Racer X: Mike, first of all, can you give us a little bit of information about your background? I know you have Leisure Concepts, which, if I understand, is a business that sells accessories for hot tubs?
Mike Genova: Yes. We manufacture products, aftermarket products, for the hot tub industry. We’re not really a giant business. We’re located in Spokane, Washington, and we primarily do injection molding and powder coating, as well as our own marketing. In its heyday, we were much bigger than we are today. But with the drop in the housing market and the overall economy, it effected us. We are not anywhere near our high points of sales. But, we are still a profitable company. We’re the biggest in the industry of what we do, sort of like the biggest fish in a small pond. But yeah, that’s what pays the bills for us to go racing.
In 2008 when the economy took a dive we had available capacity in our manufacturing. We looked at ways for keeping our guys and our equipment busy and so looked and developed our first product, which was the Moto Pad. The Moto Pad was a product that took a blend of some products we were already using in the hot tub industry and put it on a motorcycle pad. And that was the birth of MotoConcepts. And since its inception we’ve been working hard to develop new products and better ways of doing what we do. The motocross side of things has been in business for three years now.
We don’t sell as much as I want to right now, mainly because we’ve just been building the platform and the infrastructure for the MotoConcepts product company. But to support the product company or grow the product company or brand it, we have the race team, and that’s more of – it’s an advertising and marketing effort, but it’s also a passion of mine, a personal passion. I’m an enthusiast and a big fan of the sport.
The 2012 MotoConcepts team.
Photo: Carlos Aguirre
Did you grow up racing motocross?
Yes. You know I grew up quite a bit around racing. But as far as me doing it at the top level, I did not. I still race a little bit now, but I have been busy with the team. My kids still race a little bit. But we are a motorcycle racing family, and it goes way beyond just owning a race team.
You guys have gone the contrarian route this year and you’re not afraid to admit it. Let's talk about that, shall we?
[Laughter] Well, when we got into racing in ’09, of course the economy was taking a dive. At that time, I felt like none of us really thought that it would take the dive that it has taken, especially in motorcycle racing. But you know, we’ve kinda’ done it (the team) the traditional way. I tried to be one of the boys. I tried to earn my way into the club and do it the right way, be respectful to the other owners and to the manufacturers, and really give them the respect and support that they deserve, in hopes that they would return the favor. And I’ve been doing that for the last three years, and as the economy continues to struggle and the manufacturers in the motorcycle industry continue to suffer and cut, they’re looking for ways to spend less. They have to do that in order to survive, I totally understand.
And so the amount of money that they can or will support other teams with is either nonexistent or very much close to that. And of course as we all know there’s three or four guys really in the big bike class that are making some money and really most everybody else after that’s not making any money, and most of the teams aren’t making any money. So, my stance was if they’re not gonna’ help us, then why should we help them? As long as they continue to sell bikes at a dealership, that’s all I need. And they don’t need me obviously. They’ve demonstrated that, so we shake hands and respect each other in that category, and things are fine.
So yeah, we’ve said, “the heck with it”. We’re going to be, as you termed it, a “contrarian”, or even more of a rebel, if you will. Not really with a cause, but just to say these are our bikes and we’re not going to do free advertising for anybody. And from a racing standpoint, we really think that it’s the smartest thing. I mean, you know we were challenged. People challenged us with, “how are you going to have development,” and “how do you share info from one rider to the other about whatever is going with the bike?” But we didn’t really agree with that. We believed that riders were independent. They didn’t really help or share that much with each other in terms of having separate brands apart. I mean what’s the difference if we have a box full of Honda parts or Suzuki parts or Kawasaki parts or whatever brand it is. Parts are parts.
So it really hasn’t put a lot of stress on our team even though a lot of the guys thought it would, so it’s been pretty seemless and pretty easy. And we’re able to work with the best equipment. Some 250s are easier to make faster than others, so we’re going to take the easy one to make fast and work with that platform.
Mike Alessi will be a big part of MotoConcepts in 2012.
Photo: Carlos Aguirre
Right. Personally, I think that all the modern bikes now are so good, and there are some people out there that know to make them even better. This isn’t 1977 when mechanics were welding frames and cutting pipes at the track. Those days are gone, so you’re talking about miniscule improvements in performance.
That’s exactly it. The bikes are so good right out of the box and so competitive that with a little bit of tweaking and a little bit of accessorizing, we can make a bike pretty good pretty quickly. And again you know we’re a believer that the bikes are important, but the bikes don’t ride themselves. And you can have the best bike and not the best rider for the year or for the day and not do well or vice versa.
Where do you guys get your bikes from? Are you buying them from dealerships?
Yeah, we just buy them. We have some help and support from specific dealerships that have just made a good deal for us. You know, sold them at either cost or below to help us out a little bit, but really basically like any other person.
So you have no contingency from Suzuki or any other OEM?
Zero. Nothing. You know, a contingency I think is available to anybody, but you have to run their logos and their colors. And for the amount of money that they’re offering, we opt out of it. But in terms of any other support, we’ve reached out to some of the manufacturers and asked for some help, help that we would even pay for, and we were ignored. So if we’re willing to help them promote their bike, then it’s odd to us that they wouldn’t be willing to help us. We think there are reasons why, and it is a complicated situation. So we are just doing our own thing.