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The motorcycle community is like no other. While everyone comes from different backgrounds and walks of life, there’s an underlying connection among all riders. From dirt riders to road racers, cruisers and stunters, the camaraderie is strong among
those who have a passion for the two-wheeled sport.
If there’s anyone who knows this to be true, it’s MMI grad Chris Drew. After graduating from Motorcycle Mechanics Institute,
Chris started a business venture of his own centered around the vibrant motorcycle culture and community.1 Keep reading to learn about his inspiring story and how he went from MMI student to business owner:
Photo by Sean Ramses
At the age of 22, Chris bought his first motorcycle and instantly fell in love with riding. At the time, he had several friends who were into customizing bikes and working in the garage, which inspired him to start turning wrenches. He never considered
himself to be much of a gearhead before, but once he started working on bikes, he never looked back.
Eager to learn more, Chris eventually stumbled upon MMI. Initially, he thought it would be cool to go there to gain knowledge he could apply in his own garage at home. However, upon researching MMI and seeing the relationship the school has with manufacturers, he began to see it as a potential career path rather than just a hobby.
Chris and his wife, Jodi, decided to take a leap of faith and move to Orlando, FL while
Chris attended MMI. He finished at the top of his class and even received a scholarship from
worked hard and made the most out of his training, gaining a strong foundation of knowledge he could build upon in his career.
After finishing his motorcycle training at MMI, Chris and Jodi headed back to Buffalo,
New York. Chris worked for a small hot rod shop for two years, where he wore many different hats and got a behind the scenes look at what it takes to run a business.
In 2016, Chris began exploring the idea of starting something of his own. He went to a local chopper show and was inspired by the way it brought together the motorcycle community. This sparked the idea to create a hub for people to come together and connect
over their shared passion for motorcycles.
Later that same year, this idea came into fruition, and Chris and Jodi opened a brick and mortar called Spoke & Dagger Co.
Spoke & Dagger Co. is a riding gear, apparel, parts and accessories shop for motorcycle riders and builders. They don’t perform repairs at the shop,
but they supply parts for the DIY-er who loves to work on projects in their own garage. Their shop includes everything from jackets and vests to
hats and helmets.
Chris wanted to create a place where motorcycle enthusiasts could connect and shop for the apparel and gear they all were wearing, but wasn’t being sold in the area. “The inspiration behind it was really an outcry from the community,”
he shares. The shop attracts a broad demographic and is welcoming to riders of all levels—from new riders to the most experienced.
In addition to selling products, Spoke & Dagger Co. offers a 6-week mechanics course designed DIY-ers who want to learn how to work on their own motorcycle.
Courses are held right in the shop, where attendees have access to two lifts and a variety of specialty tools to train with.
Launched just this year, these courses have taken off. The first course was going to be for 12 people, but sold out, so they bumped it up to 15.
Chris credits his education from MMI for giving him the knowledge he needed to put these courses together. It also allows him to better serve his customers when they come into the shop asking questions. “MMI definitely gave me the confidence to
be able to help people out when they come in,” he shares. Having knowledge of parts and the industry as a whole has made him an expert in the community.
By day, Chris works full-time as a machinist, while his wife, Jodi, runs the shop. Jodi plays a huge role in the business—she’s a graphic designer and marketing expert and uses her knowledge and expertise to drive the business forward. Meanwhile,
Chris brings his motorcycle knowledge and creative ideas.
“The two of us complement each other so well,” Chris shares. It’s a good flow where she can keep things organized behind the scenes while he has the freedom to dream up big ideas for the shop.
Spoke & Dagger Co. is located along a very popular strip in Buffalo, so they receive a lot of foot traffic. About 90% of their sales are from those who come into the shop. Customers usually find them through Google, Instagram or Facebook, and they
come from all around the world! In fact, they recently got a globe for the shop to mark where their customers have come from with pins. They’ve had visitors from Canada, Nepal and even Vietnam!
According to Chris, community is everything in the motorcycle industry. “It’s a community more than it is a hobby,” he shares. It’s not about being secluded in your garage—but rather, getting out there and collaborating with
those who have different talents. “When you work together, big things can happen,” he says.
Motorcycle events are key to keeping the enthusiasm alive for the industry. In fact, it was an event that inspired Chris to create Spoke & Dagger Co.! One of Chris’ favorite events to attend is Fuel Cleveland,
which showcases an incredible collection of custom bikes from all over the country and even overseas. Everyone from garage builders to engineers who design their own motors travel to be in attendance.
“These events are a constant reminder of why we do this,” Chris shares. They provide an amazing opportunity to get out there and build your network. Chris and Jodi didn’t know anyone coming into the scene, but by going to events, they
were able to make not only business connections, but friends. According to Chris, the vendors are like a family, and he enjoys seeing familiar faces at every event.
If Chris could go back and tell himself one thing at the start of his motorcycle career, it would be not to rush. He has learned the importance of patience and slowing down to ensure things are done right the first time. “If you take your time,
you’ll have a much better product,” he shares.
Chris also advises aspiring motorcycle technicians, or anyone looking to get into this industry, to get involved with the community. “Get out there and meet people. Find guys who are doing the same things you’re into and wrench together,”
Social media is powerful—and he recommends aspiring technicians to look for ways to get connected online. Finding success in the industry takes time and dedication, but the hard work pays off in the end. “It can be a slow process, but if you
are willing to take the risk, the reward is definitely worth it,” Chris shares.
When it comes to starting a business, Chris emphasizes the importance of following your passion. “If you’re coming from the right state of mind, people will see that and it will reflect in how your business is received,” he says. Do
it because you love it—not just for the financial reward. In the end, this is what will motivate you to keep working hard.
In the future, Chris hopes to utilize his machinist career to introduce a parts line to the Spoke & Dagger brand. With his drive to succeed and strong work ethic, he’s well on his way.
Chris also hopes to travel more. Last year, he had the opportunity to go to Nepal through connections he has in the motorcycle industry. He describes the 17-day excursion as a trip of a lifetime—the highlight being riding motorcycles through the
Overall, Chris’ story is an incredible example of what it looks like to carve your own path in the motorcycle industry. We’re excited to see all he continues to accomplish in the years to come.
Want to learn more about careers you can pursue in the motorcycle industry? Read our career guide.
Motorcycle Mechanics Institute’s 42-week training program is
designed to teach you the foundations of motorcycle, ATV, side-by-side and personal watercraft, all while training with leading brands in the industry. To learn more, visit our program page and request information today.
Cover photo by Jackson Zimmerman
MMI grad Liana Acevedo a full-time service technician at Motorcycle Mall in NJ, one of the largest dealerships on the east coast. Read her story here.
Learn the history about where Café Racers came from and the class we offer about these and other iconic vintage bikes.
John Maxwell graduated from Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, Florida, but he's better known as, "The Harley Tech" on YouTube. This is his story.
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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2) For important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended this program, and to review the applicable Gainful Employment disclosure, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.
6) UTI graduates' achievements may vary. Individual circumstances and wages depend on personal credentials and economic factors. Work experience, industry certifications, the location of the employer and their compensation programs affect wages. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
7) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.
10) Financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.
12) Based on data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections (2016-2026), www.bls.gov, viewed October 24, 2017. The projected number of annual job openings, by job classification is: Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics, 75,900; Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists, 28,300; Automotive Body and Related Repairers, 17,200. Job openings include openings due to growth and net replacements.
15) Manufacturer-paid advanced training programs are conducted by UTI’s Custom Training Group on behalf of manufacturers who determine acceptance criteria and conditions. These programs are not part of UTI’s accreditation.
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