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Baby diapers, Q-tips, extra-soft toothbrushes and a heck of a lot of polishing chrome--these are just a few of the tools 22-year-old Sara Ocheltree needs to thoroughly shine the chrome tubing and delicate spokes that grace each motorcycle she greets through her Los Angeles business, Ladies of Hogwash.
Specializing in detailing motorcycles at the owner's home or office, Ladies of Hogwash took off in 1998 with only $700 in start-up capital and the strong entrepreneurial drive of the young L.A. native. While attending Los Angeles Trade Technical Institute earlier that year, Ocheltree and a friend talked about opening their own all-female auto body shop but soon realized a detailing business would be easier to launch. After talking the idea over with family and friends, Uncle Lou (no relation), an avid bike lover, suggested they focus on detailing motorcycles.
Uncle Lou showed Ocheltree the ropes, and she practiced detailing friends' bikes, then stocked up on sponges, hoses and towels and borrowed a motorcycle lift. Despite early setbacks--her partner dropped out, and Ocheltree quickly learned some bikers won't let anyone touch their bikes--she was undaunted. With business cards in hand, she visits biker hangouts, finding customers who welcome the chance to have someone else handle the five-hour job.
In January 1999, Ocheltree quit her full-time job at the Hollywood Reporter to invest more energy into Ladies of Hogwash. Advertising through a monthly newsletter, she now employs her sister, Jesica, to help expedite detailing. Focusing on getting her name out, Ocheltree feels the best advertising is talking to bike owners directly. At press time, she projected 1999 sales of $30,000.
"I was terrified when I first went out to talk to the bikers," says Ocheltree, "but I've kind of become one of them now. When they see me, they recognize me. I'm at all these events, I know the club members--and I don't even own a bike."