Mike Steele, owner of Motobriiz LLC, is an engineer by training, motorcycle enthusiast, and inventor of the Motobriiz Wind Powered Chain Oiler. His business started in 2013 with the product he invented (wind-powered motorcycle chain oiler) and sold online. That product has grown to include four innovative product lines, sold both in the United States and internationally. Last month, Steele signed up for our 8-week Business Growth Advantage Program (BGAP) to learn more about business topics beyond his technical knowledge that could help him grow his business.
BGAP is a free training program developed by the Charles County Economic Development Department to meet the needs of growing businesses in Charles County and to address business impacts due to COVID. BGAP teaches business owners effective and proven methods to run their companies, including strategic planning, consultation with subject matter experts, an evaluation of business operating concepts, and much more. Successfully graduating businesses will receive a $10,000 award. Steele is a part of the first cohort, which has already finished five of the eight weeks.
Like most new products, Motobriiz was born out of a need to improve something. In 2007, Steele bought a brand new Honda 919 motorcycle and fell in love with the freedom of being on two wheels as he explored roads along the U.S. East Coast. Motorcycle chains have a tendency to attract dirt. Tired of seeing a dirty and rusty mess after just a couple of days of riding and issues with the oiling process, Steele set out to automate the process. He invented the Motobriiz Automatic Chain Oiler, a simplified oiler that is powered solely by the wind produced from the forward motion of the bike.
To date, these automated oilers are used in more than 40 countries. The business also has an array of products centered around small vacuum pumps, with four different product lines and four different websites.
BGAP Lessons Learned
Speaking about the BGAP program, Steele said, “The first thing they want you to do is develop a 12-month cash flow, like a spreadsheet showing what you think your revenue and expenses will be for each month. It’s a really good tool. For instance, I’m thinking about opening a commercial location. It’s a good way to forecast if you see a big expense coming up or are making a big purchase. I already track with Quick Books, but I’ve never really tracked cash flow, so that’s a tool I really think I’m going to use.”
He's also learned more about marketing and renting a commercial space. “I’m an engineer by training, but marketing doesn’t come naturally to me,” said Steele. “One of the things I want to learn is to do better in marketing.” He also wants to learn more about renting a space. “We’re still a home-based business, which has some advantages,” said Steele. “One is lower overhead—not paying rent. But, there are also some drawbacks. You can’t hire anybody but family to work from your home, and you also run out of space for storage.” He’s always interested in learning more about trademarks and patents, though he’s already patented his product in eight countries. “I did that on my own,” he said, “but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that.”
What Does He Think About the BGAP Program?
“I went into it [the program] thinking I’d learn something, but I had no idea I’d learn as much as I have,” said Steele. “It’s really a lot of good information.” With the way classes are set up, the first hour is a lecture, the second hour is a panel discussion with experts on the lecture topic, and the third hour is free discussion between the business owners. He said, “You get a lot of information from people talking about their challenges and successes. And, you develop a network of local businesses. I’m sure a lot of us will keep in touch after the training.”
To learn more about how BGAP could help your business grow, visit our Business Advantage Growth Program page. The next cohort starts May 19.