www.gearheadhq.comThis issue of the Gearhead Newsletter is really long, but I had alot to get off my chest! Plus it's the first full newsletter of the year... they won't all be this long, promise! kiss kiss!
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight
shlemiel, schlemazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated
We're gonna do it
Give us any chance, we'll take it
Read us any rule, we'll break it
We're gonna make our dreams come true
Doin' it our way
Nothin's gonna turn us back now
Straight ahead and on the track now
We're gonna make our dreams come true
Doin' it our way
There is nothing we won't try
Never heard the word impossible
This time there's no stopping us
We're gonna do it
–Theme song to TV Sitcom Laverne and Shirley–Lyrics by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox
This spring marks my eighteenth year running Gearhead. I think to run a small business this long, you have to have tunnel vision. You have to be dedicated and driven. I would also add a little nutty, focused, obsessed and filled to the top with perseverance. You have to obliterate the word “impossible”. The lyrics to the Laverne and Shirley theme song always gets stuck in my head when I ponder on this and all the ups and downs I’ve experienced along the way. I never say quit. I always think there’s a way to make something happen and I keep banging away at it until it happens or it crumbles before my eyes.
Eighteen years later, I am still trying to make Gearhead the household brand name of cool that I know it can be. All last month, newscasts were commemorating the beginning of the financial melt down which led to the Great Recession. As a small business owner, I did some really dumb things to keep Gearhead going during the tough times, like taking out a second mortgage on my house, getting loans from the bank, maxing out credit cards…. These are the things that many small business owners do who are trying to make it on their own: I’m no exception.
But spend any time on social media and you’ll notice the talk centers around “venture capital”, “start ups” and investors as the only way to fund a small business. Honestly, while the thought crossed my mind, I never had time to pursue outside funding. I was too busy running the company to spend time chasing some fantasy angel investor who probably wouldn’t get my vision anyway. So I kept at it, bootstrapping it as it is called: Everything coming into the coffers goes right back into the business to grow it gradually.
When my world came crashing down around me as I filed for bankruptcy, I thought that was the end of all my dreams and goals. All my hard work and passion for this company was down the toilet. After coming out of the bankruptcy, and after doing some pretty intensive soul searching, I gradually put my toes back in the water and started the company back up again.
Now, ten years later, Gearhead is finally regaining a foothold in the underground market. Two new issues of the magazine have come out, a bunch of new t-shirts are now available, and five new records have hit the streets since starting the brand back up again in 2013. I’m pretty pleased with how things are starting to grow again, and by the feedback I’m hearing, you folks are too.
It has been mightly tough though. There are days when I’m so exhausted and run down, I don’t think I can do this one more minute. I wish I had someone to share the burdens with, someone to help find the dough to pay the bills. They call this the “trough of sorrow” in the business world. Apparently, this is a common place for entrepreneurs to get to, and many call it quits when they hit this emotional barrier. The feelings of isolation, worry, survival and struggle are daily reminders that running a small business by one’s self is not an easy path.
I pour everything I have into Gearhead because I love this company and believe passionately in it. I am in love with the idea of what Gearhead could become as a brand. But in reality, there are times when I stop and wonder what the heck I’m doing. Why am I continuing to grind away at this while I see other people call it quits and go get a job with steady income, health insurance and vacation benefits?
I have taken free-lance jobs (check out these three articles for Team Valvoline), worked as a day laborer (seriously, $15/hour weeding and digging), taught classes about gardening (I’m a master gardener), sold my personal treasures on eBay and done whatever I could to make ends meet because any money coming into Gearhead was being put right back into the company. It is a constant struggle to keep the doors open and new products coming out, and sometimes, it is almost more than I can bear.
Around the holidays, I was promoting and selling the two new records that had just come out, The Mansfields Hollywood Babylon LPand theV/A Santa’s Got a GTO Vol. 2 LP as well as the brand new issue of Gearhead Magazine No. 20. I was so proud of each of those projects! I had worked so hard, pouring blood, sweat and tears into each one of them. I was physically so run down however, I made myself sick, suffering from bronchitis twice in a little over three months! I’m only just now feeling like myself again.
At one event, I excitedly shared the new projects with a few peers and waited for their feedback. All I got was “I’m looking for the mistakes. I heard there were mistakes.” I was crushed. I felt like Charlie Brown when he goes trick or treating and gets a bag full of rocks. All my hard work, excitement and enthusiasm came crashing down around me and for a brief moment, I thought yet again, “Why do I bother?”
I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m working and one of my favorites is How I Built This by Guy Roz. He interviews entrepreneurs about the companies they built and the challenges they faced along the way. I also listen the The Venture, another podcast run by Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, who also interviews small business owners about their journey (one episode even featured our friends over at Kill Rock Stars!). These interviews give me a lot of inspiration to keep going because not one of the companies featured on these shows has had a straight easy path to success. Who knows? Maybe one day Gearhead will be featured on one of these shows. It helps me keep going when I feel defeated. I like thinking that maybe what I am going through could be inspiring to someone else in my shoes.
Screw those people that don’t get it. There are plenty of you out there who do. The support you gave me during the recent Kickstarter campaign is proof enough. Eighty-seven of you stepped up to help fund the new issue of Gearhead! And THAT is why I continue. The Gearhead brand of products is niche at best, and that’s ok. It’s for the cool kids like you guys who are always looking for the next interesting thing and want to support those creators, inventors, artists, builders, or as they are referred to in one of my favorite books The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell “the Innovators.”
When I first started, they used to called these people the “tastemakers” but now we are referred to as “influencers.” Whatever you call it, the loyal fans of Gearhead are “it”: able to identify with the vision and carry it out to the marketplace by buying the products and spreading the word about Gearhead to your social media. This community is what keeps me going and I am deeply grateful to all of you.
Because of you wonderful loyal supportive Gearhead fans, I am able to keep building this company one step at a time and while the growth may seem slow, and some days I feel like I’m never gonna “make it”, it is steady and that is what counts. That is what keeps me showing up, day after day. Cue up the Laverne and Shirley theme song!
I’d like to give a big shout out to all those who supported Gearhead during the Kickstarter campaign. Thank you for your support and belief in the Gearhead brand! Eighty-seven of you pitched in financially, and I know countless others shared the campaign with your social media.
These kind folks pitched in something extra to bring issue #20 to life: Dean Case (formerly of Mazda Motorsports), Mel Spinella, Golly Gee Records, C. Flom / cheaprustjunkie, Gerry Cueller, Go Big! Entertainment, Chris M, Chuck Destruction, Self Destructo Records, Jason Selbert, Rene Aguirre, Rich T (Ohio Tattoo Museum), Terrence Guerin, Aaron Steinle, mike gossell, Phil Lang, Brian Miller, Royce Farrell, Nat Peplinski and Rumi.
I am getting married in a month, May 13, to be exact. The lucky guy is “Cuz’n Bill” Lorenz, tattoo artist and painter of the cover of Gearhead #20, as well as creator of a bunch of other art used for various Gearhead products. We met over ten years ago when a flaky tattoo artist messed up my half arm sleeve, and Bill offered to fix it for me. He is my rock, my support and my cheering section, all rolled into one swell guy. I couldn’t be happier!
I need to pull my attention away for Gearhead for a while so I can finish planning my wedding. But rest assured, as soon as the wedding festivities are done, my attention will turn back to Gearhead full force.
In the meantime, check out the newest release from Gearhead Records, the digital ep The Traveler from Tilli. She rocks and you should expect to hear more from her as the year unfolds. Dave Grhol (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) and Alain Johannes (Queens Of The Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Eleven) both produced and contributed to these killer tracks, so check it out!
If you haven’t picked it up yet, the sophomore release from The Mansfieldshas taken a spooky turn and headed into psychobilly territory. It is Limited edition pressing of 500 on day-glow orange vinyl with a free digital download to boot.
There are still a few copies left of the V/A “Santa’s Got a GTO Vol. 2” LP compiled by world famous DJ Rodney Bingenheimer exclusively for Gearhead. Even through it is a Christmas album, this one rocks hard and can be played any time of the year! This is also available as a digital download cardwith cool art by Doug Mansfield! And of course, there is the newest issue of Gearhead Magazine out now too, issue No. 20.
Finally, there is thebad-ass new Gearhead t shirt-- The Chevelle Monster t-shirt--designed and printed by Mario Vigil at Vigil Designs. Featuring a two-color back print as well as a left-chest front logo, this rad art is sure to make your day a little weirder.
I’m super proud of all these projects and hope you dig ‘em too. And yes, there are mistakes, but I am human! I do my best, but shit still gets by me. It is not the end of the world, ok?
Finally, if you do buy something from the webstore, please leave a review!It helps Gearhead get bumped up in the search engines and as you all know, every little bit makes a difference when you’re the underdog.
Thank you every one of you for reading this, for your support and enthusiasm. You are the reason Gearhead is still around.
Live Fast, Be Weird!
Rock 'n' Roll/Automotive Journalist, Influencer, Editor and Publisher of Gearhead Magazine,