To work here, you have to love to ride. That means riding on a motorcycle for employees at Twisted Throttle in Exeter, who are required to have a motorcycle license in order to work in any department of the motorcycle apparel-and-accessories company.
“Experience and enthusiasm is a requirement,” said Erik Stephens, who founded the company in 2002. “That’s part of what makes [the job] fun.”
Stephens spent summers in Charlestown and Westerly, where relatives had homes while he was growing up in Connecticut and attending the University of Delaware. He moved to Philadelphia after graduation in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering.
Stephens moved largely for the city’s music scene, and took a job as a technical consultant at an area environmental law firm.
He stumbled upon a free motorcycle-safety class a couple years later, gave it a shot, liked it, and bought a bike. He rode about 10,000 miles that year, including long-distance camping trips. The next year he invested in what was at the time a new bike, a Suzuki DL1000 V-Stram, for its reputation as an adventure bike.
“If you were going to pick a motorcycle to circumnavigate the world, that’s the kind of vehicle [you’d choose],” Stephens said. “When I purchased it [though] there were no accessories that would actually allow you to do that kind of travel.”
Research led him to a German company, SW – Motech, that was making the kinds of things he needed but he ran into roadblocks trying to purchase in small quantities.
So, he found a group of bikers in similar circumstances, organized their orders and purchased what he and the others needed that way.
Then, he kept doing that.
“Within a year and a half, I was making more money doing that than my [day] job,” Stephens said.
In 2004, two years after his first group purchase, he quit his job at the law firm, and moved to Rhode Island at the urging of his parents, who wanted him closer to home and provided incentive by purchasing for him one of the family homes in Charlestown.
Twisted Throttle opened in Wakefield, at the Palisades Mill, in fall 2004.
Eight years later, the business has gone from importation and distribution – which he did then with the aid of an employee hired to help unpack boxes – to a roughly $7 million annual enterprise of accessory and apparel design, production and sales, with a nearly three-dozen- member staff.