Q&A: Matt Brammeier

On the Qhubeka Foudation, kit appeal and riding for a reason.

Last autumn Matt Brammeier made headlines launching his kit appeal. Six months later we thought it would be great to touch base with him to see how it was all going. Beyond the fact that of course, the appeal was massively successful, it really made us think: Matt is an example of how to harness a following, fans and colleagues, and take that profile to use it towards good. In an era where cycling is rife with unstable financial structure, fickle sponsors and folding teams, we think that everyone could take a cue from Matt: don’t just do as you are asked. Become involved. A passion for cycling can go so far beyond a race, and cycling as a global sport, activity, and culture, and the real growth in the engagement comes from right here, with Matt, and his drive on and off the bike. So with that we will leave you with this Q&A, on all that was behind, and of course, what’s coming next.

1. What inspired the kit appeal?  Where did the idea come from? I’d always had a vague idea to do something along these lines. I always tried my best to get a bag of my old & un-used kit back to England to my old cycling club where I started out, other times I’d just stick it in a charity bin in the street. I knew that was better than it sitting collecting dust, but I always thought it could have a better home. Last year at the tour of Luxembourg I shared a room with Adrien Niyonshuti. Adrien’s life story is nothing but inspirational. Anyway, he started to tell me about his academy and how he was helping the kids out back home. That was kind of a lightbulb moment for me to get my idea into motion. Later on in the year, towards the end of the season I was hobbling around the UK on crutches after my accident in the tour of Utah. It may sound strange, but I really was in a good place: when something like that happens to you it changes you. It was the second bad accident I’d had in my life after being hit by a cement truck back in 2007. Both times I came pretty close to the end but it seemed to bring me back to life, it really made me appreciate what I had: the amazing friends, family and team mates bustling around me to help me out. I was enjoying life, loving my time with the team and was generally just in a good place mentally. It was there and then, sat on a wall 500 meters from home resting my battered body that I decided to go all in and kick this thing off. I sent a few mails, messages and made some calls, contacted Adrien, Jock & Kimberley (Team Rwanda), and the Rwandan Federation and that was it, I was committed to make this thing happen. 

2. And the coffee?  Tell us a bit more about that. We were lucky enough to secure a shipping partner recently, after a few phone calls and a bit of flattery to an old friend at Anpost.  I managed to get the guys from Air-business to commit to shipping all of our collected kit out to Rwanda. All that was left now to the costs of the import duties and taxes. I was racking my brains to think of a way to generate a bit of cash. This is where the coffee idea came from, of course I’m a bit of a coffee fanatic and have a few contacts in the industry so it didn’t really take too long for us to get that set up and selling in a few friendly shops around Europe. It worked out pretty well and we managed to quickly raise enough cash to get all of the collected kit to Rwanda.

3.  Tell us about the team: what is it like to have such a large charity angle involved with the team? It’s pretty cool to be able to give a little bit back with minimal effort, without changing much we have shifted from just promoting a brand or product to promoting a real cause that really does change people lives. It feels good and adds such a refreshing angle to day to day life on a bike. When I first started talking with the team it was immediately apparent how much the Qhubeka cause meant to the team. It wasn’t just a logo on a jersey. It was so much more. The whole ethos of the team is focused around this amazing charity, the way Doug & Brian built the team, the staff, the riders, they were / are all carefully selected characters, not only judged on there talent but also on their personalities and how they fitted into the feeling & vibe of the team. It makes me proud every day to pull on this jersey & long may it continue. 

4. How does Qhubeka tie in with what you guys do every day? A percentage of our prize money every year goes straight to Qhubeka and we all push our social media as much as possible to give Qhubeka exposure, using our minimal fame and following to promote the cause has become a day to day routine for all of the guys at the team. Our sponsors Dimension Data & Deloitte have had an unbelievable impact so far, most recently Deloitte athletes raised more than $130k for Qhubeka, amazing if you ask me! I do believe however we as riders, can always do more. On a personal level I have a few ideas up my sleeve that hopefully will come into fruition some time in the near future. 

5. How do you think your team can set an example for other teams to activate charity drives and charity partners? Its amazing what Doug has done with this team, not only getting it to such a level in such a short lifetime but how he has incorporated Qhubeka every step of the way and used the teams growth to add to the growth of Qhubeka and its initiative. For sure he has set the bench mark for the rest of the peloton to use there popularity and fan base to make the world a better place. 

6. We know you’ve been to South Africa and visited Qhubeka partners/recipients: have you been to Rwanda?   My trip out to the bike handover last year in South Africa was awesome.  It’s one thing reading about the impact we are having and being relayed info second hand, but to be there personally seeing excel what we are putting our energy into was pretty awe-inspiring and eyeopening, even making me want to do more and more to help. I’ve not yet ventured out to Rwanda, but Adrien’s talking me into it every time I see him. It would be awesome to have a trip out there one day to meet some of the kids face to face, and of course Team Rwanda, so I guess I should stop beating around the bush and put that on my to do list. 

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7. What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve come across during the appeal? I must admit, after those phone calls and emails sat on that wall that day I kind of went in a bit deep without doing enough research and getting firm enough commitments. Collecting the kit was easy, actually too easy, we had to halt the appeal early because we received too much kit. The biggest challenge was the logistics of it all and getting everything centrally located and of course shipped to Africa. I was lucky enough to find some help from someone I met online after setting up the appeal. Regardt Botes, a South African dude with an incredibly big heart was a life saver and at the time my saviour. I was in too deep and he helped me organise a few things and gets things smoothed out pretty quickly. As I mentioned earlier we were lucky enough to be introduced to Air-business so the problem of shipping disappeared over night, those guys are heroes!

8. And lastly, what’s up next? We are already in full swing getting organised for the next appeal, hopefully we will be a lot more organised this year and things will run a lot smoother. Also, no more coffee, we have another group of heroes getting involved thats going to make a pretty amazing impact to our appeal. Hopefully it will be ironed out pretty soon so we can make an announcement regarding that!

Watch this space.

We agree: watch this space. We can’t wait to see what’s happening next!

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