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UCSB grads donate to Unity Shoppe, make Oprah’s list of Favorite Things 2018

The Unity Shoppe retail store in downtown Santa Barbara got a special delivery from three UC Santa Barbara graduates this weekend.

Mark Gustafson, Jason Lam and Matt Soares founded Story Bikes, an electric bicycle company with an altruistic mission.

The guys hand delivered one of their bicycles to Tom Reed, the Executive Director of The Unity Shoppe, which provides food, clothing, job support and long-term disaster services to the local community.

The bike will be sold in the retail store and the money will be used to help those who need it most.

“As people donate to The Unity Shoppe and we turn that into dollars, we can help most vulnerable families in our county and that’s how the community can pull together,” Reed said.

Gustafson, whose parents are also longtime residents, said the Santa Barbara community helped the nascent company get started and he wants to return the favor.

“If it wasn’t for Santa Barbara, we wouldn’t be where we are today when we first started and with our crowdfunding campaign and grassroots efforts,” Gustafson said. “There’s probably more Story Bikes in Santa Barbara than any other city in the world for sure.”

The specially crafted electric bicycles recently got the attention of Montecito resident Oprah Winfrey. She put Story Bikes on her list of Favorite Things of 2018.

“Oprah picks just over 100 brands and her rule of thumb to be on the list is that she’d want to use it or own it herself. She only puts things on the list that she loves. So we are happy we made it,” Soares said.

The expose has not only been great for their brand, it has also helped their mission.

For every Story Bike sold, a Buffalo bike is donated to children in Zimbabwe, who are forced to walk for several hours each day just to get to school.

Lam and Soares just returned from a trip to Zimbabwe where they donated 120 bikes to a community near Victoria Falls, in coordination with the organization World Bicycle Relief.

The guys even rode along with some students on their first commute with their new sturdy bikes specifically designed for the roads in Africa.

“It was a great moment, when they got home and were able to have sunlight and do chores, but also be able to be a kid and have fun,” Lam said.

The Buffalo bike can hold up to 220 pounds, so families can transport water and haul produce and other goods on the weekends.

In addition to the sale of the electric bike, the Story Bikes Founders said they plan to donate a portion of the proceeds from sales on their website back to The Unity Shoppe. Buyers just have to type in the code: Unity.

To learn more about Story Bikes, click here.

To learn more about The Unity Shoppe, click here.

Article Topic Follows: News

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