No Stalling on the Ride to Export MarketsJuly 29, 2013
Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center.
Rekluse makes clutches for off-road dirt bikes in a small factory in Boise, Idaho. The company’s founder, who begged his parents for a dirt bike and got one at age eight, got the idea for the business when searching, unsuccessfully, for a clutch to prevent engine stalls with his bike.
Now, Rekluse is selling clutches to dirt bike enthusiasts all over the world.
The company has worked with the International Trade Administration and other government agencies to develop an impressive international business presence, earning a presidential E-Award for Export Excellence in 2013.
On hand in Washington to accept the award was export manager Alison Kelsey, who talked with the Global Knowledge Center’s Doug Barry.
Barry: What does your company make?
Kelsey: Our company invented and manufactures auto clutches for dirt bikes. We’re in the off-road segment now and looking to go into the street market later this year. The product is called an auto-clutch. At a basic level, it prevents your motorcycle from stalling. And so it’s an aftermarket, bolt-on product that has advantages for beginners all the way up to professionals.
Barry: How did the company come into being?
Kelsey: The founder, Al Youngwerth, had tried a product that was kind of like ours, and it didn’t work well. It ended up damaging his motorcycle. He had a difficult time with their customer service. He’s an engineer, so his mind just started to work and he created the first auto-clutch 11 years ago. He just started from scratch and learned how to machine the product.
Barry: How has the company grown?
Kelsey: Early on, two of the first clutches that were ever made went to customers in Europe. We started exporting very early on and took requests.
But three years ago, when I came into the company, we said: “We have a real opportunity here to grow this and to put best practices in place, bring in the infrastructure and really grow.”
We’ve seen tremendous growth in the last couple of years. Exports are now about 30 percent of our business. We have 18 distributors and through them, we export to 41 countries.
Overall, exports have enabled the company to grow more quickly. We have a very seasonal business and selling to markets all over the world helps us even out that seasonality and we can keep the balance up throughout the year.
Barry: What was the most important thing that helped the company grow systematically?
Kelsey: I think for us it as the commitment of the company to export, to know what it was going to take and all be on the same page and ready to invest in that, and then for all of us to have an understanding of the opportunity. When we have in-house R&D and production, everyone needs to be on the same page. So that was the most important first step: getting everyone on board from product design all the way up–we’re planning for exporting.
Barry: Was there a big challenge that you have encountered, or the founder encountered, in making the company successful?
Kelsey: I think the biggest challenge we’ve had is probably just limited resources. We’re a small company. We have specific challenges in each market that we work to overcome, but I’ve really found that since we’ve connected to the U.S. Commercial Service, we know where to get the answer to whatever situation has come up.
Barry: How specifically has the Commercial Service out there in Boise helped you?
Kelsey: Well, we’re really fortunate with our local Export Assistance Center office and Amy Benson specifically – I’d like to mention her. She has done everything from mentor the leadership team in our company, to prepare us for the commitment of exporting.
We’ve taken advantage of Gold Key Service, which finds buyers for us. I was in Brazil earlier this year, and to have everything set up – you just arrive and the Commercial Service people at the embassy have got it dialed up. We had fantastic meetings. Really great opportunities came out of that.
We also used the International Partner Search in Europe last year, which provided us a list of qualified buyers. So those are the services we’ve used, but Amy also just connected us to all the other export resources in our community. I think we know everyone now: the SBA, the Idaho District Export Council, many others. It’s our local network, and it’s great.