Applications are available now for the Motorcycle Industry Council’s “Gas Tank” competition. Five finalists will be selected for a chance to pitch their business plans live in front of influential industry leaders at the 2018 AIMExpo presented by Nationwide in Las Vegas. Applications to participate in the program will be available at mic.org. The deadline for completed applications is February 28, 2018.
Gas Tank is similar to TV’s “Shark Tank,” where aspiring entrepreneur-contestants present business plans for exciting new products and services to a panel of industry leaders. However, MIC’s Gas Tank is specific to the powersports industry. It provides a platform to showcase creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, and provides contestants a unique opportunity to work one-on-one with established industry mentors.
The first Gas Tank competition, held last year, helped five entrepreneurs in the powersports industry propel their ideas and dreams to reality. Although there was only one champion in the 2016 Gas Tank competition, all five entrepreneurs saw immense progress in the year that followed.
Each entrepreneur was paired with a mentor – an established leader in the powersports industry – who helped guide them and refine their business plans, which ranged from new accessories and energy bars to magazines and tours.
But it wasn’t just the entrepreneurs who benefitted. Several program mentors said the relationships that formed and the experience they got from helping others are priceless.
“Although I have been in the industry for decades, this really helped give me a new perspective on the challenges entrepreneurs are facing today. It’s been exciting working with my mentee and I, too, have learned so much from this experience,” said Eric Anderson, CEO and founder of VROOM Network and MIC Gas Tank Mentor.
Here's where some of the 2016 Gas Tank contestants are today:
Debra Chin, of MotoChic Gear:
Debra Chin is a woman on the move, yet she couldn’t find a bag that could keep up with her – that is, one that was practical and stylish. So, Chin set to work on filling that void and created MotoChic, a company that produces gear for women on the go who don’t want to compromise. Chin was the winner of last year’s Gas Tank competition.
“My mentor, Eric Anderson, told me repeatedly to think big, which continues to push me out of my comfort zone to do greater things,” said Chin. “Since the thrilling Gas Tank win, two areas in which MotoChic has made significant progress are products and community building.” Chin said the patent on the MotoChic Gear Lauren bag has been officially granted, and the bag is now available with custom monogramming. She has also expanded her line with a collection for “Stylish Women on the Move”: The Lauren Sport bag and Performance Socks.
As for community, it is “a cornerstone of the MotoChic brand, and we like to have fun connecting our fellow riders, brand ambassadors and affiliates,” said Chin.
Still, Chin acknowledges there are hurdles for her small company. “One of the biggest challenges I face is managing small volume production, and constant vigilance is required to enforce standards,” Chin said. “But every obstacle reenergizes me rather than slows me down, because high quality is a hallmark of the MotoChic brand.”
Katie McKay, of Modern Moto Magazine:
Immediately following last year’s AIMExpo, Katie McKay jumped into production of the first issue of Modern Moto Magazine for a March 2017 release.
“Everything was a challenge, from learning how to use the design software, to how to approach clients, shipping methods, sales tax and marketing. After four issues, I still need to constantly reference my notes, but at least now, I know where to look,” said McKay, whose mentor was Dealernews Vice President and General Manager Mary Green.
“Although I may not meet the first-year goals that were set in my business plan, I still feel that we have made great progress. We are growing a subscription base and the motorcycle industry is beginning to recognize our name and they trust us to represent them,” McKay said. “In the coming months and into the new year, we will be pushing brand awareness and letting more riders know we are here as a valuable and entertaining resource.”
Alisa Clickenger, of Women Motorcycle Tours:
From Colorado’s backcountry, to the American Southwest and Cuba, Alisa Clickenger has been hard at work developing an all-ladies motorcycle tour company.
“Our first-ever all-ladies Colorado Backcountry Discovery route tour was filled up within one month, said Clickenger, who was paired with Scot Harden, an AMA Hall of Fame off-road racer and president of Harden Offroad. “The current popularity of dual-sport riding among women riders is a constant source of delight for me,” she said.
“Working on a business plan with my mentor really helped me see the money side of my business. Sure, everyone wants to lead tours and ride motorcycles and get paid for it, but just seeing the hard-and-fast numbers was quite a surprise,” said Clickenger.
Clickenger is now expanding her business with another angle. “I have developed a community building program for dealers to help them jumpstart their female riding communities. We help them get started with introductions to folks and create an event at their dealership that is fun and informative for women. Dealers are the face of motorcycling and how they communicate with their female customers is paramount to growing the industry.”
Gina Woods, of Open Road Incredible Edibles:
Gina Woods knows that riders need to not only fuel their motorcycles, but fuel themselves. However, “there are so few options for a person who wants to choose a clean, healthy alternative to the chemical-loaded power bars in the marketplace,” Woods said. So, she created a line of all-natural, handcrafted confectionary bars with proprietary infused gel. In short, organic “superfood bars.”
“I think our Feel the Horsepower product line will be a huge hit,” said Woods, who worked with Steve Johnson, past president and chief operating officer of Tucker Rocky. “We’ve finalized the all-organic recipes for the Feel the Horsepower Biker Energy Bar, which is a healthier option to replace energy shots and drinks; the Fuel Bar, a healthier meal replacement option; and the Sports Bar, for enzyme replacement after a workout.”
Woods said her company is finalizing packaging and has selected a supplier for its first round of production. “We are already planning the related products that will extend our brand. We’ve had interest from the biggest health-food grocery store chain, one of the large convenience store brands and many motorcycle dealerships. Our next step is to find an investor to help us with the initial production run, and then we’ll be off to the races.”
Woods said she has also been noticed by the producers of the TV series “Shark Tank,” and she has been contacted by a similar show sponsored by Entrepreneur Magazine called “Elevator Pitch.” “I feel like we are so close to having this product take off in a big way,” Woods said.