Stories and Articles

Biking Buenos Aires – Robin Gerlach and William Whittle

Biking BA logoSome of the most successful businesses result from entrepreneurs who turn their hobby into a business, which is exactly how Biking Buenos Aires was founded.

The entrepreneurs who founded the company are now in the process of using their business to give back to the community - not just through financial donations - but also through hands-on volunteer programs as well.

Biking Buenous Aires founders Robin Gerlach (left) and William WhittleBefore he graduated from SDSU in 2008 with a management degree, William Whittle planned to become a real estate investor and flip houses. Of course, 2008 was also the same year that the U.S. economy tanked, so he had to rethink his plans. He took a trip to Buenos Aires to think things through.

“For too many reasons to list I fell in love with Buenos Aires, but a few of them include the way international culture mixes with Argentine culture, the ability to ride my bike anywhere with ease, the food and wine and – of course – the beautiful women,” said Whittle.

Robin Gerlach (’08, management), Whittle’s former roommate at SDSU was also trying to determine the direction he wanted his life to take as well. When he heard that Whittle had bought some used bicycles to give tours of Buenos Aires to friends as a hobby, he suggested to Whittle, via Skype, that he organize a company around it.

"Find a genuine need for people and fill that need." - Robin Gerlach
 

Biking Buenos Aires officially launched on January 1, 2010. Gerlach moved to Argentina in October 2010 and the two formed a U.S. LLC company in 2011 and an SRL company in Argentina in 2012.

They were joined by a third SDSU alum, Luke Engelby, in 2012, who first came on board as an intern and is now the company’s general manager. The company has grown to the point where they now employ a team of 20 people, including four managers.

As the company became more successful, the trio formed the Ride On Foundation in 2013. Initially the foundation donated 10 percent of the company’s profits to organizations that focused mostly on educational programs, the underprivileged and environmental issues. “One of my personal favorite donations was made to Agua de Esperanza who is dedicated to collecting and distributing recycled rain water in the northern province of Argentina where water is very scarce,” said Whittle.

"Be driven by experiences and knowledge rather than money." - William Whittle

Currently, the foundation is re-directing its efforts so that it is a more hands-on organization in which the founders participate in the delivery of backpacks to community members, assist in creating public art displays and volunteer in educational activities aimed at the local youth. Whittle, for example, uses his Saturdays to volunteer at Club Union de los Pibes, an educational organization dedicated to teaching cooking, English and art skills to local youth. “We are looking at becoming a legal foundation with the goal of a specific direction, such as helping youth in poverty or bicycle education,” said Gerlach.

The philosophy of fulfilling human needs spills over into the advice that Gerlach and Whittle give to young entrepreneurs as well. “Find a genuine need for people and fill that need,” said Gerlach. “For example, riding a bicycle makes people feel like a kid again and the need for a new and fun way to explore this amazing city just happened to turn into a successful business.”

Whittle adds to this advice by saying: “Be driven by experiences and knowledge rather than money. Also, travel, take risks and always meet new people from all different types of backgrounds. And be sure to dedicate your time to doing something you love.”