Cycling 20,000 kilometres across 33 countries in 365 days: Meet The Green Wheels
Earlier this year, three Warwick students set off on an adventure of a lifetime - cycling 20,000km around the world, with the aim of promoting renewable energy through microfinance. They tell us more about their project, 'The Green Wheels', in today's 50@50.
Tell us a bit about each member of the team.
The three of us all come from different regions in France but ended up finishing our high school years in Paris and came to the UK for university. All undergraduates at Warwick, Louis is studying Politics, while Maxence and Roland are studying Management at Warwick Business School. We all have very different qualities that are essential to the team. Louis is the " sales" guy, always finding a good way to add value to the project; Maxence is great at organisation and planning things; and Roland is the dreamer, doing everything to achieve our goals. We're convinced that these different features make our team more efficient.
How did you meet ?
The three of us met during our first year at Warwick. The fact we were all French 18-year-old freshers definitely helped us to bond quickly! We had all had similar pre-university experiences and had decided to study in the UK for the same reason: to discover something new. These similarities led us to spend a lot of time together, speaking about our future and discussing projects that we could build together.
What the does the project involve ?
Our project involves cycling 20,000 kilometers in 33 countries in 365 days to promote renewable energy through microfinance. Basically our goal is to meet (and, where possible, financially support) as many small entrepreneurs as we can who are willing to satisfy their energy needs through renewable sources of energy. Once back in Paris we will allocate 30,000 Euros to the projects we admire the most. This money has been raised through various corporate sponsors such as the Warwick Group Research Project Energy, IATL, Bouygues UK, Europcar, Laboratoire Carrare, MyTravelChic and many others as well as through a crowdfunding campaign.
Why and how did you decide to do this project? Who helped it to become a reality?
We spent our first year at Warwick sharing our ideas and opinions about what was important for us: politics, entrepreneurship, finance, environmental issues and many other things! We all wanted to build something that could be a mix of features that were important for us. We wanted to do something that could, to a certain extent, change the future of others. We always dreamed about being actors of a better future and we wanted to start as soon as possible. Being passionate about entrepreneurship and being aware of the the "green energy revolution", we started focusing on these two aspects, looking for something to bring them together.
In September 2013, it was Roland who first came up with the idea of linking entrepreneurship and renewable energy with a powerful financial tool: microfinance. He suggested we do it while achieving a childhood dream of his: cycling the world. The three of us loved the idea and decided to start the project and undertake this year-long challenge. After working a few weeks on the project, Maxence and Louis came up with the idea of raising as much money as we could in order to finance the trip but also, and more importantly, to finance green entrepreneurs all around the world.
Hundreds of people helped us to make this project a reality. Our friends and families were the first ones offering us crucial advice, followed by personal tutors and teachers. We also had really great support from our partner Babyloan and Entrepreneurs du Monde, who helped us a lot on the microfinance and micro-entrepreneurship aspects of the project. Finally all our sponsors (including the University of Warwick!) and all the people who trusted us gave us advice that enabled our team to make our idea a reality.
What do you hope to achieve during the year ?
We're always trying to make the most of this experience. During this year we have one main goal: Making our project a success in achieving our personal goal - cycling all around the world and coming back to Paris in 365 days while discovering as many new cultures as possible - and our social goal - meeting as many green entrepreneurs as we can and financially supporting them. We want to show people that a multitude of small actions can lead to big changes and everyone can undertake these small actions. Our final objective is to show other young (and less young!) people in Europe that we have to be the ones to build a better future and that the number of opportunities is constantly growing.
Have you had any favorite moments so far ?
We worked for almost 13 months on this project and have already cycled more that 6,000 kilometers. Of course we have had moments we preferred but as a whole this adventure has been great from the day we decided to build the project until now. If we had to choose a favourite moment, we would have to say that the departure was incredibly memorable. It was very satisfying thinking that we had already achieved a big objective and that it was the start of something new: the adventure. During the trip, our favourite country so far has been Bolivia. After getting over the hardest challenge - climbing the Andes - we spent one month cycling on the "Altiplano" at more than 4,000 metres crossing the Titicaca lake and the famous Uyuni's salt lake.
What has been the hardest part of the journey so far ?
The hardest part of the journey had definitely been the long climb of the Andes. We climbed 4,000 metres in less than a week on dirty sand roads! We were cycling at an average of 8km per hour and crossed a summit at 4,457 metres high. We spent two days cycling in snow - but we had hardly any winter clothes and it was so cold that our stove didn't work! Nevertheless, during this difficult climb we crossed a natural reserve full of mind blowing landscapes. This challenge forced our team to really work hard together and we now feel very proud having achieved it! After more than four months on the road we discovered that we can look back at every challenging moment and laugh.
What are you looking forward to most during the rest of the year ?
We just spent a long time in Central and South America, so we're really excited about discovering a new continent! Australia and Asia will be fantastic - we have many green projects waiting for us there. We'll also visit Bangladesh, where Mohamed Yunus initiated the idea of "Green Microfinance". The constantly changing environment makes the trip unpredictable and fantastic and that is why we have the chance to experience something new every day.
What do you plan to do after the project is over ? Do you have any plans for after graduation ?
We'll be back in Paris by the end of July 2016. Our short term plan is to continue to promote the values and the idea of The Green Wheels. Moreover, we're in touch with other young entrepreneurs who are looking to start similar projects or other kinds of social businesses. We would like to share our experience with them in order to help them to build their projects.
We all loved this first entrepreneurial project and we are certain that this experience is likely to guide our life after graduation. We are constantly thinking about new projects to start and new ideas. After experiencing first hand social entrepreneurship we might move towards a more "classic" kind of entrepreneurship.