Born To Ride Women’s World Open Road Girl-Melinda Johnson, Story By: Myra McElhaney
When Melinda Johnson was in her 20’s she rode on back of her boyfriend’s bike. When that relationship ended she was a single mom with two teenagers, working a full-time job, and various part-time jobs— such as cleaning offices and selling Avon and other direct marketing products. There wasn’t much time to think about riding, but she did miss it.
Later when dating a new guy, she mentioned that she’d love to ride her own motorcycle and he said, “Why not?” They bought bikes together and then she signed up for the rider course.
Melinda started riding around the neighborhood to get used her new Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider. It was a big change from the little bike she’d taken her class on! Soon after venturing out onto the highway she crashed! Wearing full gear (remember, ‘All the gear; all the time!’) she was OK, but her bike had to be hauled away for three weeks in the shop.
She was scared, and her confidence was shattered but with a loan payment and a new bike, Melinda wasn’t going to give up! She knew she could figure it out, so she got back on the bike. The boyfriend wasn’t around much to ride with and she didn’t want to ride alone. So where do you find a new riding buddy? Why Craigslist, of course! Melinda answered an ad that said, “looking for female motorcycle riders,” and found another single mom to ride with.
Later she went to a biker bar and met a group of guys to ride with. Most of them were friendly and welcomed her, not minding that she was a new rider and a bit slower than they were. They treated her like the ‘little sister’ of the group. One guy wasn’t as patient. He often complained that she couldn’t keep up and didn’t ride as fast and aggressively as the others. He even seemed a bit rude. Melinda won him over though. And then she married him!
In 2010, after riding about five years, Melinda who’d always had an entrepreneurial streak, worked with a graphic designer to design a logo and create some T-shirts and sweatshirts to sell at bike rallies. She called the business “Open Road.”
Melinda wanted to build this line of products into a business, so she took workshops and read online forums and books about business, developing a website, internet marketing, and product development. She joined a Master Mind group with three other business women who became advisors and encouragers to each other.
Melinda had been working for an import company since age 15. Working her way up through picking and packing, customer service, sales coordinator, and management gave her valuable skills and contacts for building a business. Although there was a great learning curve she already knew about things like working with manufacturers, selecting vendors and negotiating pricing.
Selling shirts at bike rallies, Melinda loved the community of women and recognized them as a growing market segment. She changed the name of the company to Open Road Girls. She dropped the unisex logo and replaced it with her vision of a woman on a bike with her hair in the wind. She expanded the line to include additional clothing and accessories.
In April 2015, after working her full-time job and building her business, Melinda took the big step and quit her job! Now she works all the time in the business she loves. Now she even rides an Open Road Girl branded Indian Chiefton bike!
From developing products, creating the company website, handling internet marketing duties, bookkeeping and hauling a trailer to motorcycle rallies and shows where she sells products—Melinda does it all! She’s built a large and active Facebook community, too.
Meeting the ‘girls’ (who range from their 20’s to 60+) is her favorite part of the business. When someone drives hundreds of miles to a “Meet & Greet” to say she’s an inspiration–and oh, by the way, she’s wearing an Open Road Girl T-shirt—Melinda feels that she’s doing what she was meant to do. Inspiring other women to ride their own and be badass!
The newest addition to the Open Road Girl line is backpacks. She also has just introduced an “I Ride My Own” collection.
Melinda is looking forward to the 2nd annual Open Road Girl Rally in Springfield, MO the 2nd week of August 2018. You can learn more about Open Road Girl events and products at www.OpenRoadGirls.com and in the Open Road Girl Facebook page.
If you or a gal you know would like to be interviewed for this column, send an email to Myra@MyraMcElhaney.com with Women’s World in the subject line.
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