Alison Green has always been interested in cycling since childhood.
Growing up in France, she was surrounded by a community of bikers, with both parents riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
When she moved to Malaysia for a job in 2015, she joined the Ladies of Harley Malaysia community and made contact with other riders there.
As an entrepreneur, she has made several attempts in a sideline business while devoting herself to her corporate job.
But a self-limiting belief in her skills and fear of financial uncertainty were some of the things that kept her from becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur.
In 2019, her job loss came as a blessing in disguise.
She was then able to use her business skills and passion to influence others positively and start FreeW.
For women, by women
Alison's free spirited nature has taken her on many off-road motorcycle tours in the Himalayas, both in India and Nepal.
There she was inspired by the people who faced daily adversity and yet could greet her with a smile.
After losing her job in 2019, she returned to Nepal and presented her business idea to the same people who had done the Himalayan tours.
The idea? Create a community of female tour guides to teach other local women how to ride a motorcycle.
Some tours Alison did in Malaysia / Image Credit: FreeW
They would also drive around the country together and learn about the lifestyle from urban communities.
If a participant wants to ride on the tour but doesn't ride their own bike, they can just get on someone else's bike and enjoy the ride too.
“They looked at me in awe and said that there is no such thing in Nepal. This is how it all started: why not? "Alison remembered Vulcan Post.
FreeW is essentially a tourism company offering off-road motorcycle tours of various cities in Malaysia, India, Myanmar and Nepal.
Alison also runs motorcycle riding courses (specifically motocross) in Malaysia for other women interested in learning.
But it doesn't let borders stop it.
The company acts as a platform for delivering these offers using the local drivers in each country.
Because of her worldwide connections, she has appointed several tour guides in each country to run the workshops and tours.
Is it safe at all?
In order to ride a motorcycle in Malaysia, one must have a driver's license.
Hence, I was curious about the legal issues in teaching non-experienced and unlicensed motorcyclists to learn and ride a bike across the country.
Alison assured that her lessons take place on off-road tracks – motocross – so there are no license requirements.
She shared that most of them attend her workshops for several reasons:
- Improving their self-confidence and driving skills, even if they have a driver's license;
- Preparation for your license through additional one-on-one training;
- Just have fun.
Classes take place on site / Photo credit: FreeW
For people who take part in tours and want to drive or rent a motorcycle themselves, a corresponding motorcycle license is required.
But what if someone gets hurt? Is FreeW responsible for providing tourism insurance?
"I am currently running the tours myself and have both my motorcycle insurance and personal civil insurance," she said.
"That would be a requirement for all drivers who take passengers on tours."
For activities such as motorcycling, where a participant is a driver, they must have personal insurance and sign a disclaimer before they can participate in the activities.
U-turn from the pandemic
Alison and her attendees / Photo Credit: FreeW
Since her business started amid a global pandemic, she has only had a total of 15 Malaysian clients taking her courses during the RMCO.
Travel restrictions have also resulted in FreeW canceling all previously scheduled tours.
“My entire FreeW business model is based on human interactions and connections, so it's possible to do this online, but certainly less effective,” she said.
"It's like turning over a business that has just started."
But she is optimistic about the detour COVID-19 has made.
She is currently doing video call interviews with fellow riders about what riding a motorcycle means to them.
Alison also uses this as an opportunity to validate her business model and examine her target market for what the company might want to see.
"It's an interesting journey and there might be opportunities and revenue streams that I planned out later, but it might make sense to take them earlier instead," she said.
To hold her own, Alison is currently working part-time as a management consultant for the social enterprise Fugeelah.
- You can find out more about FreeW here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups here.
Selected image source: Alison Grün, founder and CEO of FreeW