Lincoln Spencer and I met during a summer internship at the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, AR. We both attended BYU, but had no previous contact before becoming roomates. Our mutual interests in motorcycles, computers, and the co-eds at the University of Arkansas made us instant buddies. He is incredibly driven and will be starting an MBA at the University of Michigan in the Fall of 2013. Here is the story of Motosmart.com, in his own words:
Some think that owning your own business is living the American dream. For me, the reality has not always been so dreamy – but without a doubt it has been the experience of a lifetime.
At the age of thirteen, my passion for entrepreneurship became quickly apparent as I started buying and selling dozens of motorcycles. After turning my first beat-up $10 Honda into a great running $300 machine, I was hooked. My older brother helped me learn the basics of carburetors and engines, and plenty of library books filled in the rest of the details. I got my second bike for $100, and sold it for $450 after minor repairs. Business was good!
After a few years of this, my mom worried that I wouldn’t go to college because I was doing so well on my own. I reassured her that I would go, and both of us were surprised when I decided to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Information Systems. I loved the idea of combining my passion for business with a more technical background in computers. The motorcycle sales continued all the way through graduation, and at that point, I estimate I had bought and sold over 100 motorcycles.
I felt I should try getting a “real job” like the rest of my classmates, even though it was obvious I was an entrepreneur at heart. After a couple years working as an IT consultant and auditor, I felt I had gotten my fill of “real jobs” for the time being and wanted to start a business I had been thinking about since high school.
The business need I had seen in high school was to sell discontinued, used motorcycle parts in a more efficient manner than what was currently available. I had spent countless hours as a teenager looking for parts for old bikes, usually driving across town to the single local salvage yard only to come back empty-handed. The parts I needed had usually already been removed from the bike by someone else, or were damaged by the elements from sitting outside. Rather than follow the traditional junkyard approach with rows of bikes rusting into the ground, I wanted to store everything indoors, barcoded and shelved so each part could be listed online and easily found by customers around the world.
I knew there was demand for these hard-to-find, older parts, but I didn’t yet know how profitable the business would be. I started by making my own estimates and doing research online, but quickly realized that there was little data available about this niche market and I had to find much of the details out on my own. I figured a good place to start would be talking with motorcycle salvage yards, especially any that were for sale as the owners would be more willing to tell about the details of the business.
I found a salvage business for sale in Colorado, which was a complete mess and a great example of what not to do. Less than 1/4 of the parts were labeled with the model of bike they were removed from, and the parts were laying outside being damaged by the elements. The thought of taking over a business like that made my stomach turn, since it was such a mess and went against my ideals of organization and efficiency.
Shortly thereafter, I came across a warehouse full of parts for sale in Utah. I flew from Colorado directly there to take a look – and it turned out to be a gold mine (especially in stark comparison to the mess I saw in Colorado). Every part in the warehouse was labeled with the model information, and the parts were in good shape since they were out of the elements. I negotiated a great price on the lot, and before I knew it I had jumped into a completely new life and series of challenges.
I quit my consulting job within the next few weeks, and moved to Utah to start getting the thousands of parts inventoried, photographed, and listed online as quickly as possible to start generating some cash flow.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Lincoln’s incredible story.