Lansing woman launches trike-based commercial delivery service

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1 Lansing woman launches trike-based commercial delivery service Yvonne LeFave Apr. 26, Comments Purchase Image Yvonne LeFave rides her ELF eco-friendly delivery vehicle on Tuesday in Lansing. Her delivery business, Go Green Trikes, could be the first of its kind in Michigan. / Rod Sanford/lansing state journal Written by Ken Palmer FILED UNDER News Local News

2 ZOOM Yvonne LeFave in her ELF eco-friendly delivery vehicle in Lansing Tuesday 4/24/2014 for her Go Green Trikes business. (Lansing State Journal /Rod Sanford) / Rod Sanford Go Green Trikes» Go Green Trikes LLC, an eco-friendly commercial delivery service, was founded by Lansing resident Yvonne LeFave.» LeFave won a Hatch pitch competition for startup ideas and used her own money to buy her first two delivery vehicles a $4,000 ELF and a Truck Trike costing about $15,000.» She hopes to expand her business with proceeds from an Internet auction and a gofundme.com campaign.» Links to the fundraisers can be found atgogreentrikes.com. Less ADVERTISEMENT Yvonne LeFave s new business venture might seem like a logical step for a greenconscious, self-described geek who ditched her car more than 20 years ago and tools around in a bright orange, egg-shaped tricycle. But the Lansing woman said the idea never dawned on her until she told a life coach in early December she was bored with her clerical job and wanted a new path. The coach s suggestion: Jot down the ingredients for her ideal job. From that simple exercise emerged Go Green Trikes LLC, which launched on Tuesday and may be the first bike-based commercial delivery service in Michigan. That was on Dec. 2, LeFave said. On Dec. 1, I couldn t see this. It s kind of mindboggling that this has all happened just since then. Finally, I found something that fits. Go Green Trikes delivers commercial cargo using electric-assist tricycles instead of petroleum-burning vehicles.

3 Smaller loads will be ferried on LeFave s ELF, a 3-foot-wide covered tricycle that carries a total of 350 pounds and can cruise at 20 mph. Pedal power is augmented by a solarpowered battery that runs for about 20 miles on a charge. LeFave next week expects to take delivery of her first Truck Trike, an electric-assist, 9- foot-long vehicle that hauls about 600 pounds. The trike can reach speeds of 15 mph and run for about 100 miles on a charge. Within two years, LeFave hopes to have four Truck Trikes and several ELFs. Go Green Trikes will operate from April to November. For now, LeFave is the only employee, although several other people are interested in working for her, she said. I ve got to see how things go and how quickly this takes off, LeFave said. But I suspect I ll be employing them soon. Building a business Several business partnerships already are falling into place, many of them based around food, LeFave said. Beginning Thursday, the Allen Market Place Exchange, a farm-to-table program based on Lansing s east side, will use LeFave s service to deliver locally grown food from the food hub to schools and other clients around the Lansing area. Exchange Manager Neal Valley said about 50 farmers and 40 buyers are enrolled with the exchange. Some buyers have asked about delivery options, and LeFave s operation is a natural fit, he said. Food and bikes are sort of a perfect match, Valley said. We re very excited to have an option that involves an eastside resident, fits within the goals of the Allen Neighborhood Center and supports the community as a whole. LeFave also is talking with Dansville-based Titus Farms about delivering food to some of the 300 clients enrolled in the farm s Community Supported Agriculture program.

4 Customers now pick up their shares from one of four drop-off points around the Lansing area. Some would like a home-delivery option, said Rebecca Titus, who launched the CSA program about nine years ago. I thought about doing it myself, Titus said. I ran the numbers and couldn t figure out how I would have the time to do that. Besides, I m a farmer. I d rather focus on the food. It makes sense to partner with somebody who is as green as we are. Another possibility: The Ingham County Land Bank s Garden Program hopes to create a system to collect waste food from restaurants, compost it and return it to folks tending garden plots. We're not committed to anything yet, and I would have to see how much it would cost, said John Krohn, who coordinates the program. (But) I love the concept of the business, and we would love to support that. I think it would be a synergetic thing that works out well for both of us. Making the switch LeFave, 49, said she owned a car from 1988 to 1992 but stopped driving it in She had a motorcycle for a while but sold it about two years ago, she said. Last July, she became the first person in Michigan to own an ELF short for Electric, Light and Fun made by Durham, N.C.-based Orange Transit. She paid $4,000 for the trike through a Kickstarter campaign. They now are going for about $8,000. The new business, she said, suits her passion for bicycling and her need to build community. I love the simplicity behind bicycling, she said. We re looking at a global economy, and cycling is a better fit. Petroleum is not sustainable. For now, she plans to keep her day job as a database administrator for the state of Michigan and make deliveries from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, as well as on Saturdays. Go Green Trikes is following in the path of environmentally conscious, bicycle-based cargo services now operating on the East and West coasts.

5 One of them, Portland, Ore.-based B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery, was founded in 2009 and was on track to reach $400,000 in revenue last year, according to a New York Times profile of the company. An official with the Small Business Administration of Michigan said he is not aware of another business like LeFave s operating in the state, although he did hear of a plan to build cargo bikes in Detroit a few years ago. This is a new one on me, said Michael Rogers, the group s vice president for communications. I would think it would be pretty unusual. Bicycle-based delivery services aren t necessarily cheaper than conventional cargo services, LeFave said. But they offers practical advantages in congested downtown areas or on college campuses, where deliveries can be made from the sidewalk, she said. The idea particularly appeals to companies that want to build a greener image, she said. By now, LeFave said, she s used to drawing a crowd when riding her trike. Word to the wise: If you re in one of these, don t stop near a school at recess time, she said, laughing. You ll have a whole flock descending on you.

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