Powerful Partnerships: BikerBuddy to Benefit from $50K USDA Grant
Tuesday, October 09, 2018
Thanks to a powerful partnership with Powder River Energy Corporation (PRECorp), BikerBuddy Lodging, LLC is utilizing $50,000 of grant assistance to further develop its mobile application and website. PRECorp obtained a USDA Wyoming Rural Business Development Grant on the company's behalf.
The Upton-based startup’s founders approached PRECorp in early 2018 about help with business development. PRECorp aims to facilitate economic development in the communities it serves in northeastern Wyoming.
“We agreed to look at grants for them because we saw it as a promising business development project capable of helping grow the state’s second largest industry — tourism,” says Jeff Bumgarner, vice president of member service and executive director of the PRECorp Foundation. “We saw this as a very viable business, not only locally but nationally and internationally, as there’s an unmet need for such lodging options.”
Much like Airbnb, BikerBuddy connects people with places to stay. But it distinguishes itself by offering lodging specifically for “bike-minded people.”
Upton residents Paul and Debbie Douglas conceived of the app. They launched the startup in October of 2017, along with partners Ginger Douglas and Brannon Frank.
Paul and Debbie have long been fans of off-road riding. They started the Inyan Kara Enduro in Upton and organized the popular event for 21 years as part of the Rocky Mountain Enduro Circuit. The couple has also been involved in the National KTM Adventure Rider Rally for several years, and were key contributors to the event held in the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota. They’ve met riders from all over the country this way.
Over the last 5 years, Paul and Debbie traveled extensively by motorcycle through the U.S. Based on their experiences, they came up with the app idea as a way to connect fellow enthusiasts and improve the overall riding experience. BikerBuddy differentiates itself by tapping into the existing camaraderie among riders.
Anyone traveling on two wheels can use the app, from off highway riders to motorcyclists and even bicyclists. Hosts offer up tent space, a camper, spare room or a whole house for rent. Travelers pay a reasonable flat rate depending on the type of lodging — $20 for a campsite, $30 for a camper, $40 for a room and $100 for a house.
The app helps people budget for a trip, since lodging prices can vary widely. “We like to wing it as far as lodging goes. Sometimes that works well and sometimes it doesn’t work at all,” explains Paul, noting that they’ve been stuck having to pay $200 for a brief motel stay when there were no other options.
Hosts are often riders themselves, so it’s a great way to connect with a community of riders while traveling. There’s an unspoken encouragement for hosts to offer advice and knowledge about routes they frequent. Paul says many hosts participate as a way of giving back to the community.
This community support can be valuable for breakdowns too. “Luckily, Paul is well organized and prepared,” Debbie says. “But once we were stuck in Montana and had to rent a U-Haul to bring our bikes home.” If they had known about the network riders in the area, with access to a repair shop or parts, they may have been able to fix the issue and get back on the road.
The USDA Business Development Grant is highly competitive, according to Bumgarner. The entire state of Wyoming typically receives $100,000 in funds for a given year. PRECorp successfully got $50,000 earmarked to help grow BikerBuddy.
The grant start date was June 19, 2018. PRECorp and BikerBuddy will have a year to complete the project approved under the grant, and expend the funds on services outlined in the project’s scope of work. This includes: refinement of marketing designs, legal services and further development of the app and website functionality.
Currently, users can rate their host using a five-star rating system. One of the planned upgrades will be to add a feature where hosts can also rate users. The two-way rating system will help ensure a better experience for everyone. Plans are also in place for website updates and to hire a professional marketing company to help grow the user and host base.
Hosts are located throughout the United States, including several in northeast Wyoming, which helps draw tourism. “It’s exciting to see the nucleus of the business starting in Upton and working outwards,” says Bumgarner.
BikerBuddy has 128 hosts and 385 users so far. They’re working to build a national network of U.S. hosts and the app was recently released in Canada as well.
Debbie notes that the company is thankful for the local support and is excited about the enhancements made possible by the grant. “Right now, we’re still working our day jobs. But people have been supportive and that really helped push us along.”
The app is free to download from: http://www.bikerbuddy.co