How I started NICAMOTO with no money and the lessons I learned along the way

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My name is Salvador, I’m 33 years old and I’m the owner of NICAMOTO. Below I’m going to tell you the story on how I started NICAMOTO a motorcycle rental business in Nicaragua with no money.

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Why Nicaragua? Nicaragua is located in Central America. It has a tropical climate, which allows you to ride a motorcycle all year long. I find Nicaragua fascinating for adventure riding because it is one of the safest countries in Latin America, it is one of the countries with less tourism and the people are extremely friendly.

Why a motorcycle business? I am a motorcyclist at heart and I am very passionate about adventure riding so why not make money with motorcycles? I have ridden across all of Latin America, around several countries in Europe and most recently across Africa two-up with my girlfriend. In total I have ridden in 40 countries across the globe.  My longest trip was 12 months and 55,000 kilometers.

How did it all started? Since I was kid motorcycles have fascinated me. At the age of 13 years old I started to ride illegally my sister’s 50cc Gilera scooter in Florence, Italy. At the age of 16 years old I was allowed to drive 125cc. The next year I borrowed a 125cc scooter from a friend and did my first long trip – 1,000 kms along the coast of Tuscany. While in graduate school I bought a Ducati Monster. Unfortunately that bike only lasted a couple of month before I totaled it.

After graduate school I joined a small consulting firm in Orange County California and I bought my first adventure bike a BMW 650 GS Dakar. I attended an off-road school and started riding off-road. I felt in love with adventure riding. Packing the bike, a tent, some food and then riding into the unknown.

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First lesson: I was leaving the American dream. I was living in Huntington Beach, I had a good paying job, an office overseeing the ocean and I was on my way to get the green card.  However, after a couple of years of working in front of the computer I was not happy and I did not feel fulfilled.

Influenced by reading the stories of several riders I decided that I wanted to ride across Latin America on my 650 GS Dakar.  When I told my family and friends that I was planning to do that they thought I had gone crazy.  The main concern was that I was going to kill myself on the motorcycle and/or that I would lose my US work visa.  If I lost my visa I would not be able to work in the US and it would be very hard to find another job.

When I started planning the trip I soon realized that I did not have the money to pay for the trip (I was still paying of the motorcycle!).  However, I was committed to make it happen no matter what. Even if it meant taking off and having to finish the trip a couple of weeks later when I ran out of cash.  However, something magical happened. When the people around me saw that I was fully committed they came forward and started providing all kind of support from riding gear to money.  With the help of those around me I was able to get all the necessary gear and enough money to be on the road a few months.

So the first lesson I want to share is commitment.  I year before departure I set a hard date on when I would leave on motorcycle trip and I stuck with it. No matter what happen I would leave on that date. So for the next 12 months everything I did, I thought and I felt was to leave on that specific date. Like magic and at the last minute everything came together for my departure. So if want to do something then you need to commit yourself 100% to it and it will happen. It does not matter if it is an adventure or a business. I will come back to this lesson at the end.

Second lesson:  Finally in August 2006, I took off on my first great adventure.  My family and friends wanted to know where I was so I decided to put up a blog where I would share where I was, what I was doing and how I was feeling. Since this blog was meant for small number of people that I knew I exposed my self.  I wrote like if I was talking to them. In addition, I wrote my impressions on the healthcare systems that I was seeing in the different countries and how that impacted the people in those countries. The blog posts where full of mistakes, some sentences where not clear (English is my third language) and my opinions where merely based on what I was seeing.  However, the blog was clearly very unique as it was a part of myself with no filters and part of my trip.

The blog started to go viral among the adventure riding motorcycle community and news channels such as CNN picked up the blog/journey. Through the blog I received around 8 thousand dollars of donations to help me finish the trip. The lesson I learned was that people really enjoy reading an unfiltered version of what was going on in my head.  So the second lesson I want to share with you is to be yourself and do not be afraid of it. As long as you are doing something positive people will rally around you.

Third lesson:  I finished my Latin America motorcycle journey in Nicaragua I was pretty much broke. I had spent all my savings, used up all the donations and I had maxed out a few credit cards. I was not allowed to work in the US and there were no jobs in Nicaragua. However, after such a great motorcycle journey I was full of energy and I decided that I want to do something with motorcycles to make money.

The first 12 months of NICAMOTO were some of the most difficult months of my life. My family wanted me to get a real job as soon as possible so I could be pay off my debt and be back on track on a professional career.  Every time I mentioned my plans to put up a motorcycle business was not received well. I did not have money so I did pass a few days just eating bread and drinking water.  Also, one time I almost killed myself on motorcycle accident in the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. A barb wired was across a dirt road, neck high and caught my neck. I felt off the bike with all kinds of cuts around my neck. The closest doctor was 8 hours away. I thought I was going to die.

The third lesson I want to share is passion.  Starting a business is not easy especially in a third world country.  If you do not have passion then you will give up when you have to eat only bread and drink water. Pick something that you are passionate about so you can overcome those hard times and still enjoy what you are doing.

Fourth lesson:  The first couple of years I had no clue what I was doing and only had a few clients per year.  I started the business because I was passionate about motorcycles and I saw an opportunity. There was no motorcycle rental company in Nicaragua. However, I was not clear what the business would look like.  I did not have a clear vision for the business.

The fourth lesson I want to share is to develop a clear vision for your business. Once I had a clear vision for the business it became much easier to attract clients and investors. You need to develop a clear vision for what you are trying to accomplish so that people will know in what journey they are embarking with you.

How did I start a successful motorcycle business with no money?

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Once I finished my motorcycle trip around Latin America I committed myself (lesson 1: commitment) to start a motorcycle business. Everything I did, I though and I felt for 12 months, 24 hours and 7 days a week was related to starting the business.

I wrote about what I was doing on motorcycle forums. I did not have a brand or a product and I asked for help funding my venture. I was honest and transparent on what I was doing (lesson 2: be yourself).  People checked my blog to learn more about me and I ended up getting seed funding for my venture from two strangers, one in the US and one in Canada.

I was passionate about motorcycles so I was able to endure the difficulties of starting business.  Looking back I probably picked up a bad business idea and bad a market to launch it. However, because I was passionate I was able to create a new market in Nicaragua (lesson 3:  passion). Now, there are several competitors in the market that have decided to open up based on our success.

The business didn’t take off until I had a clear vision for it. I was committed to do something with motorcycle and I was passionate about it but I had no clue where I was going with it. Once I had a vision of the ideal motorcycle business based on my experience and based on what I though a client wanted that’s when the money started coming in (lesson 2: be yourself / be unique). A vision gave me clear direction on the activities that I need to do to make it a reality. The vision allowed me to show the path for my investors and to get the necessary capital needed to succeed.

Today NICAMOTO is the first and largest motorcycle rental, tour and training company in Nicaragua. We currently have 15 motorcycles and we are planning to a few more this year. We are also expanding our business offering and services.

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If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me through our website nicamoto.com