Three Humboldt State University students, two of whom grew up in Southern Humboldt, were recently featured in Forbes Magazine
's 30 Under 30 list
for their entrepreneurial success in the manufacturing and industry sector.
Mike Radenbaugh, Tyler Collins and Marimar White-Espin cofounded Rad Power Bikes, an electric bike company headquartered in Seattle. The design for the bikes began in 2007 when Radenbaugh, then a student at Southfork High School, was struggling to get to class.
"It was pretty much out of necessity," said Collins. "The school bus didn’t go out to where he lived and the car was always breaking down. He pretty much taught himself everything he needed to know about electric bikes and started making them."
Collins, who grew up in Piercy, had known Radenbaugh since kindergarten; the two became roommates by chance at HSU. They and White-Espin became friends and began making electric bikes as a "passion project" as they finished their degrees, seizing every excuse to redirect class assignments into the bikes. They continued work on the bikes after graduating and going their separate ways, with Collins, a journalism major, working briefly in public relations in San Francisco.
In late 2014, the trio decided to transition from making custom bikes as a side job into embracing the work as a full-time career. They set up a production line and began manufacturing four different kinds of bikes, building what Collins calls a "sizable customer base."
A few months ago they were contacted by Forbes Magazine
with the news they had made the first round of judging for the list of what Forbes
calls the "brightest young entrepreneurs, innovators and game changers." They didn't hear anything else for several weeks but on Jan. 3 the news came in: They had made it.
"After hitting refresh on the page for the 5,000th time, we found out with the rest of the world," said Collins. There may have been some jumping up and down.
Collins said it was a "pretty big moment" and that the list was "a pretty good club to be in," but most of all they hope their story can inspire other young people, especially in Southern Humboldt.
"That’s one of the big things we were trying to get out of being named to this list, is some positive influence to the youth," said Collins.
Editor's Note: This article has corrected to reflect the information that Collins and Radenbaugh have known each other since childhood.