Serial Motorcycle Entrepreneur on Getting Back in the Saddle

Running a business is just like riding a bike, according to motorcycle entrepreneur Erik Buell.

In this edition of Conference Room, Buell tells FBN’s Jeff Flock he built his first homemade bike in the ‘70s, putting him on the road to creating the Buell Motorcycle Company, which he then sold to Harley-Davidson. Then, during the recession, he says Harley-Davidson decided to get out of the sport-bike business – giving him a chance to lead an independent company once again.

“[I]t’s been a serial entrepreneurship life for me,” says Buell. Today the company is called Erik Buell Racing (EBR).

Buell says the relationship with Harley-Davidson wasn’t a good fit for his company, which focuses on the sport-bike space.

“Well, we worked as hard as we could as a subsidiary … but it is a different world from what an entrepreneur is used to. We had a lot of good success with the business – sold a lot of motorcycles. But … our customer was different,” says Buell.

Buell says the discrepancy made it challenging for the Buell brand to thrive.

“It was very hard for [Harley-Davidson] and their dealer networks to really understand the sport-bike customer. So although we did okay, it was always fighting the flow of the stream that was running so hard in the cruiser direction,” says Buell.

Buell says EBR has taken investments from Hero MotoCorp, an Indian company that sold 6 million utility motorcycles last year.

“[O]ne of the things we’re great at is … pioneering American innovation, and we’re finding a very good fit with that company,” says Buell. He says Hero MotoCorp sees a major opportunity in the type of bikes EBR specializes in.

“For us, it was an investor that really understood the motorcycle business, and in the U.S., when we were out looking at the investment community and trying to find venture capital, or you know, investment bankers, everybody only saw the U.S. microcosm and … [weren’t] able to see how big this could be – how successful that could be,” adds Buell.