Colorado Springs, Colorado
Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Motorcycle accessories
With an ever-expanding catalog of motorcycling products, founder Chris Vestal solves problems for a growing market of dirt and dual-sport enthusiasts.
Vestal has been riding dirt bikes since childhood. "As soon as I could ride a bicycle, my parents got me my first dirt bike," he recalls. "I rode off and on through college, and when my wife and I moved to Colorado in 2008, we got heavy into dirt bikes again."
Vestal competed in his first official race in 2012. While he may not have taken home a trophy, he left Baja California, Mexico with the inspiration for MotoMinded's first product.
"Dirt bikes had just become fuel-injected," Vestal says, "and that's the one thing out in the middle of nowhere that we couldn't service. I actually kept a fuel injector, related filters, and O rings in my pocket during that race. But I was thinking about an easier way to carry all that stuff."
The easier way was the Pillbox, a durable plastic storage box designed to fasten conveniently beneath the seat of a dirt bike. Vestal took it from prototype to sale, launching MotoMinded in the process, over the course of a single week.
"Instead of going the traditional route and outsourcing, I decided to buy a few more 3D printers and manufacture the product myself," explains Vestal, noting that MotoMinded uses Lulzbot printers from Loveland, Colorado-based Aleph Objects. "We have 10 3D printers now and are upgrading to 12 soon. But we aren't just making 3D-printed products anymore. We also have a laser cutter/engraver and a CNC router and are using these other manufacturing methods in parallel to produce new products."
Vestal is particularly excited about MotoMinded's newest product, the Stout Mount, which will help the company reach a larger dirt bike audience. "Our products over the past couple of years have been made for a couple of European bike brands that are gaining in popularity but still very niche," Vestal says. "They only make a few thousand of each model, and we've been designing products for those. But the Stout Mount GPS mount is quite universal and will open up our market to basically all Japanese bikes including Honda, Kawasaki, and other bikes that are popular worldwide."
Vestal was inspired to create the Stout Mount when he observed a number of mounting issues related to the popular Voyager GPS manufactured by Trail Tech, a company based in Washington state. "Their GPS is great and has a lot of neat features," Vestal continues. "A lot of people are buying it. But it comes with this really delicate bar clamp that doesn't seem to last or a universal flexible mount that creates too much vibration and movement, making the GPS too hard to read. I decided I could make a better one. Once I did that, I realized pretty quickly that it would work on a lot of bike makes and models. We've launched it first for KTM, Husqvarna, and Beta. But we're going to also be launching it for Honda and others."
Vestal says that MotoMinded's growing customer base is comprised of trail and dual-sport riders traversing everything from pavement and gravel road to singletrack. Ninety percent of the company's sales are direct and come from word of mouth as well as social media and marketing on dirt bike forums.
"We're not in a hurry to sell to dealers unless there is a big advantage," Vestal adds. "We do have a UK dealer because there are a couple European companies where it's difficult for us to ship. And we're shopping for an Australian dealer to help us diversify worldwide. But most of our sales come direct and that's where we have the most profit."
Vestal's strategy appears to be working. The company has consistently doubled its revenues each year, including in 2018. "The projections so far are a 50 percent increase in 2019," Vestal says. "But Stout Mount might go crazy in a good way, so we could potentially double again."
Challenges: "Our biggest challenge is getting to all the design ideas we have," Vestal says. "At its core, MotoMinded is a design company. We just happen to manufacture because we cannot find someone else to do the additive manufacturing as affordably or accurately as we can do it in-house. A good chunk of our day is spent manufacturing, leaving only a little for design."
He notes that he'd love to outsource the company's 3D printing. "We're continuously looking and have had some people test out stuff, but it's a challenge to get the right price, the right quality, and someone that can handle the quantities we're getting into," Vestal adds.
Opportunities: Vestal says new product and new market opportunities for MotoMinded are virtually limitless. "There are all these different directions we can head to," he explains. "We have a handful of ideas for the automotive industry, and it would be kind of natural for us to slide into that market because a lot of our customers use pickup trucks and vans to haul their bikes around. We've also solved some issues in our own day-to-day around the shop and our homes. This could enable us to develop products for the housing market someday."
Needs: Vestal says that MotoMinded's most pressing need last year was space. However, the company recently moved into a 1,600-square-foot space at MFG, a 50,000-square-foot collaborative manufacturing facility. "It's a neat new place where they're inviting small, light manufacturers to come together," he explains. "This is great for a company like ours because it has been difficult to find the type of location we need. This place is going to help us grow and meet our next milestone. Hopefully next year we can afford to buy our own building."