An amusing aspect of Kris Hart, founder and president of Royal Riding & Accessories, is she manufactures flawless and comfy motorcycle seat pads but hasn’t had much time to sit on one since founding her company in 2010.
Four years ago in early 2009 began a turning point for Hart who was then working two jobs, one for a motorcycle parts dealer and another as an administrator running group homes for young women in the foster care system. “I was working for someone else while I was running homes for youth…I was afraid to go out and do it on my own but I looked at these brave young women and decided to go for it and take out a $17,000 bank loan through Santa Barbara Bank and Trust. I bought a truck, trailer and dove into business,” said Hart.
In 2009, for nine months straight, she drove her truck and trailer to every motorcycle show she could find to promote and sell her idea of a better motorcycle seat pad for rider’s bottoms. It wasn’t until the end of 2010 that she knew her self-made products were highly desired by riders and drove back home to lay out her business strategy.
“I probably need a business plan,” said Hart, referring to her decision to contact SCORE – Ventura Chapter, a SBA Resource Partner, located in Westlake Village, California. “That was when I met Michael Scotto.” Scotto was the chapter chair of SCORE – Ventura Chapter and signed Hart up for a business plan workshop. Before the workshop’s second session, she had already written her business plan. “They saw how hungry I was to succeed in this business and that’s when they directed me to the Economic Development Collaborative - Ventura County.” EDC-VC is a SBA Small Business Development Center and is located in Camarillo, California.
Funding Royal Riding & Accessories was a group effort with Joe Palmer, a loan officer with EDC-VC, leading the way. Palmer recommended a Business Assistance Loan through the City of Ventura that assists small business owners overcome some of the hurdles to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Within three weeks, Hart had financing for inventory.
“They are such a wealth of information for me,” said Hart. “I was so blessed to have the support of SCORE, EDC-VC and the City of Ventura. No matter what I asked they were there…Bruce Stensile and Ray Bowman helped me with freight forwarding, and in 2012 Marvin Boateng [a finance service specialist at EDC-VC] assisted with financing the launch of my new Cool Tush line of seat pads. I get choked up talking about it...they helped me take my business to the next level.”
Hart’s ambitions are to continue to grow and expand her business. She is proud to be women-owned business and to have all of the company’s manufacturing done in the United States. Plus, Hart hires local youth from nearby group homes along with disabled veterans to help with packaging new shipments.
She now has 32 products on the motorcycle side and in the coming months, will be launching a similar company specializing in hunting and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) with 16 new products called Royal Outdoors. Recently, Hart hired Mary Ann Rooney to help keep Royal Riding running smoothly and she still keeps SCORE and EDC-VC on speed dial as her business grows with new product lines and increasing sales. “David Pollack [a business plan specialist at EDC-VC] helped me get together the business plan for the new business and Marvin helped put a valuation on the new company,” said Hart.
“It’s truly amazing,” said Hart. “I just sell what I make - I used to carry other people’s products but now I don’t need to…I listen to my customers and what they want and I strive to provide a quality product and exceptional customer service. We started in a recession and had to take our company’s values that much more to heart. Trust, respect and integrity that’s our company’s mantra and that’s what we want to have for our customers and employees.”
In 2012, Kris Hart won the Women-Owned Business of the Year at the Spirit of Small Business Awards event hosted by Pacific Coast Business Times and the U.S. Small Business Administration, Los Angeles District Office.