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Old 06-03-2008, 08:57 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Ideas For Motorcycle Related Business

Looking for any ideas members might have for starting/buying a motorcycle related business. After 25+ years in manufacturing management I'm tired of "working for the man" and desire to do something different that utilizes my manufacturing experience, my desire to own my own business and my passion for motorcycling.

I'm sure I can count on many attempts to be humorous with this request, but hopefully any idea might lead me to something to pursue.

I'm not interested nor could I afford a harley dealership (especially given the current state of the market) but thinking along the lines of machining, manufacturing, etc. Any ideas you might have would be appreciated.

Not sure if this request is in the correct forum but thought I would give it a try here.

Thanks in advance for your ideas.
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:04 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Are you stuck on staying in Florida?
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:21 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Not stuck in Florida
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Old 06-03-2008, 05:21 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Check Alloyboltz. They were for sale a couple years ago. Still may be.
www.alloyboltz.com
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Old 06-04-2008, 12:11 AM   #5 (permalink)
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If I were to start a business related to motorcycles, would start a riding tour company, taking randoms out on long trips. Not sure you could make a living doing this, but would be fun to do. I love the open road, have done a number of multi week trips, planning them out to find great roads to ride and sights to see.
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Old 06-04-2008, 01:09 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm no expert on this, but I will share what I have done.

Last year I started a motorcycle training course out here in Los Angeles, CA. Not the MSF. No I wanted something different. For the longest time I wanted to teach what I learned, enforcement style riding. Then I found out about Ride Like A Pro. So I met Jerry Palladino and started Ride Like A Pro West Coast.

The first year was slow, just trying to make a name for myself. I never ran a business before, so it was all seat of the pants so to speak. I started my own website: www.ridelikeaprowestcoast.com, and registered my user domain name. This year I added training bikes. Not the small 125-250s the MSF uses, but full size 1000cc police bikes, the kind I learned on. Business is picking up slowly. Folks who take the course love it and say it's pure fun. They love learning on my bikes and not having to risk dropping theirs. They love the challenge, and I love teaching it. My big thing now is exposure. So I try to get in on dealer open houses, HOG meetings, and other rider groups. Last Sunday I did an open house at LA Harley. I only sold one DVD, but people were lining up to learn how to pick up an Ultra. I must have done that bike pick up demo a half a dozen times. After I did my short demo ride of full lock turns and figure 8s, folks came over took brochures, and showed interest in learning how to ride that way. Next week I will have a table at another dealership. I try to take care of the customers and offer incentives like group rates, and letting riders retake the course again at no charge.

In addition to needing to work on better promotion and exposure, I was also unprepared for the riders who "know how to ride". Meaning that whenever I tell folks I run a motorcycle course, a lot of them assume it to be the same as the MSF they took years ago. Same with the riders who say "Oh, I already know how to ride". Once I hear that I figure their head is closed to more learning. They have no idea that what I teach is different than what they learned in the BRC. Sadly a lot of them are the same folks that drag their feet in parking lots and walk the dog in traffic, and then spend $400 in chrome and clothing.

I was also unprepared for all the requests from a lot of riding groups asking me to travel to their state to hold the course. Sadly they are put off when I explain that the logistic and insurance challange to that would make the trip too costly for them. On the other hand I can write off just about everything motorcycle related. Gas, service, repairs, maintenence, parts, clothing, and accessories. My yearly ride with my buddy is now a "promotional tour". I'm loving that!

One thing I did start unexpectedly was my own version of the "Fly n Ride" program. The addition of training bikes brought forth several riders who wanted to fly in and take the course, and leave that same day. Since my house, the parking lot range, and the airport are all within 2 miles, I now pick up riders on the way to range, and take them back later that day.

My advice, in my limited history of doing this, is to find a niche. Jerry Palladino sells the RLAP DVDs, so I know I can't compete with him on that. While I do sell the DVDs, my primary focus are the training courses. So I work to make them unique and fun. In the motorcycle realm sometimes we see many versions of the same product repackaged and sold under a different lable. Try to come up with something different.

Good luck!
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Old 06-04-2008, 06:05 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I guess you could start by machining a part or two for your own bike...see if you could do it for a reasonable cost to mfg, see if there is a need/want for it in the marketplace...

Possibly a part that could be powdercoated vs chromed...may be easier for you - you could probably bake it in a reg kitchen sized oven...

I could not tell you what that part or parts may be....but if you like the process of designing and machining it, then you could give it a whirl...

eBay is always a good place to get exposure, forums such as these, swap meets, etc...

Internet is a good way of doing biz these days - minimal investment to have your own web page. Shipping is a breeze online...

Good luck - follow your dreams!
Pat
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Old 06-04-2008, 06:50 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I can't tell you what might work for you, but I can tell you what worked for me. I'll speak in pretty general terms, since my particular area of expertise isn't really close to motorcycles - I sell electronic kits to ham radio operators.

I have a sideline business that started a few years ago. I basically saw that pretty much all of the things currently on the market for something I was looking for were either way overpriced, or crappy, or both. I knew I could do it better, so I did. Others wanted the same thing, so I started selling them. That led to people asking for other stuff, some of which sounded to me like they would sell well... so I added new products.

I have a web site that costs a negligible amount of money because I can do all of the work myself. The shopping cart software is free. A merchant credit card account is surprisingly cheap & easy, though about half the people pay with PayPal anyway. I'm not really trying to advertise, and I get about as much business as I can comfortably handle as a sideline... it could never replace my full time job. I do have some motorcycle related items I could manufacture & sell pretty easily, I just don't want to deal with a support issues associated with a non-technical customer base trying to install highly technical gear. I have a couple of gadgets on my bike that work quite well, and could be sold for less than competing products and still be quite profitable, but I doubt it would be worth the extra hassle.

My point is, look for that intersection of what you know well, and what you love to do. In your case the "what you love to do" is motorcycles; you just have to look for where your skill set & experience can apply to riding (or building, or showing, or whatever).
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Old 06-04-2008, 07:27 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I'd say why you still have your current job look for something you have experience in. You are in manufacturing, like motorcycles etc....look into starting a consultant business on manufacturing for motorcycle/atv parts. Cheapest way is to get a website and start advertising your business, that way while you still have a job in manufacturing you start a part time job as a manufacturing consultant. You would get a chance to see all different types of business. Find one where you think/know you could do a better job at it and interests you.

Look at other websites for what you want to do. If you cannot find them maybe not a market or something nobody is doing. then start calling around and see if there is a market. Botkin had a VERY good point. Once you start making and selling something your self, alot of time will be spent on support. Let someone else make it, you just tell them how to do it better, cheaper, less steps in manufacturing process etc.....
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Old 06-04-2008, 04:15 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Talking Ideas

I was looking on ownership of a dealership but at my age did i realy want to be stuck running a buisness.Money and investors lined up but i nixed the idea!!Motorcyclist are like fisherman going to spend money on the latest gimmick,i got a few ideas but there developmental but good luck one thing share the gain and profits in other words dont risk all your own money.See all the new bikes out there price of gas?Think about it!!!!!!
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Old 06-05-2008, 11:08 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Look for what people on cycles want but can't find. Maybe a new tool to do a hard job in a easier way. How about a way to improve something that almost works. Like all the useless cup/drink holders.
Let your mind flow and you'll think of a better mouse trap. Reach down there, grasp them and go for it. If doesn't work, oh well, you tried. I spent 5 yrs trying and had to quit, but it was fun while it lasted. No guts, no glory.
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Old 06-05-2008, 02:09 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Design an analog oil temp dipstick for baggers. I've heard many complaints on the HD digital one (the reason I never bought one). I'm bettin' it'd be a home-run.

I'd only require an minimal residual if it works out for ya...
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Old 06-05-2008, 05:41 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Here is an idea...
On all these motorcycle forums, there are always a select group of small companies that make a few really great products. The forum members have tested them and recommend these products from the smaller companies. Some of these companies are just a guy making parts in his spare time. Some are larger with a handful of employees.

Do these small, forum supported companies make enough to sustain a living? I don't know. But there is enough reward (monetary / spiritual) in it for these people to continue to do it.

What if .....

There was an outlet for all these small companies that promoted these great, user recommended products. Help the end customer to find out about them, keep only the best of the best products.

You could resell these products, cut a deal and make them a supplier - what ever.

As a customer, I don't know what is out there. I may have a problem and don't know what kind of wonderful solution is already developed. I discover these products / services by reading the forums. But.. how many am I missing? What about the other non-vtwinforum.com sites? Do they have great products that we are missing here cause the owner of the company doesn't post here? Web searching for a solution brings up a ton of results and duplicates. I don't know whats good or not.

HD worked to solve this problem by making sure that all solutions / accessories they provide are of a certain quality level. As a buyer, you have a certain expectation of the quality of the product including documentation, support etc. With the various other aftermarket vendors - esp the smaller ones - they may have a great product, but how can I find out about it? Does it live up to the hype?

I think a service like this would be good to have.

How would it be offered? How would the products be included in your catalog? I dunno - thats your problem to figure out
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Old 06-05-2008, 06:33 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Do what makes you happy, I don't care if it's washing & waxing bikes, making custom parts or what ever....
If you want to succeed in buisness you need to think like a buisnessman. Not that you don't, but as an electrician I know a LOT of guys that are great electricians, but lousey buisnessmen.
To be succesful you either need to set yourself apart from the competition (hard to do just starting out) or cater to the NEEDS not the wants of bikers. Everybody want's.... What do people need.



My .02.............Dave
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Old 06-05-2008, 07:34 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Storage? Export?

What about storage for the off season?
How about a specialized storage lot for bikes?
I guess it would depend on how much property you own or have available.

Become an export broker.
You could go around buying up salvage and/or repo bikes.
There are a bunch of outfits here that import salvage and or repo bikes, legalize them and sell them here. A branded title here really does not affect the value.

If the economy is going to be in a downturn like everyone says, there might be a bunch more repo bikes on the market.

Just thinking.

Ride Safe,
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