Bublr Bikes’ first-ever fundraiser on Thursday brought in $100,000 for the Milwaukee nonprofit bikesharing program as it looks to expand to more neighborhoods over the next year.
Since launching in 2013 with one dock at Discovery World on the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee, Bublr Bikes has grown to include 87 stations in the Greater Milwaukee area. The program plans to add another 29 stations through 2019.
Bublr Bikes board member Juli Kaufmann, who announced a $25,000 gift to the organization on behalf of her company, Fix Development, said she hopes the fundraiser builds momentum as the five-year-old program continues to seek a title sponsor.
“We’ve been on a really big growth trajectory and now we’re starting to get to a point of stabilizing the operations,” Kaufmann said. “And we’re trying to convey the point that we need support. We’re growing sponsorships, but underwriting still matters.“
In addition to the $25,000 gift, Kaufmann said Fix Development, along with businesses in Riverwest, will bring a station to the neighborhood, likely somewhere near North Holton and East Center streets.
Mandel Group Inc. and Astor Street Foundation Inc., both of which helped launch Bublr Bikes with six-figure gifts, each pledged an additional $25,000 on Thursday.
“For us, Bublr Bikes are a part of the city’s infrastructure,” said Bob Monnat, chief operating officer at Mandel Group. “We have a lot of money invested in Milwaukee. We have a lot of people that live in the city and developments that we’ve built and Bublr is a very natural extension of the lifestyle we hope to offer.”
Donations from others in attendance at the event, hosted at La Lune Collection in Riverwest, also amounted to more than $25,000.
Monnat and Lynde Uihlein of the Astor Street Foundation were honored with awards Thursday for their support of the program.
Monnat stressed the importance of community and business support for the nonprofit program, as it could soon face competition from LimeBike, a dockless bikeshare and scootershare startup based in San Francisco that is evaluating a launch in Milwaukee.
“Bublr operates on a very thin margin, to say the least,” he said. “There is no huge endowment. There are no reserves. It is break-even budgeting all the way along. The system really needs your support.”