Donny Emler Jr., aka LiL D, is the son of Donny Emler, the man who created FMF back in 1973. FMF is still a family business and something that Donny Sr. and Jr. are very passionate about to this day. LiL D is one of the coolest guys in the pits and always has a smile on his face. He has a background in business marketing from Orange Coast College, a skillset he uses to help promote and grow the highly successful FMF brand. Recently we took a tour of FMF’s headquarters in Rancho Dominguez, California, and I was able to spend some time with LiL D.
Racer X: What was it like growing up and riding for you?
Donny Emler Jr: I grew up really just trail riding and off-road riding with my dad, like so many of us. I never really went to a track, physically riding a track, until I was about 14 when I kind of made the decision like, “Hey, I want to maybe try this on my own.” It was never forced upon me. My dad, he always wanted me to become a really good off-road rider because he said, “If you ever do want to ride the tracks, it’s going to help make you a better rider if you know how to ride off-road.” I truly tell people that all the time, to this day, if you’re a good off-road rider and you know what you’re doing, you have so much more bike skills. So I never really took racing seriously. I still race a little bit for fun here and there, but it was always just something for fun. I never really took it serious and wanted to be a professional or anything like that. Hindsight I think it was pretty smart to go down that path because it’s really hard to make it in the motocross industry. There’s so much great competition out there.
My first memory of actually working at my dad’s shop was every summer I’d go up when I was 10, 11, 12 years old and sweep the shop, put stickers on silencers. I always thought that was going to be a really fun job until eight hours later after peeling stickers and putting stickers on silencers, you kind of get over it. But he always kind of instilled hard work with me. I try to instill that in my employees and the rest of our business. We’re pretty small if you actually look around FMF. Our brand is really big, but we’re able to do a lot with not having … we have a lot of employees, but we don’t have as many as some people might think. My day to day business now is working on business development stuff, new business for us, whether it’s working with companies like KTM and Husqvarna, working with all the race teams from off-road to supercross, and handling all the marketing. Everything that has to do with the logo, my team. We hammer it out.
What part of the business do you enjoy the most?
I think I enjoy going to work on Mondays and being able to see all the race results happening all over the world and really being able to appreciate where FMF has come and how far we’ve gone. We’re literally racing all over the world now. It’s a lot of work to keep up with it all, but I really enjoy coming to work on Mondays. I really enjoy coming to work in general. And then I really enjoy putting together some really cool marketing campaigns. Now with social media, a campaign can’t just be print. It’s got to be print to digital to social media. It’s a lot of work. But just seeing a whole campaign come to life, I think that’s pretty rewarding. Then having people come up to us and say, “Man, your guys’ marketing is so awesome. You guys do such a great job.” That just kind of verifies we’ve got a cool vibe and I think people understand us. I think that’s pretty cool.
What is your guys’ main platform that you guys use for social media?
I would say our top platform is Instagram, just because that’s kind of the latest and greatest thing. It’s super easy to use and everyone’s using their cellphones to look at social media. So that’s definitely for us our number one form of social media. Our Instagram is @FMF73 and then we just launched our new campaign. It’s called @FlyingMachineFactory on Instagram. We’ve got a lot of cool stuff coming content-wise for that new page that we just launched. It kind of ties back to the history and the story of FMF and some of the new initiatives that we’re working on. Actually it just launched in the new Racer X, our latest ad geared towards the Flying Machine Factory.
What’s going to be the difference between your normal @FMF73 account and the new @FlyingMachineFactory?
So our standard account you’ll see product and bike photos and a lot of race team stuff and win ads and all that kind of stuff, and then this account is going to be really, really organic. It’s really about the history of FMF and any of the new Flying Machine Factory marketing initiatives that we’ve launched. The first one we actually launched was in the Racer X April issue.
So you’ve got a little guy at home, how old is he?
My son is about a year and a half old, Ethan Emler.
When’s his bike going under the Christmas tree?
Probably around two years old. We’ll see in the next couple months how much he takes to liking motorcycles. I want him to be stoked when he actually gets it, so maybe three. We’ll have to wait. I actually got him one of those little ride STACYC [Stability Cycles] electric type striders. They’re expensive, but they’ve got a little throttle on them and a brake, so on top of teaching him balance there’s different speed settings. It’s going to be pretty rad, for sure. It’s definitely geared to do what a strider does, which is teach him how to have the balance. And then as soon as they do get on a bicycle they’ll be able to pedal that thing no problem, plus they’ll know how to ride a motorcycle because they already know how to twist a throttle and work a brake.