Start a motorcycle shop by following these 10 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your motorcycle shop. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a motorcycle shop?
Veteran motorcycle shop owners recommend a budget of approximately $55,000. This number could vary significantly, depending upon the inventory you choose to carry and services you intend to offer.
Initial investments should include:
- Shop location - first and last month’s rent is typically required
- Inventory - engine and electrical parts, accessories, parts for repair services, and motorcycles
- Display equipment
- Legal fees
- Marketing supplies and a website
If your intention is to manage a larger dealership, your start-up budget should be significantly higher. Prior to writing your business plan, focus on building relationships with wholesale retailers. They set the prices and can offer valuable insight into what your initial and ongoing investment should be.
What are the ongoing expenses for a motorcycle shop?
As a repair and retail establishment, you will be facing a number of ongoing expenses. In addition to the standard rent, utilities, phone, and Internet, you will need to budget for the following:
Established shop owners indicate a break even budget of $16,000 per month.
Who is the target market?
Men falling in the 18 - 25 and 40 - 65 age brackets represent more than 80% of motorcycle sales. While your shop will generate revenue from novice bikers, the bulk of your marketing campaign should be geared towards experienced bikers.
How does a motorcycle shop make money?
Your shop will generate income based on the goods and services offered. Some businesses operate on a local level only, while others sell goods online, expanding their reach to a much broader audience.
How much can you charge customers?
Fees for maintenance, repair, and bike customization are based on labor and parts. Parts and accessory price are generally marked up 100%.
How much profit can a motorcycle shop make?
Unlike many businesses, motorcycle shops often see a profit in the first year. While the first three years may generate a profit of $13,000 to $17,000, this is a positive sign and sets the business up for long-term growth and success. Total annual profits vary, depending upon the specifics of what services you offer, what parts and accessories you sell, and how you plan to sell them. Annual profits can range between $35,000 to $64,000 or more.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Many motorcycle shop owners report having significant success operating an online motorcycle parts business. Since bike shops are often a place to congregate, offering food and drinks, along with a comfortable seating area, will ensure your customers are comfortable and happy. This is an effective way to increase your profits without a large increase in overhead costs. Shop owners have also realized success by offering airbrushing services, selling second-hand bikes, and offering motorcycle tutorials to educate those interested in learning more about their hobby.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Motorcycle Shop Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your motorcycle shop is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a motorcycle shop business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A motorcycle shop business is generally run out of a standalone building. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a motorcycle shop business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your motorcycle shop business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a motorcycle shop
Bike shop owners who generate the most sales have an established and respected reputation within the community. They are active in local motorcycle organizations and are known for their skills in repairing and/or customizing bikes and for their extensive knowledge on the culture and history. Because this is such a tightly knit community, much of your marketing will be through word of mouth and staying active. An involved and informative social media presence will be critical in reaching potential customers that might otherwise be unaware of your sound reputation. Online registries and ads in motorcycle magazines will also assist you in reaching a broader audience.
How to keep customers coming back
Motorcycle shops often morph into much more than just a place of business. They become social hubs, attracting regular business and, ultimately, like a family. While this is a retail and repair shop, it would prove beneficial to create a space that is comfortable for those who wish to socialize during shop hours. Offering a discount to local motorcycle organizations will also help ensure repeat customers.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Motorcycle Shop In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
If motorcycles and their subculture are your passion and you possess both the knowledge and drive to manage your own business, opening a motorcycle shop may be the perfect fit for you. The motorcycle community is a tightly-knit group of people; so entrepreneurs who are well-known and respected within this circle are set up to realize the most significant long-term success.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a motorcycle shop?
You and your team’s daily activities will be defined by the services you offer and how you structure your business. In addition to administrative duties, such as paying bills and answering customer questions, the shop must be properly managed and client’s needs should be attended to. Once implemented, marketing strategies will need to be tweaked regularly, to ensure your target audience is reached. Much of your shop’s marketing will require taking advantage of networking opportunities, such as community rides, fundraisers, and meetings.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful motorcycle shop?
Those considering embarking on this new business path must possess significant knowledge of motorcycles. You should be educated on parts, repair, various models, and safety, as well as the community and its history. Most motorcycle shop owners have been fully immersed in the culture for many years, having built a positive reputation in the process. Previous experience in repair and sales shops will provide you with the knowledge and experience to care for your customers and maneuver through the obstacles that come with running your own business.
What is the growth potential for a motorcycle shop?
The biking industry has expanded significantly over the last decade, reaching a previously untapped customer base. As the number of motorcyclists increases, so does their need for bikes, both new and used, as well as parts and accessories. Entrepreneurs with strong business acumen should utilize this unique opportunity, expanding their businesses on both a local and national level.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a motorcycle shop?
Veteran motorcycle shop owners offer some valuable advice:
- While it can prove beneficial to keep some of your inventory on display outside of the shop, consider the elements before doing so. Keep motorcycles outside for short periods of time to avoid a loss in value.
- Prior to opening your own shop, work with someone else in the community. Learn as much as you can about every aspect of the business. Even if you are required to work for free, this will prove to be a worthy investment.
- Building a successful shop requires stellar service and fair prices. Find out what others in the community are charging and charge 20-30% less.
- The retail and service industry requires a really thick skin; particularly in the motorcycle community.
- Require all repair jobs to be paid in full before the customer leaves the shop.
How and when to build a team
Given the family like atmosphere of these establishments, your team will likely build itself organically. As you get to know the skills and knowledge of those within the community, you will be able to assemble a crew that helps solidify your business’ reputation in the industry.