We caught up with Kwabena for updates on Booomers and his social initiatives.
TIA: The last time we spoke, you mentioned that the bulk of your customers were international, primarily from Europe, Asia and Australia. Is this still the case?
Kwabena Danso: Thank you for the opportunity to share the story of Booomers once again. Booomers bamboo bicycles continue to expand to new countries and we are proud to say that we are now in Canada and Poland in addition to our initial entry into Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and Taiwan. We have also received interests from other countries such as South Korea, Japan and Israel for distribution of our bikes. I am happy to mention that Booomers bamboo bikes are one of the quality bamboo bikes you can find in the world, as our customers can attest to. In 2014, a German couple travelled on a My Boo branded Booomers bike from Germany to China. My Boo is the official distributor of bikes produced by Booomers in Germany. We have improved quality and durability of our bikes. Our bikes are lighter and absorb shocks very well.
Are more Ghanaians buying bamboo bikes now?
There is still a lot of work to be done so far as the Ghanaian market is concerned. Firstly, biking is not actually a culture in Ghana. It is now being promoted and so a lot of education needs to go on to be able to convince people to change their habits. Even though biking provides a healthier affordable means of transport, a lot of people think it is only for the poor. Also, we have not achieved the full scale we were planning for to enjoy economies of scale. This makes the bikes quite expensive, more than the imported used bikes most of the people use. At the same time, the depreciation of the local currency makes the price very high as some of the components of the bikes are not produced in Ghana and has to be imported, making it very expensive for the locals to buy.
You have expanded your product line to include goods for children. Tell us a more about it.
Booomers is fast becoming a hub for bamboo bicycles and related products. The company is launching three new products in the month of May. These products are the kids’ tricycles and the balance bikes. The tricycles are designed for kids from age five and beyond, whilst the balance bikes are for smaller children to help them maintain their balance whilst walking. It is suitable for kids who are now learning how to walk. The last product is for kids between the ages of eight and 14. These bikes are designed for the 20” wheels. We are accepting pre-orders for the tricycles and the balance bikes.
What other new products are in the works?
There a number of new bamboo products being designed currently. The company is looking at diversifying its product base to include different kinds of bamboo products. The company is developing toothpick production unit as well as particle Boards. The company is aiming to have a zero waste production leading to several products coming out from the company. Apart from these, we have plans of going into other projects involving bamboo such as bio-energy and housing or construction.
Last time we spoke, a huge part of your mission was to provide local jobs and economic empowerment for rural communities and the youth in particular. How are things progressing on that end?
Making social impact in our communities, especially in rural communities, is our focus. Not only is Booomers providing job opportunities for youth in rural areas but we are also empowering children through educational development. The company has provided jobs to 20 young people in rural areas and this is an increase of eight new jobs from last year. Our focus is to provide jobs to over 50 young people by the end of 2016. Booomers and its partners provide support to several children in rural communities to have access to education through the scholarship program being implemented by our sister Foundation, the Yonso Project.
Last year, the organization through the support from Booomers and donors provided scholarship for over 100 children and youth at the various levels of education including elementary, Junior High School, Senior High School and college. We are always proud about the impact the program is having on the children in rural communities and their ability to realize their dreams in life. The program, which started in 2007, currently has some kids being able to break the barriers the people in rural systems face in getting into top schools in the country. Currently, some of the students who went through the program are pursuing different futures, including medicine, nursing, education and mathematical sciences and many others at the college level. For every bike sale, $55 goes into supporting education in the rural area. You can read more stories about the impact Booomers is making here.
What new markets have you expanded into or have plans to expand to?
As mentioned earlier, we have currently entered the Canadian and the Polish markets. We are looking to enter the UK, Sweden, Finland and the US market this year. Our expansion strategy has been one market at a time.
I know you had several distributors around the world, like My Boo in Germany, Foresta Bikes in Netherlands, Ethical Bikes in Australia and a few others. Do you have more distributors now?
Currently, we have Fortuna BC distributing our bikes under the name DANSO BIKES in Canada. We also have ASANTE BIKES distributing in Poland.
Are you going to enter the North American market?
Yes, we have entered the Canadian Market and we will soon enter the US market.
Do you have any collaborations and/or partnerships with local distributors in Ghana or other African countries?
We are currently moving into the South African market. We have a potential distributor in South Africa we are currently discussing a distribution agreement with. South Africans should watch out for our launch in the country soon, in probably less than a month.
What’s next for Booomers?
Booomers is planning big things and this year our focus is to produce over 5,000 bicycles for the market. Plans are far advanced to ensure this takes place. We are also developing new products through which we want to achieve a zero waste production. The company is looking at training and employing about 50 youth this year to expand production capacity. Booomers has started its own 12 acre bamboo plantation and we plan to expand this to about 30 acres next year when we are done with the current plantation. This is also expected to provide jobs to ten youth in the area.