Learn about Florida Entrepreneur Zach Foster and Leif Gustafsson:
Leif Gustafsson and Zach Foster, Founder and President, respectively, of Gustafsson Plastics have amassed the largest collection of aftermarket motorcycle windscreens. With the help of 5,000 molds, the most in the industry, Gustafsson Plastics is able to provide windscreens for nearly every make and model of motorcycle, including popular vintage models.
Leif Gustafsson started Gustafsson Plastics in Sweden in 1968. "My dad started off by going around to different European motorcycle circuits," Foster said. "He would load up a van and a trailer and would travel to different races in Denmark, Netherlands, Germany and other Western European countries. He would make parts right there on the spot. His home base was pretty much his garage."
As of 1978, Gustafsson Plastics' home base has been St. Augustine. Gustafsson had some friends move to Florida and saw an opportunity to move his operation to get better access to the U.S. market. He used his contacts to develop relationships with dealers and was able to utilize that distribution channel as another way to get to his customers. Even though he's taking a step back from day to day operations, Gustafsson still has the passion and can identify any bike in the world. "People from all over the country will email him to get the history or story behind bikes they've come across," Foster said. "He's really shaped the industry and helped other similar companies get to where they're at. He'll tweak things for racers and factory teams and then they're winning races."
Zach Foster officially took over as President of Gustafsson Plastics in 2016, but he pretty much grew up in the business. As a baby, his dad would take him to the pits. He was always around motorcycles. Before Gustafsson Plastics, Foster lived in Virginia and ran a few different online businesses. He's no stranger to entrepreneurship or the aftermarket motorcycle windscreen business.
We asked Foster about customers, the competitive landscape and what obstacles they've dealt with and continue to deal with. "When my dad first moved to the U.S. there was no Internet, so dealers were sent parts catalogs. He started with a bunch in California. The dealers would get a catalog and would then order for their customers that came through their doors. Some individual racers would call and he would ship straight to them, but most people went through their local dealer. We still have dealer channels, but now it's more direct to consumer. Our newer markets include people doing retro-fitting and restoring old bikes. We're in such a niche that we really don't have much competition. There are a few other smaller companies but they don't offer customization. Others are more mass production. We use high quality materials and make everything to order."
"Really the hardest thing we face right now is that people don't really know what they have or what they need," Foster said. "They'll buy an old bike from eBay and the faring and body work isn't stock. It can be difficult to find what will work for these people. Another challenge is the cost of raw materials."
Looking ahead, Gustafsson Plastics will keep their home base in St. Augustine, but will explore the possibility of opening a smaller satellite operation on the west coast. Foster and Gustafsson would like to have a production site to better serve that part of the country. They're also going to focus a bit more on newer models of windscreens and working with dealerships to push those newer models with the sale of new bikes.
What's Foster's advice for new entrepreneurs? "Check with the wife first," he jokingly said. "In all seriousness, you can always have a plan but it's never going to turn out the way you think, so you need to be somewhat flexible. Being focused and flexible are key to being a successful entrepreneur. Stay true as long as you can to your vision but be willing to adjust."
PLEASE MENTION YOU READ MY STORY ON FLVEC.COM WHEN YOU CALL, VISIT OR MESSAGE ME. THANKS!