Women in motorcycling

Genevieve Schmitt
Contributing Editor

Editor’s Note: In our occasional series on women in motorcycling, we profile four women who either own or co-own an aftermarket company. They each provide valuable insight into their segment of the market and the aftermarket in general.

Beth Veach
Beth is co-owner of Cruiserworks, along with her husband, Allen, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company sells six styles of waterproof boots for men, and three styles for women. Recently, they created another division of their company called Cool Rider to market and sell high performance apparel including CoolMax socks and power wicking T-shirts. The idea for the waterproof boots was born out of their own frustration of not finding a boot that was waterproof and also comfortable. Formerly an investment broker, Beth quit her job to start Cruiserworks with Allen. They sold their first boot in 1999. The company employs six full-time employees and has nine sales representatives that sell to dealers. Cruiserworks sells to dealers and direct to the public. The products are also available in the Dennis Kirk catalog.

PSB: What is your biggest challenge?
Veach: For Cruiserworks it’s the challenge of growth. We’re growing really fast. Once we determined we were going to make it and have met with some success, the question becomes one of managing growth, and by that I mean in growing the different channels of distribution as well as the different products we sell.

PSB: What is Cruiserworks biggest accomplishment?
Veach: Our biggest accomplishment has been meeting the goal we had of building a boot that is truly waterproof, not water resistant, and is comfortable enough to walk in all day.

PSB: What do you like about working in this industry?
Veach: It’s a very energizing career for me. For one thing, I’ve just been amazed at how many customers take the time to sit down and write us an email or an actual hand written letter or pick up the phone just to say thank you. Secondly, this is a very healthy industry and there are people who really care about seeing that that health continues. The last two years have been evidence of that. The OEMs have really looked at the demographics of people riding and have made sure we have new and exciting products to transition to as we age. And I think that’s been in larger measure the reason for the continued health of the industry during a pretty rough two years in the economy.

PSB: What trends do you see developing in your particular segment of the market?
Veach: For Cruiserworks, it’s going to continue to be one of listening to our customers and developing product that will truly fill a need. Leather is going to continue to be the material of choice because of the high abrasion properties. I also see with the growth of the female market that women are giving credibility to having a high tech boot on rather than wearing something just for fashion.

PSB: Any thoughts on Cruiserworks’ relationship with its dealers, or dealers in general?
Veach: I think the industry as a whole is seeing either a return to or a renewed importance put on relationship building. One of the things we hear from dealers is that it’s great to call a company, talk about a product, place orders and be able to make suggestions. We certainly hope our dealers will continue to give us feedback about what they’re hearing from our customers. psb

Barbara Baker
Barbara is the co-owner of Baker Built in Ohio City, Ohio, a company that manufacturers air wings, which are air deflectors for motorcycles. Barbara, a former organ and piano teacher, and her husband, Bruce, have been selling the product since 1983. Bruce, a welder and custom metal fabricator, came up with the idea when he and Barbara went on a motorcycle ride and were disappointed with the amount of heat coming from the engine. They have between 400 to 500 dealers and sell direct to the public online as well as by telephone. The company employs 15 people.

PSB: What is your biggest challenge?
Baker: Staying up on new products that the public wants us to build. We’ve stayed with the air deflector idea all along although we’ve been asked to develop and manufacture other products for other bikes. We have chosen not to do that. We specialize in that one field.

PSB: What is Baker Built’s biggest accomplishment?
Baker: We have always built our business on what we consider Christian principles; do unto others as you’d have others do unto you. So we treat customers the way we’d like to be treated if we were standing on the opposite side of the counter. We’ve always stressed excellent quality, and as a result we’ve had good customer referrals. Overall that has been the key thing that has kept us ahead in the market.

PSB: What do you like about working in this industry?
Baker: It has been an enjoyable portion of our lives. Bruce and I have traveled together for 22 years with motorcycle accessories. I think it’s a rare treat that a husband wife can live together, work together, and play together 24 hours seven days a week. We realize we’ve had an unusual blessing. We also have met some absolutely marvelous people.


PSB: What trends do you see developing in your particular segment of the market?
Baker: I don’t see anything that we’re going to do differently other than seeing what new bikes come out and see what the public is requesting.

PSB: Any thoughts on Baker Built’s relationship with its dealers, or dealers in general?
Baker: Some of our dealers have said we are considerate of them and their needs. If they have any problems with the product, we’re very good and very quick to make those adjustments for the dealer. We’re very good with customer service and attention to detail and attention to quality. psb

Tara Para
Tara is the co-owner, along with her husband, Kevin, of QTM Inc., the exclusive distributor of Brembo brake systems for the American cruiser motorcycle market in North America. Tara came up with the idea to create the company while working in Brembo’s North American office in the communications department. She was tending to the company’s booth at the powersports dealer show in Indianapolis in 1999 and said dealers kept asking her when Brembo was going to make brakes for Harley. She said that’s when the light bulb went off. The business was started in 2000 and products are sold to dealers as well as direct to the public. They are also distributed by Drag Specialties.

PSB: What is your biggest challenge?
Para: Our biggest challenge is always getting people to know the Brembo name and the quality level that it is. The Harley market has been dominated for so long by some well-known names that make brakes and that have been doing well in the industry. Our biggest challenge is getting people to realize that we’re just not a company that decided to buy a CNC machine and make brakes. We take the best brakes in the world and make them to fit a Harley.

PSB: What is QTM’s biggest accomplishment?
Para: Our biggest accomplishment is our growing presence on the OEM level. There area lot of bike builders out there other than Harley-Davidson that build bikes, 50, 100, 700 a month, and our growing presence there has really been one of the keys to the growth of our business as well as more name recognition. Because they have to deal with warranty issues, to get into them is tough. Once you’re in there and have proven you’re not a warranty problem for them, it seems to be pretty basic to maintain the business. We currently work with West Coast Choppers, Vengeance Motorcycles, Boss Hoss and starting with Big Dog for its 2005 models, we’ll supply discs.

PSB: What do you like about working in this industry?
Para: I love working in this industry. I’m a gearhead. The people are great. Most are so fun to work with. When you go to shows, the loyalty of the people who run our product is just incredible. From a camaraderie and a customer loyalty standpoint, I think this industry is really hard to beat.

PSB: What trends do you see developing in your particular segment of the market?
Para: The trend is definitely to go with full floating rotors as opposed to one-piece rotors. As OEMs deal with returns from warping and other problems we’re seeing bike builders that were running one-piece solid rotors going to a full floating set up. For the highest performance, the trend is probably going to multi-pad calipers, which means we’ve now got a four-piston four-pad caliper as opposed to four pistons and two pads.

PSB: Any thoughts on QTM’s relationship with its dealers, or dealers in general?
Para: The only thing I think could be improved is if a dealer ever has questions on how to bolt on something, we prefer they call us rather than going through Drag if they bought it through Drag. We always prefer no matter where somebody gets our parts from, just to call us. We’d rather have a happy customer no matter where they bought it. psb

Aimee Thacher
Aimee is the owner of Leatherworks, a leather saddlebag manufacturer in Stockton, California. She and her husband, Philip, opened their business in 1976 making leather good like sandals, handbags and tool belts. A friend asked if Philip could make a set of motorcycle saddlebags. From there, word spread and orders started coming in for saddlebags with that end of business starting around 1984. Aimee says she always worked in the background “doing the books” until she was forced to run the company on her own in 1999 when Philip passed away from a brief and sudden illness. Leatherworks employs 12 people and sells to dealers and direct to the public.

PSB: What is your biggest challenge?
Thacher: Part of the challenge I have of being an aftermarket company, is you’re aftermarket, particularly when dealing with Harley motorcycles because if you’re not a Harley product you’re almost not even looked at. That happens a little less with Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki. You have the OEMs who have saddlebags in place for those motorcycles so you’re trying to battle the OEMs.

PSB: What is Leatherworks’ biggest accomplishment?
Thacher: One is my price. I am considerably lower than the OEMs. Second is quality. Compared to most of the OEMs my quality is actually higher. We offer the heaviest leather that is available so it will hold its shape. There are many features that keep the convenience of the rider in mind, from a long strap that allows them to put their jackets or chaps on the top of the bag, to hooks on the top of my bags for bungee cords. I put quick releases on the buckles and was one of the first to do that. I’m constantly looking for how to keep quality in my bags and offer as many features as we can.

PSB: What do you like about working in this industry?
Thacher: I guess I can say I enjoy it. Obviously it’s been a challenge. I’m the sort of person who can take a challenge and do something with it. It’s constantly changing. I also have a retail store here and I carry a whole line of accessories, jackets, chaps, and vests. We don’t make those. I’m offering that as a convenience to the public.

PSB: What trends do you see developing in your particular segment of the market?
Thacher: One of the trends that’s been growing over the last couple of years are these quick release brackets to be able to take your bags on and off.

PSB: Any thoughts on Leatherworks’ relationship with its dealers, or dealers in general?
Thacher: I recognize that as a small company the best way I am going to maintain a customer base is to be able to provide them with service they hope for. Therefore, anytime I have a new dealer starting up, the first thing I do is let them know is that if they ever have a customer who wants a specific bag or something that goes with a specific bike that is what we excel at. If you’ve got a problem with a bag, we take care of it. If you have a customer who orders one thing and doesn’t think it’s how it should be we take care of it. psb

Genevieve Schmitt is the editor of Woman Rider magazine, an Ehlert publication, and is also a regular contributor to Powersports Business.

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