For a motorcyclist, there’s nothing quite like hitting the open road on a finely-tuned hot rod. Scott Smith loves that freedom so much, he’s turned his passion for bikes into a business that puts him in the driver’s seat – in more ways than one.
Four years ago, husband and wife team Scott Smith and Christa Little opened Severn Cycle Service just off Highway 11 at Soules Road. At his modern, well-equipped shop, Scott Smith offers professional service for motorcycles of all shapes, sizes and models.
“At a lot of places, a marine mechanic will look at your motorcycle. Often, you don’t know if you’re getting a licensed motorcycle technician looking at your motorcycle,” said Smith. “Here, you get a licensed, trained motorcycle technician. We work on all makes and models from BMWs to Suzukis to Harley Davidsons. I’ve kind of become the specialty guy in our area for European bikes; there’s really no other place to get them serviced north of Toronto.”
Smith has had a passion for motorcycles for as long as he can remember. But after high school, he decided to go to George Brown College to become a chef. After getting a taste of the culinary trade, he went to work at Casino Rama where he worked as a table games supervisor for several years before finally deciding to turn his passion into a career.
He worked for two different motorcycle shops and learned as much as he could about the business. But he decided he wanted to be his own boss and with the support of his wife, began exploring the idea of opening his own shop. With the help of the Community Development Corporation (CDC), he participated in the now defunct Self-Employment Assistance Program, which helped him develop his plan and create a strategy to turn his dream into a reality.
Once he found the ideal location – the highway frontage was perfect and the property included a home that would allow them to live on site – the CDC provided a vital start-up loan that helped Smith buy much-needed tools and a tire machine.
Almost as soon as he opened his doors, he was busy. He had developed a loyal following of satisfied customers from his previous jobs; his quality work and deep knowledge has impressed many new customers as well. He is proud to have been recognized as the area’s top motorcycle mechanic for three straight years in the Orillia Packet & Times annual Best of Orillia poll.
Thanks to the growth of the business, he has hired additional staff. Last year, when Smith was looking to hire an apprentice, the CDC directed Smith to work with the Georgian College Career Centre, where he was able to find the right person for the job. And, more recently, when Smith wanted to hire a parts person, he again turned to the CDC, who pointed him to Agilec’s Orillia office. “We’ve also used many resources that the CDC offers and we took their social media workshop, which was really helpful,” said Christine. “They have been a huge help for us in many, many ways.”
The entrepreneurs, who have seen their clientele shift – there are now many more women cyclists and a good mix of professionals who love to ride – believe their business will continue to grow. And they plan to grow with it.
“We want to move into sales and start selling motorcycles, apparel and accessories,” said Smith, noting the plan is to convert the home on the property to a new showroom. “That would allow us to renovate our shop to create more work space. The plan is to hire two more mechanics so that we have four and we would probably also expand to ATVs and snowmobiles … we have big ambitions.”
Smith admits he’s driven to succeed. “I love learning and I love what I do, so every day, I drive so hard to get better. I want to be more than what I am. I want to become a motorcycle destination … I want people to think when they come up here that they have to come to Severn Cycle. I want to be known as THE place to go for everything related to motorcycles.”
He expects to continue to tap into the CDC’s reservoir of experience and programs during his planned expansion. “The CDC has been so valuable to us right from the beginning,” said Smith. “We will continue to rely on them as we grow.”
Severn Cycle Service is located at 3827 Soules Rd. For more information, drop in, call 705-327-8291 or visit their website: www.severncycle.com