Alison Grün has always been into biking since childhood.
Growing up in France, she was surrounded by a community of bikers, with both parents riding Harley-Davidson motorbikes.
When she moved to Malaysia in 2015 for a job, she joined the Ladies of Harley Malaysia community and connected with other women riders there.
An entrepreneur at heart, she’s tried multiple attempts at a side business while committed to her corporate job.
But a self-limiting belief in her capabilities and a fear of financial uncertainty were some of the things holding her back from becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur.
In 2019, her job loss came as a blessing in disguise.
She was then able to take her business skills and passion for creating a positive impact on others to start FreeW.
For Women, By Women
Alison’s free spirited nature has taken her on many off-road motorbike tours in the Himalayas, both in India and Nepal.
There, she was inspired by the people who faced daily adversities yet could still welcome her with a smile.
After losing her job in 2019, she returned to Nepal and pitched her business idea to the same people who’d conducted the Himalayan tours.
The idea? Create a community of women tour guides to teach other local women how to ride motorbikes.
They would also ride around the country together and learn about lifestyles from urban communities.
If a participant wants to tag along on the tour but not ride their own individual bike though, they could simply hop on to someone else’s motorbike and enjoy the ride too.
“They looked at me in awe, saying there was no such thing in Nepal. That’s how it all started: why not?” Alison recalled to Vulcan Post.
FreeW is essentially a tourism company providing off-road motorbike tours around different cities in Malaysia, India, Myanmar, and Nepal.
Alison also conducts the motorbike-riding classes (motocross, specifically) in Malaysia to other women interested to learn.
But she’s not letting borders stop her.
The business acts as a platform to provide these offerings by leveraging on each country’s locally based women riders.
Because of her connections around the world, she’s appointed a few tour leads in each country to conduct the workshops and tours.
Is This Even Safe?
To ride a motorbike in Malaysia, one needs to have a license.
Hence, I was curious about the legal issues in teaching non-experienced and non-licensed motorbikers to learn and bike around the country.
Alison assured that her classes take place on off-road tracks—thus, motocross—so there’s no license requirements.
She shared that most attend her workshops for a few reasons:
- To improve their self-confidence and riding skills even if they have a license;
- To prepare for their license by getting additional one-on-one training;
- To simply have fun.
For people who want to take part in tours and ride or rent a motorbike themselves, a proper motorbike license is required.
But what if someone gets hurt? Is FreeW responsible for providing some form of tourism insurance?
“I currently run the tours myself and have both insurances for my motorbike and personal civil insurance,” she said.
“That would be a requirement for all riders taking passengers on tours.”
For activities like motorbiking where a participant is a rider, they’ll need to have personal insurance and sign a disclaimer before joining the activities.
U-Turning From The Pandemic
Because her business started in the midst of a global pandemic, she’s only had a total of 15 Malaysian customers who’ve attended her classes during the RMCO.
Travel restrictions have also caused FreeW to cancel all previously planned tours.
“My whole business model of FreeW is based on human interactions and connections, so doing them online is possible, but certainly less impactful,” she said.
“It’s like turning around a business that has barely started.”
But she’s optimistic about the detour COVID-19 has brought her on.
For now, she’s been conducting video call interviews with other women riders on what motorbiking means to them.
Alison’s also taking this as an opportunity to validate her business model and surveying her target market on what they might want to see offered by the company.
“It’s an interesting journey and there might be opportunities and revenue streams that I had planned for later but might make sense to implement earlier instead,” she said.
For now, to sustain herself though, Alison currently works part-time as a business consultant for the social enterprise, Fugeelah.
- You can learn more about FreeW here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Alison Grün, founder and CEO of FreeW
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