The Missing Link

Winner's Circle

Helmet maker has a head for business.

Name and age: Troy Lee, 36

Company name and description: Troy Lee Designs primarily designs customized graphics for racing helmets. It also makes apparel and accessories for auto, mountain bike and motocross racing and is currently working with Mazda Motor Corp. to design a truck.

Based: Corona, California

Founded: 1981

1997 sales projections: $4.4 million

Early start: Lee picked up his first paintbrush at age 4 and began racing autos in his teens.

Timing is everything: Lee and three other artists collaborate on each helmet. Basic designs take approximately four hours; more intricate ones, such as a recent helmet design created for Las Vegas' New York, New York hotel, may require up to 40 hours of work.

Clientele: Indy Car winner Paul Tracy; snowboard champ Shaun Palmer; the Andretti family

Keeping count: His company completes anywhere from 15 to 20 helmets every week.

New view: Using 24-carat gold and sterling silver to adorn helmets; designing with holographic flakes to reflect a rainbow of vibrant colors in the sun; painting on top of chrome- and gold-plated helmets for "a real wild reflection"

Quality control: "When you work with the best helmets, the best racers and the best sponsors, everything all comes together."

In the works: Testing fins to increase a helmet's aerodynamics; continuing to try to make helmets as lightweight and safe as possible; experimenting with special displays in the helmet's shield so racers won't have to look down to see their gauges

Future focus: "We're just trying to push the envelope and stay on the edge with everything we do."

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This article was originally published in the November 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Missing Link.

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