While mother-daughter entrepreneurs are nothing new, Janice Dordick and Kim Rose don’t run what you might consider a “typical” mother-daughter business – the pair own a Harley-Davidson dealership in New York’s Hudson Valley.
These two successful entrepreneurs have risen to the many challenges they’ve faced, whether it’s establishing themselves in a male-dominated field, creating a business succession plan as Janice approaches retirement, or the challenges of being a working mother.
Founded in 1975, Woodstock Harley-Davidson was the dream of Roy Dordick, a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast who’d spent his spare time working on bikes since the late ‘60s. His “tinkering” became “customizing” when he started a chrome-plating business.
Later, he and his wife, Janice, obtained their own Harley-Davidson dealership and located it just outside the town of Woodstock, New York.
Together they grew the business, with Janice working the office and counter sales as Roy continued to wield a mechanic’s wrench.
The tragedy of Roy’s death in a plane crash in the summer of 1982 forced Janice to make the kind of decision that no spouse wants to contemplate in a time of bereavement—what to do with the dealership.
With two daughters to raise on her own, she faced an uncertain future.
In time, it was the day-by-day work of paying the bills and serving the customers that made her decision obvious. She would continue the business that she and Roy had started together, and it would grow to become the prosperous dealership that now stands at 949 Rt. 28, outside Kingston, New York.
The original location, a 400-square-foot shop in the shadow of Overlook Mountain on Rt. 212, was soon outgrown. By 1994, Janice and her daughter, Kim Rose, realized this original facility no longer met the needs of their customers. The building they moved to in 1995 more than doubled the space they’d previously occupied. Five years later, Woodstock Harley-Davidson moved again and this time into a 21,000 square foot building.
Woodstock Harley-Davidson now has 30 employees (up from 3 employees in 1990), and sells about 400 bikes per year (compared to 42 per year in 1990). While popular culture from “Easy Rider” to the recent box office hit “Wild Hogs” portrays motorcycles as the ultimate macho status symbol, these two Harley-Davidson enthusiasts truly enjoy riding.
One out of every 10 motorcycles you see on the road has a woman in the saddle and about 10-12% of Kim and Janice’s customers are females that own their own bikes.
In order to reach out to women who may not have grown up around motorcycles or who have concerns, Woodstock Harley-Davidson has been sponsoring “Ladies’ Only Garage Parties” for about two years now.
This is an opportunity for women to come and pursue their dream of riding, in a more comfortable setting. Women have the ability to learn about different bikes, motorcycle safety, licensing and meet other women with the same interests.
Kim admits that it has been challenging for both her and her mother to raise their families, run the business and keep up with the growth they have experienced over the last 17 years. But they both love work and riding, and want to keep passing on that enthusiasm for the sport to other women, especially those who may have never dreamed of riding or owning their own bike.
Kim reports that the hardest part of working with her mom over the years is the balance of work time and family time and not letting the two interfere with each other. Inevitably at a family dinner, the conversation will turn at some point to the business, but both have made it a goal to keep that to a minimum.
Kim’s advice to other small business owners (whether female or male) who may just be starting a business is:
1 Hire good employees. She has taken classes over the years on interviewing and hiring, and is always watching for those providing excellent customer service. She has recruited several employees away from their jobs when they’ve provided her great service personally.
2 Establish a good relationship with your bank and know the specific people to talk to about various issues as this can save you a great deal of time when something comes up that needs to be handled.
3 Get involved in your local community. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and other associations, go to community events, talk about your business with anyone you meet because you never know where the next person who comes in your door may have heard about you from.
To learn more about Woodstock Harley and Kim and Janice’s story, visit their website at www.WoodstockHarley.com.