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Go ScooterGirls!!! – An inspiring entrepreneurial story of starting a business during the current financial crisis and finding a way to beat layoffs

October 23rd, 2008 · 6 Comments

“You know what, I have to expect I’m gonna lose my job. So what am I going to do about that? You either let it happen to you and be a victim in this economy or you say, "I’m not going to be a victim."

Arlene Battishill, founder and CEO, ScooterGirls, Inc.

I heard this quote when I was driving to work this morning and listening to NPR’s Marketplace. Ms. Battishill works for a homebuilding company in the Los Angeles area. Knowing her job is not safe, she founded ScooterGirls Inc. that offers the ScooterGirls brand of mobile advertising, scooter sales and rental, tour, and the “Commuter Line” Apparel Collection. Although she had excellent credits, no bank was willing to lend her money due to the credit crunch. Determined to take control of her own destiny, Ms. Battishill borrowed 50% of her 401k account to start the business.

Interesting enough, since I launched www.GeekMBA360.com , I have received hundreds of emails from fellow readers who are concerned about current economic downturn, layoffs, job security, and their own personal financial future. I think a lot of folks are in the same situation as Ms. Battishill. But, how many of us have taken action?

I emailed Ms. Battishill immediately after I heard the story. I wanted to find more about her background, what motivated her start the business, how she got started, and what we could all learned from her experience. After all, let’s help each other to go through Depression 2.0 together.

I initially requested an email/15-minute phone interview. But, it ended up that Ms. Battishill and I talked for almost an hour! From our conversation, I can sense the passion, enthusiasm, determination, drive and creativity of an entrepreneur.

After the conversation, I was greatly inspired. “Screw the recession! I’m just going to do it and get to where I want to be. ” I’m sure many of your will feel the same way after reading the interview below. Enjoy!

GeekMBA360.com: What’s your background? What did you do before you started this business?

Arlene Battishill : I’ve been working for a homebuilding company for several years. About a year ago, my company laid off 20% of its staff. I didn’t get laid off. But, I could see the writing on the wall – given the subprime crisis, it’s going to take a long time for our industry to recover. I could see one day I’ll get laid off.

It was really sad to see my colleagues getting laid off. One guy just bought a house, had a baby, and got laid off all in the same week. And it was right before Christmas. It was demoralizing.

My employer had promised that it would not lay off anyone in the next year. So, I told myself that I have the next 12 months to find something else to do. It will take a long time for my industry to recover. I probably won’t be able to make good money in my industry. I’d better to find some other ways to survive this recession.

I assume the layoff is going to happen. But, I’m not going to let my employer to control my future. I can control my reaction, and what I can do. And I’ll do something about it.

GeekMBA360.com: How did you come up with the ScooterGirls idea? How did you get started?

Arlene Battishill : I spent the first 6 months thinking about what I can do. I have been in the real estate development business for a long time. I made a list of things that I can do. I also made a list of contacts I know. And I networked like crazy.

At the same time, I had two nieces who graduated from college. They both were in the art field, and wanted to pursue art/entertainment careers in LA. One of them wanted to be a fashion photographer. It’s really hard to break into this kind of field. They were living with me. I need to find a way for them to make some money. If I get laid off, I wont’ be able to support them.

And the gas price had been going through the roof. As you know, to get around in LA, we drive a lot. I started to think about getting a scooter to save some gas money.

As the economy is tanking, local businesses better start advertising aggressively.

Putting all of these need together, I came up the idea for ScooterGirls. Necessity is the mother of all inventions.

To get started, I tried to borrow some money and set up credit cards for my employees. But, my bank wouldn’t lend me any money. I had excellent credit scores. So, I just went ahead and borrowed half of my 401k account.  I bought 30 scooters from China and a 20 foot long enclosed hauling trailer for the scooters that also doubles as a mobile billboard and started the business.

GeekMBA360.com : Are you still working for the homebuilding company? Did you tell them about your venture?

Arlene Battishill : : Yes, I’m still working for the homebuilding company. ScooterGirls is my own business; it has nothing to do with them. When the company lays you off, they’re not going to tell you beforehand. It’s none of their business. I don’t need to tell them about my business.


GeekMBA360.com: How is your business doing now? How do you run the business?

Arlene Battishill :I meet with my two nieces every night after I get off from work. I give them instructions on what to do. They’re running the business. They’re hustling. We have a group of young ladies who believe in the idea. They believe in the possibilities. They’re working hard to build the business.

We started with mobile advertising. But, since we have little money, we need to bring in revenue in whatever way we can. We offer scooter rental service. We offer mobile billboard on a 20-foot long ScooterGirls trailer. We’ve been approached to start a reality TV show that we’re negotiating now. We’re working on the ScooterGirls “Commuter Line” Apparel Collection. It targets the 2-wheel commuters. The apparel line is highly reflective and visible on the street, so you can wear them when you’re riding a bike or scooter. But, it also has a professional look so that you can wear it to work. We’re building a brand with diversified lines of products and services.

Since we don’t have whole lot of cash, we have to be very creative. I do a lot of bartering. The other day, I met a guy who needed some help for his home remodeling project. I’m a licensed general contractor, and have tons of experience in this area. A quick chat revealed that this guy was an entertainment lawyer. I offered to help him manage his remodeling project, while he would offer me legal help on my reality show deal. It’s a win-win situation.

You need to think out of box. You need to think what values you can bring to the table, and exchange it for other services. Talk to people. And you’ll be surprised to find how you can help each other.

This is not an easy undertaking. Getting insurance to protect ScooterGirls was quite a challenge. But, I think in the worse case scenario, I can always liquidate the scooters and trailer. And I can tell myself that I’ve tried my best to control my own destiny. I didn’t let someone else to dictate my future.

GeekMBA360.com : What about failure and obstacles? I’m sure you have run into some really difficult situations. How do you handle failures and challenges?

Arlene Battishill : Not long ago, my hauling trailer that doubles as a mobile billboard was stolen along with eight scooters that were inside it.  It was a devastating loss, not to mention that it was a $15,000 hit, none of which the insurance company would pay for.  It felt like someone had simply walked off with my whole business.  It took me about a week to shake off the loss and regroup and then we were off to the races again.

At one point, I just had to dig deep within myself to be able to withstand the loss and not let it completely impact my ability to move forward and I finally had to make peace with what had happened.  Unbelievably, about three weeks later, the police recovered the trailer, but the eight scooters were gone.  The loss is still great, but I have my trailer back and I absolutely remain faithful and unwavering in my belief that when you know that what you’re doing is the right thing to do, no matter what obstacles you may face, you keep going and in the end, everything always works out.

GeekMBA360.com: What advice do you have for folks who are laid off or are concerned about their future?

Arlene Battishill : You need to think out of box. Too many people have been working for employers for a long time, and they don’t know what else are out there. they have certain expectations about what they should doing. We’re all taught this way. I have a PhD myself. You need to break free from that.

Get busy. Figure out what you can do. There is always someone who is going to be willing to pay you to do something.  Identify the needs that are out there and don’t let your ego prevent you from taking something that could potentially turn into something that goes beyond your wildest dreams.  Just because something may not be appealing to you today doesn’t mean that tomorrow it doesn’t turn into your dream job.  You just have to be flexible and believe and every opportunity out there could become the best thing that ever happened to you, you just have to believe in the possibilities.

You might be offered an unpaid position. If it’s in an area that you want to get into, take it. It opens up doors to you in the future. Don’t sit there doing nothing.

Get to know others. You never know where a relationship can lead you.

Are you concerned about your own job security and personal financial future? Arlene has taken massive action to take control of her own destiny. What actions are you doing to take?

Coming up:

  • Lessons we can learn from ScooterGirls to beat recession and survive layoffs
  • Video clips from Ms. Arlene Battishill that help you overcome the layoff shock, find ideas to get a second job or start a new business, and keep yourself motivated during this trying time.

Stay tuned.

Tags: Beat Recession

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sudhir Kadam // Oct 24, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Hats off to Arlene Battishill – most of us spend too much time worrying, but little time doing something about it. If you have the desire to succeed and the guts to do whatever it takes to get there – there is no reason to be afraid of downturns. Downturns are only there to scare those with a weak heart.

  • 2 ErvinTW // Nov 10, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Thanks! Nice post.

  • 3 Jessica Clark // Jul 9, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Kudos to Arlene! We are two moms working hard to make certain that our families do not continue to suffer because of this catasrophic economy. We live in Michigan and there are so many families now suffering extreme financial hardship. So many of these are educated, hardworking people, who have done absolutely nothing to bring this upon themselves.
    We come from a family of builders. Due to job loss in the residential construction industry, our husbands have gone back to school. We never imagined that we would be in this situation. After 17 years as successful builders, they are now starting at square one on a completely new career path as registered nurses. Our families have suffered extreme financial losses. We have lost more than we ever imagined, but we know that those are all just things. We focus on what matters most, and that is our families. We are using what we know, making beautiful, fresh & natural soap, to see our families through these incredibly difficult times. Suds Handmade Soap Co. has been like a phoenix rising up from the ashes. We are good at what we do and, Lord willing, we will be successful. Our website is http://www.shopsuds.com We really appreciate your support.

    May God bless our America

  • 4 Jessica Clark // Jul 9, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Kudos to Arlene! We are two moms working hard to make certain that our families do not continue to suffer because of this catasrophic economy. We live in Michigan and there are so many families now suffering extreme financial hardship. So many of these are educated, hardworking people, who have done absolutely nothing to bring this upon themselves.
    We come from a family of builders. Due to job loss in the residential construction industry, our husbands have gone back to school. We never imagined that we would be in this situation. After 17 years as successful builders, they are now starting at square one on a completely new career path as registered nurses. Our families have suffered extreme financial losses. We have lost more than we ever imagined, but we know that those are all just things. We focus on what matters most, and that is our families. We are using what we know, making beautiful, fresh & natural soap, to see our families through these incredibly difficult times. Suds Handmade Soap Co. has been like a phoenix rising up from the ashes. We are good at what we do and, Lord willing, we will be successful. Our website is http://www.shopsuds.com We really appreciate your support.

    May God bless our America

  • 5 mikeandlisa1995 // Mar 11, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    Hi, Jessica, On behalf of Mary Orlando of The French Marketplace in Romeo, MI, I am writing to let you know she's been trying to get in touch with you. She would like to acquire more of your soap so that she may sell it at her two locations. It's a good seller and she would like to continue to do business with you. Please give her a call at (586) 242-2102 as soon as possible. Thank you so much.

    Lisa Bobbitt

  • 6 mikeandlisa1995 // Mar 11, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Hi, Jessica, On behalf of Mary Orlando of The French Marketplace in Romeo, MI, I am writing to let you know she's been trying to get in touch with you. She would like to acquire more of your soap so that she may sell it at her two locations. It's a good seller and she would like to continue to do business with you. Please give her a call at (586) 242-2102 as soon as possible. Thank you so much.

    Lisa Bobbitt

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