Welcome to 1×10, where we ask 1 inspiring human 10 questions about how they are using cycling as a force for good. Read on to meet Maria Boustead, Founder, Owner, and Product Designer of Po Campo bike bags, redefining the style and functionality of bike bags for every day use! My friend Andrea Learned recommended I interview Maria and after learning more about their commitment to sustainability and support of efforts like World Bicycle Relief, I couldn’t have agreed more! Read more to learn about Maria’s most memorable ride, her favorite bike, how she’s building a better world through Po Campo (insta), and more in her 1×10 interview. Photo by Shelly Waldman
1. How / why did you fall in love with cycling?
I started biking regularly at university, because, well, everyone did. I loved the social aspect of it – riding to class or to parties with friends, as well as the feeling of adventure it gave me. A good way to spend a lazy Saturday was trying to figure out a bike route to a new part of town, and see what I could discover. This was in the mid- 90’s, i.e. pre Google Maps!
2. Favorite Bike (that you own or covet)?
My current bike is a Soma Buena Vista Mixte and it is my favorite ever. When I was just starting Po Campo, circa 2009 / 2010, I was spending a lot of time in the local Chicago bike shops, trying to get the bike guys to carry my line. At one shop, On the Route Bikes, I was chatting with Paul, the store manager, about how I was riding my Miyata road bike less and less because of a pinched nerve in my neck. I wanted to switch to something more upright but hadn’t pulled the trigger yet because I didn’t want to lose the architectural quality of a diamond frame (it’s the designer in me!). He said, “Ooh, I know just the frame for you,” and showed me the Soma Buena Vista. I was smitten; it reminded me of a cantilever bridge. It was the first (and only) time I had a bike custom made for me and as soon as I rode it, I knew we would be inseparable.
“I was smitten; it reminded me of a cantilever bridge.”
3. What’s the most memorable ride you’ve done, and what happened?
At one point, a roommate and I were in between jobs, and I suggested that we bike around Germany. Always up for an adventure, she readily agreed. A lot of memorable things happened on this six-week trip, but I often remember the first day, riding out of Frankfurt, and trying to make our way to a bike path that would take us north to our first day’s goal. My friend, Anna, was riding ahead of me and as we twisted and turned through Frankfurt traffic, she yelled over her shoulder, “This is kind of crazy, isn’t it?”. And I remember thinking, “Yes, yes it is.”
“…she yelled over her shoulder, “This is kind of crazy, isn’t it?”. And I remember thinking, “Yes, yes it is.”
4. Who do you admire in the cycling world?
In the cycling world, there is a general idea of who a true “cyclist” is: a white guy in his 30s or maybe 40s, very lean, who wears a kit and bikes competitively or at least aspires to. Bicycling Magazine usually has this guy on its cover.
Yet this profile doesn’t reflect me or most of the people I know – or at least see – biking. It really feels like a big disconnect! Part of Po Campo’s purpose is to better represent the diversity of the people who use our products, and I likewise admire people who are working to change this image of a true cyclist to be more inclusive and reflective of the people who bike. This includes Ayesha McGowan and her #RepresentationMatters platform, Joan Denizot who founded Zize Bikes to make bikes for fat people, Don DiCostanzo of Pedego Bikes who proudly markets to older cyclists, and WTF Bike Explorers, among others.
“Part of Po Campo’s purpose is to better represent the diversity of the people who use our products, and I likewise admire people who are working to change this image of a true cyclist to be more inclusive and reflective of the people who bike.”
5. Top tip for a new rider, or a cyclist about to take on a new challenge?
I think these are yoga-isms but I find them applicable anyway: It’s a practice, not a perfect, and it’s good to do things that scare you.
6. Favorite trend or innovation in cycling?
E-Bikes! They are so much fun to ride and remove a lot of the barriers to biking for a lot of people – myself included. I recently moved and now my bike commute is 15 miles on hilly terrain. If the weather isn’t good, or if I’m not feeling motivated, it’s easy to find excuses not to ride. But with an e-bike, hills or heat or length is less of an issue.
“E-Bikes! They are so much fun to ride and remove a lot of the barriers to biking for a lot of people – myself included.”
7. What are you doing to use cycling as a force for good?
Biking is good for the environment, for your health, and for your wallet (generally speaking!). But what keeps me and our customers keep coming back are the feelings of freedom and strength that biking gives us. We want to capture moments of these feelings every day.
We recently did a survey with our customers, as over 80% said that their Po Campo bag made biking better and easier for them. That makes me feel very proud like we are doing meaningful work.
Moreover, I know one of the main reasons our customers bike is because it is good for the environment. This year, in honor of our 10th year in business, we started our Quest for Sustainability to figure out how we could best mirror that value in our product and our business. In addition to some operational changes, this spring we launched a new All-Weather, Sustainable collection that features bags made out of recycled water bottles. It’s a first but important step.
“Moreover, I know one of the main reasons our customers bike is because it is good for the environment.”
8. Thinking about the work you’re doing, what do you see as the potential change for people or the planet? If you are successful, what impact will you have?
Po Campo bags help you carry what you need on and off your bike, making it easier to figure how to take more trips by bike. I dream of looking out the window and seeing waaaay fewer cars and waaaay more active transportation, and in this dream, I see a Po Campo bag on or with just about every person.
“I dream of looking out the window and seeing waaaay fewer cars and waaaay more active transportation, and in this dream, I see a Po Campo bag on or with just about every person.”
9. What’s your biggest challenge/obstacle to success?
We definitely feel like we’re in the right place at the right time, and that we have the right product for the growing market of people who love to get around by bike. The biggest challenge is figuring out how to take advantage of the right opportunities with limited resources. I know it’s a challenge that most bootstrapped entrepreneurs face!
10. How can people help? Where can they learn more about your work?
Supporting our work is the best way to help us. This can be purchasing our products for yourself or others, or letting other people know about what we’re doing, or even telling us what we can be doing differently, or better. We like to think that we’re building these products and this business with our customers, not just for them.
“We like to think that we’re building these products and this business with our customers, not just for them.”
Maria Boustead is the Founder, Owner, and Product Designer of Po Campo, makers of beautiful, functional, and stylish bike bags! When she’s not working on her next design you can find her on her bike cruising for a coffee and for other signs of inspiration!
Edited by John Kim. When he’s not out for a ride, John uses his expertise in Corporate Social Responsibility to help companies do well by doing good. Find him at email@example.com or VirtCyc on twitter or instagram.