Software salesman revs up scooter sales

  @Money February 3, 2014: 4:10 PM ET
From IBM engineer to scooter salesman
(Money Magazine)

Rows of colorful electric scooters line the Carolina Fun Machines show room. As owner Tim Juntgen rolls one of those two-wheelers into the lot for a customer, his smile says it all. This guy loves his job.

"I've never met anyone who has walked in that door I couldn't make friends with," he says. Once a salesman, always a salesman.

Back in 1973, Juntgen got his first job with IBM, and for the next 34 years he navigated the changing computer market, selling business products for a variety of firms. In 2007 he retired early, bored of software sales, and began contemplating his next move.

The idea for Carolina Fun Machines came to Juntgen in 2008, when his wife, Linda, decided she wanted a scooter to ride to the nearby high school where she teaches. Tim offered to shop for her. It was in his wheelhouse, after all. "I've been a motorcycle guy all my life," he says. "I used to put 7,000 miles a year on my Kawasaki Concours."

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He quickly discovered a gap in the market for Chinese-made scooters priced between $1,000 and $5,000 that came with warranties and were sold by shops offering repairs. "I said, 'Linda, I know what I want to do, and you'll get a great price on your scooter,'" he recalls.

Juntgen revved up business by spending $300 a month for Google AdWords, which kicks his website to the top of the search results of anyone within 60 miles of Matthews, N.C., who types in "scooter." The store's location, on a high-traffic boulevard, helps too. Plus, he has a ready-made market among motorists sidelined by DWIs. (In North Carolina, you don't need a license to drive a scooter.)

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Last year company revenues hit $650,000; net profits, which Juntgen reinvested, topped $60,000. He took home $90,000. Juntgen no longer has time to ride a motorcycle, unfortunately. But, he says, "I occasionally ride a scooter home from the office -- just for fun."

BY THE NUMBERS

$50,000: Amount needed to start up.

Much of Juntgen's initial investment -- which came from cash savings -- went toward buying 20 scooters and a retail computer system. The first year his goal was to sell 100 scooters (marked up 30% to 100% over cost). He sold 130.

2 years: Time before he took a salary.

Tim had made $150,000 a year before retiring, but the frugal Juntgens and their two kids, now 13 and 18, managed to live off of savings and Linda's $45,000 salary. Now that he's taking a paycheck, the Juntgens are able to let their savings ride.

2018: Year Juntgen plans to step back from the biz.

That's when Linda plans to retire, and the couple want to travel: "To make that a reality, I need to build a business that provides me $60,000 to $80,000 of income a year and pays the salary of a general manager," he says. His growth strategy: moving into ATVs and UTVs that sell for $3,000 to $11,000. To top of page

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