Hi! I'm Dane Carlson, and welcome to the Business Opportunities Weblog. I've been publishing this website, by myself, and sometimes with the help of others for over twelve years now. You'll notice two things about this site right away:
Just a few short years ago, if you wanted a place to set your arms while you rode on the back of a motorcycle then you were out of luck. However, times change and thanks to the inventive mind of a motorcycle-loving couple, Bill and Mary Freer, you can now hold onto a pair of love handles that are not attached to the driver.
Born completely out of necessity, Love Handles is an arm rest attachment that fits on nearly any sissy bar. When not in use by a passenger, they can be flipped back and used as a spare luggage carrier.
Tell us a little about your business, Enchantment Motor Sports, and your product, LoveHandles.
Enchantment Motor Sports is the parent company of Love Handles Motorcycle Passenger Armrests. We started working on our product around 5 years ago when we moved from Chicago (wonderful city but very flat) to New Mexico (wonderful place, NOT flat!). In the higher altitude of Albuquerque, we discovered our little old Yamaha couldn’t get around very well in the mountains… and soon we became the proud parents of a shiny new Harley-Davidson.
What inspired it?
We outfitted our H-D Fat Boy “Lola” with a very comfortable seat and a tall sissy bar/backrest for me. So comfort really wasn’t an issue. But I found that I never felt really secure and able to relax on the back of the bike. My husband is an excellent driver, so it wasn’t a confidence issue, but there was really nothing for me to hold on to – especially on long rides, in turns or on bumpy mountain roads. I found myself looking for excuses NOT to ride which was hard for both of us. One day I said to Bill, “What we need is a pair of armrests like we have in our minivan.” He started sketching that afternoon.
Besides as an arm rest, what else can the Love Handles be used for?
One of the really cool design features of our Love Handles Armrests is that when there is no passenger on the back, the armrests swing around to become an extra luggage carrier.
How long have you been riding/around motorcycles?
Bill has been riding since he was a kid – he actually built his first bike from a box of old bike parts when he was about 14. I didn’t start until we were married in 1998.
How long did it take for you to build it from idea to final product? In what ways has it evolved from your original idea? In what ways hasn’t it?
It’s taken us about 5 years to get to this point, with lots of starts, stops and detours along the way. We started by walking into Chick Hancock’s Harley Davidson in Albuquerque and showing Bill’s sketches to the “Chrome” Consultant. He led us to someone he knew and they lead us to the next resource and so on. Our original prototype was simply some metal tubing and plywood armrests attached to ‘LOLA” – but when I rode for 60 miles down I-25 at 75 mph and felt completely comfortable, I knew we were on to something big!
One critical change occurred just before we launched Love Handles in the summer of 2008. We changed the design so the armrests open out rather than swing up and down. We made this change because we felt it was safer for the passenger if it was easy to get off and on quickly in the event of an accident.
Besides the Love Handles, do you sell any other products?
At this point, we also have accessories for the armrests. We designed a simple carrying case for travel, different styles of armrests (fringe, studs, flame inlays etc) but far and away our biggest hit has been the addition of a cup holder. Seems everybody wants a nice hot coffee on a cold morning ride. We also carry a lighted license plate frame that adds great visibility to a rider. Personalized nameplates can be ordered along with the armrests. These are popular for grandkids, weddings, or just to show the world who you are as you head down the highway.
Now that you have this product out and for sale, what might we see from you next?
At this point, we have been giving 110% of our time to making Love Handles Armrests a success. So new ideas on still on the back burner – but we always have our eyes open.
Have you always had an interest in being an inventor or entrepreneur? Are you surprised at how far you’ve come?
Life NEVER ceases to amaze and surprise us! We met teaching junior high school in Cleveland in 1970, spent years in Chicago working for advertising agencies and wound up here in New Mexico, traveling from one end of the country to the other to bike shows. Bill has always had an entrepreneurial streak and when ideas hit me, I tend to run with them, just to see what happens.
What is the hardest part of balancing time for yourselves with the business? What has worked the best in helping you do that?
Balance??? The biggest thing we have going in the relationship area is that we are each other’s biggest fan and best friend. We’ve committed to making Love Handles Armrests work and we’re giving it everything we’ve got. Knowing that our families and friends are behind us with moral support and an occasional bed and breakfast as we travel, keeps us going strong. Equally important, our customers are the REAL inspiration to us. We carry a book of actual testimonials and pictures from people all across the country who just love their Love Handles Armrests. They give away our brochures and drive hundreds of miles to see us at shows. They make the bumps in the road worthwhile!
Do you have any business tips that you’re willing to share?
Get ready to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life – unless you were born independently wealthy. We are financing Love Handles ourselves and believe strongly in making our product in the USA. Those are two things that can really put some strain on a start up. So we’ve made sacrifices, but we have faith it will be worth it in the long run.
Find the right people to help you give birth to your dream. We hired and fired a couple of consultants before we found Steve Zarwell. His insights and enthusiasm are inspiring. Also James Parker, our industrial designer brought our little sketches to life. He continues to find better ways to do what needs to be done in terms of design.
We are both in our 60’s and want to keep working and learning and having as much fun as possible for the foreseeable future – then we’ll decide what to do next!