Telling a bad economy to go ‘scoot’
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Scott Jagow: I’ve been tooling around LA a bit, talking to people about their economic situation. I met a woman named Arlene Battishill. She works for a homebuilder. And, with good reason, she’s worried about losing her job. So this summer, she came up with a backup plan — her own business. It began when her niece graduated from college and bought a scooter.
Arlene Battishill: And the next thing we knew, we’re like, well, she has a sister, she should get a scooter too. And that makes them the scootergirls. And I’m like, wait a minute, scooters . . . Hooters on Scooters! And I’m like, YEAH, that’s the hook — Hooters on Scooters.
Now, before you jump to conclusions, Arlene might be on to something. Her new company, Scootergirls, does mobile advertising. A bunch of women drive around, in scooter formation, wearing company logos.
Battishill: Who isn’t going to notice all these great-looking girls traveling in a pack of 20 or 30 of them driving down La Brea or Santa Monica, and yes sex sells, we get it, we understand it, and we’re all strong women, and we’re going to use it to our advantage. But we’re not going to exploit anyone, that is not what this company is about.
OK, so there’s the concept. And in a bad economy, companies are looking for ways to cut advertising costs, so this might just work. But isn’t it a terrible time to start a business?
Battishill: You know what, I have to expect I’m gonna lose my job. So what am I going to do about that? You either let it happen to you and be a victim in this economy or you say, “I’m not going to be a victim.”
But the money’s a bit of a problem. Arlene couldn’t get any credit at her bank, not even a company credit card. So, she cashed out half her 401k to buy 30 scooters and hire more women. The money’s so tight, she’s basically running her company on the barter system.
Battishill: For example, we have some scooter mechanics that their car broke down. They can’t get to all the other jobs they’re doing. So I’ve lent them scooters so that they can get around and they’re going work on our scooters in exchange. We have a printing company, who he wanted a scooter, so we gave him a scooter and he’s doing all of our printing for us exclusively.
Arlene’s being pretty creative, and she’s certainly determined. But there’s no guarantee her business is going to make it, and Arlene could lose a lot. For her young niece, Cherie, the original Scootergirl, this is quite a leap into the real world.
Cherie: I think yeah, the economy’s bad, but everyone has something else to offer and you know, I’m like my aunt, I’m not going to take no for answer. And sometimes that’s all you can do is make things happen for yourself and do it by yourself. You know what I mean?
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