Tricks, Tats and a Comeback
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
For many people, breaking both arms and both legs while riding motocross would be enough to keep them off their bike. But not for Carey Hart.
The 33-year-old daredevil motocross racer started his career at the age of 4. "In the beginning days, it was just about having fun with my dad on the weekends and riding dirt bikes with my buddies out in the hills," says Hart. "Probably around age 12 is when I knew that this is what I wanted to do for a living." At age 17, Hart turned pro, and by 23, he started riding freestyle. In 2000, he completed the first-ever backflip on a 250cc bike in the Gravity Games, a trick known as the Hart Breaker.
But in 2003, Hart suffered what he thought was a career-ending injury. It took him two years off his bike to recover. Never comfortable with sitting still for too long, Hart focused his energy on a new business--Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company. "I spent a lot of my early days from the time I was 15 hanging out in tattoo shops," Hart says. In fact, he received his first tattoo by his friend's dad, who was recently released from jail, on his 18th birthday.
Now Hart can't even count how many tattoos he's received. "I'm completely solid from my waistline to my fingertips to my neck," he says. "I have one big shirt I guess you could call it."
Hart took his passion for tattoos to the next level by opening the first Hart & Huntington location in Las Vegas, inside the Palms Casino Resort in 2004. "I can't tattoo to save my life, so the next cool thing [was] to open my own tattoo shop, so I can hang out and get tattooed when I want," he says.
But the transition from extreme athlete to business owner wasn't an easy one. "It was definitely difficult on a lot of different levels," Hart says. "Going from being an athlete where it's all about lifestyle and rock 'n roll and being on your own time to now having a structured business." But Hart says his motocross career helped prepare him. "I learned a lot from my sponsors," he says. "So I focused on what I knew, and that was building this brand and establishing it and surrounding myself with people who knew the other elements."
The tattooed entrepreneur scored big when network A&E picked up the reality TV series he pitched, Inked, based on the goings-on of his Vegas tattoo shop. Inked aired for two seasons, totaling 44 episodes before Hart and the network parted ways. "I was trying to keep Inked more about the tattoo shop, and it slowly turned into a Carey Hart TV show and that's something I didn't want to do at the time," he explains.
But that doesn't mean Hart won't consider future TV opportunities. In fact, he's already negotiating with networks for a new show focusing on the lifestyle and business side of the Hart & Huntington tattoo brand, which he hopes will hit the air in March.
In the meantime, Hart, who married singer Pink in 2006, has been focusing on expanding his tattoo shops across the globe. Currently, H&H has additional locations in Honolulu, Orlando, Florida and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Hart says the company will soon open another shop in Miami, and mentions Boston, Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, Canada and Australia as possible locales.
As if building his brand doesn't keep him busy enough, Hart is also focusing on expanding his clothing line and developing a high-end--yet edgy--rock nightclub, called Wasted Space, in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas. He plans to open the club in April and eventually establish multiple locations across the U.S.
Now, the tattooed racer is returning to his roots by participating in the 2008 AMA Supercross season as part of a five-man Supermoto team. "Here it is, four years later, and I'm healthy enough to get back on a bike," he says. "So now I'm trying to juggle three careers at once between the clothing business, the TV show and now trying to be an athlete again, so I've got my hands full."