The Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship proudly awards grants to Lavin Entrepreneurship Program students to help bolster their startup journey as they balance both school and work. The annual Seed Fund is unique to the highly competitive program at the University of Washington. Students compete and pitch their early-stage ventures to a select group from the Seattle entrepreneurial community in early March. Each of the 2018 Lavin Seed Fund award winners shared an update on their startup journey with us. Here’s Oliver Marczynksi of Oliver’s Bike Bags.
In the summer of 2016, I dipped my toes into the world of long distance cycling, spending a month touring the West Coast from the Canadian border to Los Angeles. I would recommend the experience to anyone looking for a good time. If you’re anything like me, not only will you love it, but it will probably lead to many more trips, an unhealthy addiction to browsing Craigslist’s bike section, and the creation of your own bike bag company. I started Oliver’s Bike Bags to solve problems I saw long distance cyclists face on the road.
After sewing together some basic prototypes out of salvaged fabric from an outdoor gear company’s dumpster, the Lavin Entrepreneurship Program showed their support and awarded me $500 to pursue my designs. Naturally, I took the money, improved on the prototypes, and went on a 400 mile trip through the New Mexican desert. The ride proved that the designs had merit and brought to light other problems with cycling gear, specifically related to hydration. I took what I learned and developed a fresh batch of prototypes for the next Lavin Pitch Competition and was awarded another $250 to make the dream come to life.
Since then, Oliver’s Bike Bags has made huge leaps in the development of our designs. We participated in the investment round of the Buerk Center’s Business Plan Competition and secured a purchase order from Uphill Designs to produce a co-branded line of bike bags for them. Going forward, we hope to take part in the Jones + Foster accelerator and continue expanding our lines of cycling gear. The resources offered by the University of Washington have been incredibly helpful in getting started and will hopefully make it possible to pursue Oliver’s Bike Bags full-time after graduating.