BURN THE BOAT: John Meade, Owner of Azzkikr Customs

Michelle Micalizzi, Artist
(All Rights Reserved)

My muse this week is John Meade. John and his wife Kimberly are the new owners of Azzkikr Customs, a premier custom motorcycle bagger builder, and parts supplier located in Peoria, Arizona since 2006.


I always try to include a motorcycle related business in my line up every year because I am a biker chic artist who happens to be fascinated by entrepreneurism and, as such, the motorcycle industry interests me a great deal. Harley Davidson is also one of my very favorite success stories. I have been riding for thirty-two years and am the proud owner of “Ruby,” a 2000 Harley Davidson Softail Standard.

Recently, I watched the documentary Harley and the Davidsons on the Discovery channel. The three-episode documentary tells the story of how the founders of Harley Davidson overcame many bumps in the road to become fearless when beginning their business. Walter and Arthur Davidson and Bill Harley put it all on the line just like John and Kimberly Meade are today as they take over Azzkikr Customs. Maverick risk taking by it’s nature is part of the motorcycle culture on and off the bike. John spent many years working for “The Motor Company” before he became an employee of Azzkiker. Two years later he is the boss and he has all that he needs to keep taking this brand to the next level. What a pleasure it is for me to have met him.

Len Edmonson, the former owner of Azzkikr Custom Baggers, is one of three nominations I received from Julie Hatch, the wife of one of the 2016 Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Fearless Thirteen business owners, Rick Hatch. I had heard of Len and have seen his amazing bikes so I contacted him right away.   When I called, I was told that Len had just sold the company to John and Kimberly Meade. Amazingly, in his first week of ownership, John took my call and within minutes accepted my invitation to be part of the AoFDBIII. I liked him right away from that first phone call and could tell he was fearless when he said, “We just took the business over this week and any marketing I can do is smart right now.” I was thrilled for him that he was approaching his business this way right out of the gate.

I also knew what he was about to endure. He was moving into a new location in Peoria and taking over a business that had a very high-profile successful owner. He was in for a journey and I was so excited to get to talk to him right from the start.

I love to hear an entrepreneur’s transition story as well as the very start of their story because this is the part that people who have not done “it” fear the most. The first days of owning your own business, and realistically the first eighteen months to five years, are not for wimps. Most companies don’t make it past the first eighteen months because it takes super human powers, a ton of good luck and even more hard work to get through the start up phase of a new business or the take over of an existing one. There are many sleepless nights and aggravating details in the beginning. Buyer’s remorse happens. John admits that in the first month of owning the business he has dropped his chin and said to his wife, “I think we may have made a mistake….” She is a strong woman, a rare biker chic and supportive business partner who puts her hand under his chin and lifts it back up looks him square in the eyes and says something to the effect of, “Honey, YOU can do this because WE have what it takes – now what is next.”

What an honor it is to be witness to the start up for John and Kimberly. I am a big fan already and am happy to toot their horn for them. I took a walk through the shop and felt like a kid in a candy store. What a great experience for me!

The three biggest things that impress me the most about John are:

  1. He and his wife have taken the leap with no Plan B.
  2. He would rather be his own boss than put together a résumé.
  3. He is an old-school biker, humbly excited about his new business.


John took a few minutes out to answer the five Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Questions.


1. Don’t Look for a Boss. Be the Boss.

When Len came to a crossroads, John knew that if he did not buy the business he would have to write a résumé and go find another job. Once you have risen to the level of expertise that John has achieved, who do you go work for? In actuality, you in a way already are the boss. It was a natural transition for John and Kim to take over the business. It really was the next logical decision to move forward in their lives. Now hold on to your hat or helmet as the case may be!

2. Burn the Boats!

John and Kim have taken the leap with no safety net, an action that I have taken and many others have taken; there is no plan B, there is just the drive to do what must be done. The Meade’s invested it all. All the years John worked and saved at Harley Davidson – their entire retirement and every liquid asset they have has been invested in Azzkikr. They do not have a money tree. They are just two hard working people who have put it all on the line. While many of their former “Motor Company” colleagues are skidding softly to sixty-five and an easy retirement, they are taking the risk of a lifetime.

When I was at Edward Jones I listened to one of the partners say that in order to be successful you have to “Burn the boats.” I have come back to this idea many times over the course of this series. As the story goes, in 1519 Hernan Cortes landed on the coast of Mexico. Cortes asked that the boats they just sailed be burned. Crazy right? What he knew was, if there were any way out they would all fail and eventually die. He gave his men a very clear choice; die or ensure victory. Alexander the Great used the same motivation 1000 years earlier with his men to conquer Persia.

John and Kim are one of many fearless business owners who have “burned their boat.” They have to keep marching Azzkikrs forward successfully – that is their only option. When success is the only reasonable choice, there is a higher chance of achieving it. I have said to myself on a rough day when I realize how much I have on the line, “Michelle get your marshmallows out, enjoy a s’more, have a good scream, cry or laugh, and then wash your face sister and get back to work!” John and Kim are doing the same and my heart goes out to them – this part of the story is the part that makes for a great story in two-three years, but man when you are going through it? Not easy!

3. Expect the Unexpected

Holy crap, there are so many details when running a business especially one that includes a brick and motor location, employees, high revenue sales, and a huge inventory. Every day there is an obstacle to figure out, overcome or jump over. You learn so much about merchant services, health insurance, payroll, fire code, local and state regulations, and the limitations of your bank, lease or mortgage all at once. On a daily basis you are confronted with what was seemingly an easy task turn into a four hour wait on hold with some idiot who is giving you the worst customer service ever. There are stupid laws that were written in the ice age that you had no idea existed and even the ones enforcing those laws do not totally understand them. You have to ask a question four different ways to four different people with every vendor you come across in order to get some semblance of a well thought out answer. You spend a lot of time scratching your head at 4 AM thinking, “WOW… REALLY?????” and there is no way around this part.

There is a lot of crap that has to be done that has absolutely nothing to do with generating revenue other than the fact that if you do not do it then revenue is not possible. Every business has compliance regulations of some kind that keeps you waiting in line or on hold for days. Your mind literally goes numb with one thing after another that you have to force through in order to even operate. Many dollars are spent that were not on that neat little budget you did when you made the incredibly insane decision to do this thing called entrepreneurialism, and quite frankly you are in shock. Thousands of unexpected dollars can be spent on a renovation that the fire marshal told you is required or they will fine your ass and shut you down. Nope they do not even prepare you for the unexpected in business school. When you start a business from nothing or you buy an existing one and move it to a new location, you learn after many sleepless nights, to simply to expect the unexpected.

4. Here’s Your Sign

Bill Engvall has made an entire career on the concept of “Here is your sign!” He uses it as a funny way to identify rednecks. I have had a few signs myself. It’s important to learn to laugh at ourselves.

In this case though, what I am drawing attention to is that sometimes you have to suck it up and know that you have to spend money to make money. The example of having the right sign is one of them. Sign makers like Derek Herndon of Arcadia Signarama (AoFDB II Fearless 13 participant) know that if you do not have the right sign, you are doing your business a great disservice. John chose the new space in Peoria because it faces the 101, and as such, he knows he needs a big-ass electric sign. If your customers cannot find you, all this effort will be for nothing.

The sign is just an example of the commitment that John and Kim have made to have the right tools in place, figuratively and theoretically, to make the most of their investment. If you do not invest in the right tools you are sure to fail. The right tools, the right people, the business relationships, the right location and the right dang expensive unexpected sign all make for a powerful success story.

5. Take One Day at a Time

We all have stuff that happened in the past that makes us skeptical. We all have fear, at some level, of the future. I have heard it said that if you put one foot in the past and the other in the future you are pissing on the present. We all have twenty-four hours and tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone. Spending too much time worrying about the future, wallowing in the past, or complaining about the now is a sure recipe for aggravation, failure and more of the same. John and Kimberly know that if they keep on jumping through the hoops on the obstacle course of life each business day it will be okay.

If you are a biker you know we sometimes play biker games. We create fun little games to do on our bikes like kids do three-legged races. How slow can you ride, how far can you ride on a two by four, whose passenger gets the biggest bite out of a hotdog hanging from a string? The games are funny. Sometimes bikes go down and dings happens but it is all in good fun. If we can look at our businesses like one big biker rodeo game we are well served. Every day we do what we can to play the game to the best of our riding ability and then we go to bed.

Tomorrow is a new day!

Thank you so much John for taking the time out to be one of the Fearless 13! I look forward to seeing you again at the Art of Fearlessly Doing Business Art opening on May 5th at DeskHub – Scottsdale from 6-9PM.

Note from the Artist


John and his wife Kimberly’s story is all about going all in with all you’ve got. The Meade’s have made a decision as a fearless couple to burn their boat and invest all they have financially and in every other way into their new business. Riding a motorcycle is not just a hobby for most it is a passionate way of life. Passion and fierce commitment to success is truly a force to be reckoned with when combined. I believe that at the end of this adventure the Meade’s will ride off into the sunset another true American success story, which is the reason this painting has a sunset color scheme.

It is not surprising that some of the Meades competitors are a little nervous about them. Whoever they are, they should be. When a family man and a loyal hard working wife have put this much on the line for something they already feel passionate about, they are truly a lethal and a formidable opponent! John and his amazing wife Kimberly are in this together and look out world they are hear to kik AZZ!

#Fearless #AoFDB #Entrepreneurship #VisualJournalism #ContemporaryForum #PheonixArtMuseum #ContemporaryArt #Art #OneThing #Baggers #Biker #Let’sRide!



Fearless Art Works at Spanish Village
7211 E Ho Rd, #17
Carefree, AZ

Friday, May 5th
6-9 PM

Optional RSVP:  Facebook Event or EventBrite Event.

CHARITY: The Contemporary Forum, a support organization for the Phoenix Art Museum

FUTURE EVENTS:  Fearless Art 2017 Schedule





­­­­­­Harley & the Davidsons by Michiel Huisman

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Michelle Micalizzi is a creative entrepreneur. She balances her businesses mind and creative skills in all that she does not only professionally with her business Fearlessly Deliver as a Visual Journalist, Curator & a Business Executor but in her life. Her strong belief in community and collective engagement lead her to found the Art of Fearlessly Doing Business and Fearless Pop up Projects. Michelle’s latest exciting endeavor the Fearless Art Works is an art gallery and a space for good works of all kind that connects Art + Community + Business! You can work with Fearlessly Deliver by either accepting an invitation to participate in a Fearless Art Project or by applying to be a custom business project execution client.



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