Growing up, Kurt Peterson always had a passion for fixing motorcycles, riding motorcycles, and the open road. After serving 8 ½ years in the military, he decided to pursue that passion as a profession and continue to be the motorcycle enthusiast he has always been. Kurt spent the next several years exploring the ins and outs of the motorcycle industry; from parts management, to distribution, to manufacturing, to marketing and advertising, to curriculum and training programs, to consulting, and even to forecasting and negotiating, he became educated in almost every facet the industry has to offer. In 2012, Kurt decided to take this knowledge and experience he had accumulated and use it to open his own business in Perham, MN, taking him away from the desk and giving him the freedom to be a full-time enthusiast.
“I decided I was spending way too much time in front of a computer doing spreadsheets and graphs and boardroom presentations; I was getting further and further away from the enthusiast part…I had to get back into the customer service and community aspect of the industry.”
Kurt’s initial vision for Lil Evil Inkorpor8ted, his custom and full-service motorcycle shop, was two-fold: to share his passion for motorcycles and the open road, and to become involved in a small, rural Minnesota community and give back in a way that allows other small businesses to develop and flourish. “My dream has been to work within the community that we chose to have as a home,” Kurt expressed. “All of these other businesses that grew from nothing in Perham were well-supported by the community, so that’s what we wanted to do as well.” And that’s exactly what he did.
Lil Evil Inkorpor8ted started out in a small, 2,000 square foot facility. When a larger, more accommodating building was for sale, Kurt knew this expansion was what Lil Evil Inkorpor8ted needed to become the motorcycle destination he dreamt it to be. This move completed phase one of a three-phase expansion project that Kurt undertook. His next step? To get the additional equipment he needed to expand his reach and better welcome and service his customers. His only problem was that he didn’t have the working capital he needed to finance this equipment. This is when Dakota Business Lending stepped in and provided Kurt with the SBA Community Advantage small business loan to help cover costs that traditional conventional financing can’t without historical records.
“Dakota Business Lending saw the vision…they saw the passion and why we were doing what we were doing and wanted to help us.” Kurt was also pleased with the way Dakota Business Lending formed a relationship with him and his business, which is something he really values as a small business owner himself. “It’s not just a transaction. [Dakota Business Lending] checked in, and they still do. They want to know how things are going and that means something to me.” Through this partnership, Kurt purchased the equipment he needed to enhance his business and the services it offers. Soon after, Lil Evil was able to proceed into phase three of the expansion project: build out the back of the building with a fabrication room and apparel production room.
The hard work that Kurt has dedicated to his business has paid off, as Lil Evil continues to grow steadily. By providing benefits such as in-house financing and winter storage facilities, Kurt makes it possible for people to utilize his services year-round who are restricted by finances or seasons of the year. This growth, he claims, would not have been possible had he not been able to complete stage 2 of the project. “Having that new equipment there…getting it installed, put in, and functioning…it kept the fire alive. It let everyone know that the Kurt was actually making it happen.” And as buzz and exposure continued to increase,Kurt was told by several of his distributor’s that he is the busiest motorcycle shop in the state of Minnesota.
Kurt is constantly looking for ways to improve his business,expand the services Lil Evil provides, and better serve his customers. From becoming a Midwest distributor to partnering with Motorheadz Boutique, a local apparel shop, Kurt believes Lil Evil is continually finding way to be set apart from other motorcycle shops because of its one underlying value: passion.
“It’s our passion; it’s our industry knowledge; it’s our industry connection. We’re well-equipped and a customer satisfaction-driven business…we’re not just a motorcycle shop; we’re a destination.”
As a relationship-driven, customer service-orientated, and community-based business, Kurt’s business model focuses on giving back to the community of Perham, motorcyclists, and beyond. Lil Evil started an annual charity ride at Perham’s Turtle Days that supports Project New Hope, an organization near and dear to his heart due to his past military service and experience. Project New Hope provides weekend retreats for veterans and their families who are returning from service and suffering with PTSD. As a PTSD sufferer himself, Kurt sees the benefit of these retreats that to assist veterans and their families as they reacclimate back into the civilized world and help them sign up for their VA benefits. Kurt started this charity ride in collaboration with other charities throughout the community in memory of Ryan, a friend and former marine who,himself, and his sons suffered from PTSD. After a few years, Lil Evil’s service to the community has multiplied, spreading and growing throughout the community and beyond. “It’s growing and we’ve made it a weekend-long event. Other chapters and branches [of Project New Hope] have been popping up throughout the area because of it. We’re pretty proud of that.”
This past August, Kurt was inducted into the Sturgis Hall of Fame as part of Hamsters USA, a group of the top motorcycle builders in the world. This was Hamster USA’s 40th anniversary, as well as Kurt’s 27th consecutive year attending Sturgis.
When it comes to words of advice, Kurt has just one piece to offer: find your passion and never stop pursuing it.
“If you ever let your business become just a job, you should sell it to someone else and go work for them. You have no more passion; you have no more excitement; and you have no more desire to make a difference in your community. You have to have that passion…and that drive.”