When Story Bikes did a news segment for a Santa Barbara television station, we did not realize it would trigger the interest of one of the country’s most influential and beloved figures.
In late August, we made a brief appearance on local television to talk about Story Bikes. We explained what the benefits of an e-bike and our philanthropic mission. For every bike we sell, we donate one bike to a student in Africa, South America, or Southeast Asia.
We appreciated the chance to showcase our product and also talk about our core values. We had fun during the segment, but our company was still relatively young. We did not expect any subsequent press attention to come from this brief appearance.
An Unexpected Phone Call
Imagine our surprise when a stranger reached out to us a few days later. She said she was an acquaintance of Oprah Winfrey and that Oprah was interested in purchasing one of our bikes. Even more surprising, Oprah wanted the bike personally delivered to her so she could learn more about our company.
Oprah was not sure what kind of bike she wanted so it was up to us to make that decision. We chose a white step-through bike for Oprah, our most popular model at the time, and had our co-founder Mark deliver it personally.
Mark brought Oprah the bike on the first of September, which was a Tuesday. Oprah was excited to receive the bike and eager to talk to Mark about our company. He explained how the bike worked and answered some of Oprah’s specific questions about our broader mission. They talked for a bit about how Story Bikes was founded and our “Give A Bike, Get A Bike” program.
While the entire experience was fun, we did not think it would evolve into anything more than an interesting anecdote. Mark left thinking we would not be hearing from Oprah or her team again.
The following Tuesday, we received a call from a representative from Oprah Magazine.
“Oprah loves her bike,” she told us. “She came to our final decision meeting about what’s going on her Favorite Things list this year. She says we have to include this ebike.”
The decision was incredibly last minute, so we had to orchestrate a quick delivery of an ebike to the New York City office for a photoshoot. The entire experience was a little shocking – we never, in our wildest dreams, expected this kind of attention and especially not so soon. Oprah’s Favorite Things list typically includes products from major companies. To be included as a small, independent business was beyond validating. We knew we were on the right track with our mission and goals.
Suffice to say, Oprah’s endorsement helped boost our sales and raise awareness of our brand. This gave us confidence in our company and inspired us to take a chance and make a big inventory order to take things to the next level.
More than that, Oprah’s endorsement helped us amplify our charity efforts. By selling more bikes, we were able to give more bikes away to students in need. In fact, when the Oprah Magazine featuring Story Bikes came out, some of our staff were in Zimbabwe for Thanksgiving delivering bikes to students.
Why Oprah Fell In Love With Story Bikes
Shortly after her favorite things list, Oprah mentioned Story Bikes in her magazine. She wrote:
My Santa Barbara neighbor makes this battery-powered beauty. I love mine because (a) I can pedal up to 20 miles per hour and (b) for every one sold, a nonelectric model is donated to a person in Africa, South America, or Southeast Asia.
We were happy to know Oprah was pleased enough with her ebike to make a last minute change to her Favorite Things list. Like any new company, we were obviously a bit nervous as to whether people would like our product. Getting a glowing review from Oprah certainly boosted our confidence.
We were also honored that Oprah called us her neighbor as we all went to school in Santa Barbara. She was thrilled – when she spoke to Mark – to be supporting a local company and she was also interested in the philanthropic nature of Story Bikes.
Her investment in Story Bikes speaks to our larger goals as a company. In addition to giving the public a valuable product, we also want to help our local and global community. The fact we were able to sell more bikes meant we could also give more bikes away. This allowed us to fulfill our mission more than ever before.