasslands in Asia). Armed with this knowledge, he sought to create a fashion brand that helps to protect and increase the number of colored alpacas while creating better and long-term job opportunities for local manufacturing communities. By partnering with strong local NGOs for production and strategically sourcing colored alpaca fiber, the Big Blue Bike was born.

With the pilot stage implemented and products brought to market, the resoundingly positive feedback revealed true potential in the brand. It was then decided that the initiative would turn into a global one, sourcing local eco friendly materials produced with the goal to provide a positive social impact amongst disadvantaged communities in the world.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Success will be measured by evaluating the numbers of people employed (particularly women) by the project from poor districts in Lima, number of products sold around the globe, and quantity of colored alpaca fiber produced (which, in turn, will determine the number of colored alpacas bred).

So far as part of its pilot stage, the BBB has achieved the following:

- To develop and expand markets, the BBB has successfully signed and set-up 6 wholesale accounts and 3 online distribution channels across the US, as part of the pilot stage.
- The BBB sold 100% of units produced during its very first season – fall/winter 2010. Orders for fall/winter 2011 have already come in.
- Feedback from the end-users has been very positive, with consumers appreciating the premium quality, feel and style of the products.
- The BBB has successfully created job opportunities for women (10 ladies who produced handmade and machine made garments) for the fall/winter collection of 2010.

To measure the environmental and social impact of the project in Lima, the following guide will be used:

The actual data and information will be gathered and verified through impact assessment studies, focus groups and one-on-one interviews. Designated local partners will produce progress reports, updates and press releases.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

The BBB will surpass intermediaries in the production and raw material sourcing stages. In collaboration with local NGOs, the BBB is establishing relationships with alpaca herders that have the capacity and willingness to work with the project’s environmental goals. Relationships with SMEs that have training resources (scalability) in select poor districts of Lima are being developed and baseline data collected for impact measurement.

Diversifying and increasing revenue will ensure job expansion within SMEs. The BBB will expand distribution channels to Canada, Europe and emerging markets. Once ready to scale, a decision to replicate/adapt the model in other countries will be made - allowing the company to introduce new socially impacting products that utilize local craft & resources.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

The BBB successfully addressed a cashflow problem which brought limitations to the sales process. At the moment, cold calling is the primary mode of opening new wholesale accounts. Most of the cash is being devoted to sample mail outs to storefronts and national sales visits. A partnership with an established showroom in Los Angeles has been developed to counter this. The relationship will allow the BBB access major North American storefronts and open a significant amount of wholesale accounts. To meet the upcoming demand, the company’s cash flow will be strengthened through grants, donors and reinvestment of profits.

A further risk to the project was the reliance of the entire operations on the founder. Areas such as branding and marketing the brand’s message are best left to the experts, especially as the brand makes an entrance into the market. This area is currently being addressed as part of Adsila’s incubation process providing the BBB with mentorship, expertise and operational support.

Furthermore, the current model of accessing raw material and production through intermediaries causes bottlenecks across the supply chain. This delays and makes the process expensive. A one-time seed funding will revamp the new supply structure that we are putting in place ensuring a more durable and efficient operation. Our local partners are collaborating with us to develop direct relationships with SMEs and fiber providers for a more sustainable supply process that creates impact.

Tell us about your partnerships

The BBB is currently identifying additional stakeholders to partner with, including to the Peace Corps, to connect and educate local herders.

Existing partners are-

Multi-Functional: Adsila, a California based non profit incubator of early-stage social ventures has brought the BBB under its wing in order to provide business & social advisory services and strategic networking within the market. They serve as an advisory group assisting with every function of the company's business and social operations (not financial).

Social and Implementation: The BBB is currently working with a local NGO who are identifying communities in need of an economic impact for manufacturing partnerships. They have already supported the BBB in gathering statistics to determine social needs, and will assist in measuring the project's impact.

Manufacturing: A family owned manufacturing facility (intermediaries) using hand operated machines produces the BBB’s machine made collection. Their fair trade principles align with the BBB's values. They provide employment under fair trade wages and ethical working conditions while sub contracting micro enterprises in poor Lima communities.

Market Expansion: A show room located in LA's prestigious fashion district has been contracted to head sales for the fall/winter 2012 season. The showroom is very well respected in the industry and has been successful in introducing emerging knitwear brands to the market. Their vast sales network along with their partnerships will ensure the expansion of the BBB across the US, EU and Canada.

Explain your selections

Friends and family – Contributions from family and friends have helped the company’s cash flow allowing it to operate and conduct seasonal production

International and local NGOs – local NGOs will connect the BBB to other relevant partners, as well as supporting the BBB in measuring impact of the project areas. The Society of Registered Alpaca Producers (SPAR), will be important in helping the BBB set up direct supply lines with herders, and linking them to the market.

Customers - Cash generated from sales are reinvested into the company to grow and expand the operations as the BBB multiplies its customer base, enhances brand equity and enables expansion.

Adsila – BBB is incubated with Adsila for a min of 12 months. This partnership is providing expertise and knowhow of building and maintaining a sustainable business and social model. Their network of advisors and project managers are providing the founder with valuable insights, entrepreneurial training and mentorship. The partnership is strengthening BBB’s external and internal operations to expand its outreach.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

BBB, with Adsila’s support, will solidify operations during the pilot project in Peru. This will be achieved by streamlining the supply chain (surpassing intermediaries) and setting up a local office to oversee and manage the entire operations, including product design and development. Local NGOs will assist in the monitoring of the project’s social and environmental impact and communication of stakeholders’ needs. Emphasis will also be placed on the project’s scalability. Training programs will be established for SMEs to train and hire local talent based on the project’s production needs. Fiber sources will also be evaluated to ensure the ability to sustain large demand.

As the BBB strengthens its internal and external operations, the company will examine appropriate strategies to replicate/adapt its model in different countries (expansion of the program to Kenya is being explored). Trade show participation and distribution relationships will be developed across Europe, Canada and emerging markets. This will ensure a steady increase in market opportunity and ascertain demand of products developed in newly launched global initiatives. Initial growth will be funded by grants, donations and profits with the eventual goal of a self sustaining model - completely funded by the company’s profits.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.




Restricted access to new markets


Lack of skills/training

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

The project targets people in poor districts of Lima skilled in knitting (manually or with looms) but restricted in their economic activities. By targeting mainly women, who are particularly marginalized in the workforce, long term employment opportunities are being provided to impact their economic conditions.

Entering the fast-growing eco fashion and general green market, the target group is allowed the opportunity to grow with this global trend. As the market grows, supply will be expanded through the SMEs by hiring and training unskilled workers within the community, creating jobs and skill. Additionally, the project is adding value to alpaca herders by helping to produce, treat and process raw material which is natural, dye-free and therefore valued in the eco-fashion market.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Grown geographic reach: Global


Repurposed your model for other sectors/development needs

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

-The BBB is currently selecting other districts in Lima to work in. Baseline data collection has begun in order to measure impact. During this process, the BBB engages and consults with local stakeholders to ensure resources are utilized effectively and their needs met.
-Following the pilot project, the BBB will grow and stabilize. Once ready to scale, similar initiatives will be launched by consulting and engaging other local stakeholders. Currently, the prospect of launching an initiative in Kenya is being explored. Through Adsila’s 12 month incubation period, skills and requirements to sustain and scale the project will be obtained.
-Product groups will be expanded depending on market need in order to better utilize local skill and resources within newly developed initiatives.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)


If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

The BBB is collaborating with Adsila an incubator of early-stage social ventures. The partnership with them has provided expertise, mentorship and access to a large network of resources.

A large South American NGO is currently assisting the BBB with gathering relevant data of target communities to engage with. Their assistance has enabled the BBB to develop strategic partnerships with SMEs in select regions. The NGO will help with implementation and assessment of BBB’s social objectives.

Currently, the BBB is in negotiation with the Peace Corps to partner in the engagement efforts with alpaca herding communities. The partnership will assist in the sourcing of the fiber and educational efforts with the herders.