Tanya Crew found her first love when she was five years old.
It happened on the day when her uncle geared her up in a motorcycle helmet, and perched her on the gas tank of his 1984 GPz900R Kawasaki Ninja — the first of its kind.
“He took me around the block,” she said. “It was a pretty significant motorcycle during that time.”
Crew, a southern California native, stayed true and committed to her passion for motorcycles throughout her childhood and teen years. But when she attended college at University of California, Irvine in 2003, her relationship with motorcycles got pretty serious.
“I needed to make extra money to cover tuition and bills,” she said. “A friend recommended I sell items for motorcycles through eBay.”
Thus, Carson City’s multi-million dollar global business, Motorcycle-Works, was born. In the following 13 years later, Crew is named as the Woman-Owned Business of the Year in 2016, from eBay’s SHINE Awards for Small Business.
She also received a cash prize of $5,000 as well as a package of marketing tools and services.
“Getting this award was like a pat on the back,” she said. “I enjoy what I do and I even love working on the weekends. I get to add new products to the system and I’m 150 percent dedicated to growing this business.”
Crew accepted the award July 29 at the inaugural celebration event in Las Vegas. She was among 15 nominees from more than 1,500 entries. The public voted for nominated business owners through an online poll, as the newly created award celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of eBay’s community of small business owners throughout the U.S. A panel of judges made the final decisions.
But Crew is even more proud to serve customers of Northern Nevada, as it’s increasing traffic in her brick and mortar business with eBay. Crew and David — her partner in business and in life — moved to Carson City in May 2014. They eventually hired an assistant to join their team.
“We didn’t know much about Nevada,” she said. “But the one thing we did know was the state is business friendly. It’s expensive to go through that process in California.”
Before she purchased a 2,500 square-foot warehouse on Research Way in Carson City, Crew was working from her apartment to ship items out to her customers.
She also was great at multi-tasking for a college student; she raised her son, Tom, whom she had at 17 years old.
Now he’s 26 years old and recently graduated from Rhode Island School of Design. He’s living in Carson City and often helps the business with sales.
“Part of the reason why I went to school in Irvine was for him,” she said. “The school system was far more superior. I worked at a architectural firm but I wanted to go to college to complete my goals.”
Although she studied computer science, Crew taught herself how to run her own business. She cherished eBay’s user-friendly features with file exchange systems and merchant supports to streamline customer service.
Crew ended up dropping out of college because she was making so much money through her new business.
“My father told me I would be a failure,” she said. “But sometimes you have to take risks to walk down a path to success. I quit my high-paying job at the firm and went to school. Then, I quit school to pursue a business with eBay. You have to build the confidence to accomplish, and think outside of the box.”
Currently in Crew’s database, she sells 700 brands through her store. However, she has more than 1,000 brands, at her disposal, through the major distributors she works with.
On average, Crew makes between 80-100 sales per day. She said it’s due to being a slow season for motorcyclists, as many are typically making repairs and improvements on their bikes. This is a good time for her company to evaluate new incoming products and research what brands customers prefer.
The wintertime is the slowest for Motorcycle-Works but to avoid the lag, Crew said her company is selling supplies for snowmobiles.
“It’s also because we’re adding so much products right now,” she said. “We’re going to remain busy as we’re maintaining a wide range of sales throughout the year.”
That includes products for power and sport bikes, as Crew is a passionate rider and owns a 2016 CBR600RR Honda.
“Our main goal right now is increase volume with specific distributors,” she said. “We now have 50,000 skews through distributors.”
Crew knows Northern Nevada’s riding culture continues to grow, thanks to scenic winding roads and events such as Street Vibrations. Crew hopes to move her business to northern Reno or Sparks in the near future as her retail grows.
“It’s amazing to see the excitement and enthusiasm from people in this area,” she said. “We have never seen so much traffic through this business until we moved here. They love to buy local. Some of our customers even purchase products in-person.”
Crew isn’t only an influential business leader in the U.S. but she’s also a successful business owner in Carson City.
To be called a failure turned out to be one of the greatest pieces of advice she’s ever received, she said.
“For a younger generation of entrepreneurs, I know from experience how that can be,” she said. “On of the biggest components to business is to build relationships with customers and vendors, and ignore the negativity that comes from family or peers. It’s about believing in yourself.”