Here in the US, we’re used to the near ubiquitous access to cell phones, with the possibility of thousands, if not unlimited minutes. But what if every phone in the US was prepaid? Such is the case in Nicaragua. There, people use their phones mainly to receive phone calls, or as address books to make calls at one of the numerous, more affordable “call shops” in the country. Brian Forde looked around, saw the prevalence of three wheeled bikes, carrying cargo, people, ice cream, and had an idea: create a pedal powered mobile version of the call shop, able to go wherever the people are.
Rather then creating a slickly engineered, and therefore difficult to repair device, they make them from what’s common in the area: a car battery + an old computer battery backup UPS to convert the battery power to 110 volts. Llamadas Pedaleadas, or Pedaled Phone Calls provides the energetic entrepreneur the opportunity to literally go where the market is, be it a festival, a busy intersection, the big game. For those who have trouble getting around, the phone could come to them, as well. The station charges batteries as the vendor drives around.
See them in action below
For the business owner, it can on average double their income, and for the customer, they take control of their expenses via a small display that lets them either designate how long the call will be and pay for it, or tells them how much an in progress call is costing, and choose when to be done, within their means.
Now what if you’re doing so well, the battery is running low? All you need do is put the kickstand up, elevating the back tire, and get to pedaling, charging the battery once again. 10 minutes of pedaling gets you an hour of use.
You may ask, how does the maker of this profit? They sell the bike at cost, then profit from reselling minutes to vendors. Small profits that have the possibility of cumulatively adding up to a substantial amount, with increasing pedalers out there.
Readers: What other inventive social entrepreneurial ventures have you seen out there? Please share, below.
Here it is in action:
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. His overarching talent is “bottom lining” complex ideas, in a way that is understandable and accessible to a variety of audiences, internal and external to a company.
Other pedal powered wonders:
The Juice Pedalers
Just Soap – Pedal powered soap maker