Three Successful Local Female Business Owners Happen To Be Bikers As Well
Story By Karla Wall • Photos By Jason Carroll / Epic Image
The stress of owning your own business is enormous — and doubly so for women who’ve chosen to venture into entrepreneurship.
Three local women who own successful businesses deal with that stress by taking to the road on two wheels and a powerful Harley Davidson engine.
It’s In The Blood
Walk into Lisa Madden’s accounting office, Lisa’s Accounting Services on Rue de Jardin in Lake Charles, and the first thing you notice is the metal motorcycle sculptures mounted on the walls. In her inner office, there are photos of her with a motorcycle and a framed print of her current Harley Street Glide with a gorgeous dragon in the background (a gift from a friend upon her completion of the “Tail of the Dragon,” the famous winding and twisting motorcycle route in the Smoky Mountains near the Tennessee/North Carolina border) in her inner office.
“I’m not what people think of when they think of an accountant,” Madden admits.
Madden, who opened her business in 2005, says she’s always been in love with motorcycles.
“I was born into a motorcycle family,” she says. Her father owned Triumph Motorcycles in Lake Charles in the early 1970s, and also operated the Gillis motorcycle race track. Her stepfather also owned a bike shop.
“I would do treasure hunts in my dad’s shop as a kid,” Madden says.
Her older brother became a professional motorcycle racer, and her younger brother was a member of the Rat Pack motorcycle group in Moss Bluff.
“We always had dirt bikes and mini-bikes around when I was a kid,” she says. “Now my daughters ride — one is content to be a passenger — and my grandson has three mini-bikes.” Family functions, she says, always include dirt bike riding. And the family often took motorcycle trips together as she was growing up.
Madden’s friend and fellow biker Pam Wyman, who owns Designs by Pamela, a floral design and gift shop in Lake Charles, was also born into a motorcycle family.
“My parents were into motorcycles in the ‘60s,” she says.
She rode her first mini-bike at age 6. “I’ve been hooked ever since,” she says.
By comparison, Harlow Lawn Mower Sales owner Cindy Palma came into the game late. She didn’t really start riding until the late ‘70s, when at age 19 she moved from her family home in Slidell to Tampa, Fla. “(Riding motorcycles) was a lifestyle in Tampa,” she says. “I’ve always been a rebel — a radical — and the lifestyle just appealed to me.”
She rode a 500 cc Triumph motorcycle at the time, and she says she resorted to a rather unusual method of trailering the bike to Tampa.
“I took off the front wheel, fastened the forks into the trunk of my Cougar and towed it that way all the way to Tampa,” she says.
‘God Bless America And Harley Davidson’
Though all three women have owned other makes of motorcycles, they each hold a deep love for Harleys.
“God Bless America and Harley Davidson,” says Palma. “It’s a mantra. Harley’s simply all-American.”
Five of the seven motorcycles Palma’s owned in her lifetime have been Harleys. She now owns a 1993 Harley Softtail Classic.
“I’ll probably be buried with her,” she laughs.
Madden also owns two Harleys, as well. One is a “custom built bike with a 2006 Evo motor on a Paco frame,” built by her brother, Richard Ross, in 2007.
The bike features a gold coin on the front forks, and a Maltese cross on the front rim. The back rim is solid. The bike sports 10-inch “ape-hanger” handlebars. Her other bike is a Harley Road King. She purchased the bike, in a color called Blue Ice/Black Ice, in El Paso.
“A friend asked why I went to El Paso to get a bike,” she says. “It’s simple — I liked the color!”
To add to the bike’s aesthetic appeal, Madden had new artwork done on the saddlebags in 2010.
Wyman also owns two Harleys, a chopper, which her husband built for her eight years ago, and a Road King.
“I was brought up with Harleys,” she says. “There’s just nothing like the sound and feel of a Harley.”
The chopper, she says, is just for local commutes. The Road King is her serious traveling bike.
‘Head Out On The Highway’
And Wyman, like Madden and Palma, has chewed up some pavement on that Road King.
Madden, in fact, has put about 60,000 miles on the bike she bought in El Paso.
All three women have been to the huge annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., held each summer and attended by hundreds of thousands of bikers from around the country. All three try to make the trip every year.
“There’s everything from Harleys to Yamahas to Hondas,” says Madden.
There are rides all day during the event, says Madden. Wyman says she averages about 400 miles a day on the bike during the Sturgis rally.
“I’ve been going to Sturgis for years,” says Palma. “It’s such raw, beautiful country.” Her most memorable rides there, she says, have taken her past Devil’s Tower and Mt. Rushmore.
“It’s the most beautiful scenery you can imagine, and the roads are wonderful,” agrees Wyman. The trip also, she says, provides a nice break from the heat and humidity of a Louisiana summer.
“I’ve been going since ‘97,” Wyman says. “I’ve only missed one summer, and that was the most miserable summer for me.”
Wyman says she has made numerous close friendships in Sturgis, and many of those friends have visited her here at home to tour the SWLA marshes by bike.
“They always come in the spring,” she says. “so they don’t really know the heat and humidity of summer here.”
All three women were quick to say they don’t actually ride their bikes to South Dakota. They trailer them to the rally and ride from camp.
“If we rode all the way up there, we’d be too tired to ride when we got there,” says Wyman.
They do a great deal of riding closer to home, of course. Madden has ridden the infamous Dragon’s Tail, and has ridden to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., which she says is the longest trip she’s taken on the bike. She’s also ridden to Galveston several times, to Dallas and to the Texas Renaissance Festival in East Texas. She’s also ridden quite a bit in Kisatchie National Forest in northwestern Louisiana.
Palma’s ridden in Tampa and also Daytona, where she participated in the Daytona Beach Bike Week. She’s also been to a rally in Galveston. In fact, it was on a beach ride in 1983 in Tampa that Palma was photographed riding while wearing a bikini. The photo ended up in Easy Rider Magazine.
“I had no idea until a friend showed it to me,” she laughs.
Wyman has ridden as far as Pike’s Peak, Colo. “My husband and I have done that trip twice now,” she says. She’s also drag-raced her Harley at the Gulfport, Miss., Raceway Memorial Blowout, winning second place.
All three women ride in local poker charity runs, as well. “We do the BAAK benefit ride for Harbor House in June, and we always do Run with the Nuns,” says Madden. “Also Motor Gras.”
For all three women, riding offers a way to release the stress that goes along with owning and running a business.
“You never see a Harley parked in a therapist’s office,” says Palma. “Riders get wind therapy. You can feel the pressure build up, and it helps to open the bike up and do 90 miles an hour. It’s a great release. My favorite way of ending the day used to be getting on the bike, riding around and watching the sunset in the marsh, then heading to Fred’s Lounge on Big Lake Highway.”
For Wyman, as well, motorcycles are a means of stress relief.
“I love the wind in my face, and the tranquility,” she says. “You forget about everything else when you’re riding.”
Madden says motorcycles are “my therapy.”
“I’ve got to ride, that’s my therapy,” she says. “I love the freedom. The wind in my face. When I ride, I’m off duty. I don’t talk to anyone about business. I don’t answer the phone. I don’t answer questions or solve problems.”
Though it’s a favorite way to counteract the stress of life as an entrepreneur, all three women say they don’t ride as much as they used to. The reason?
“Drivers are crazy nowadays,” says Palma, who says she’s lost several friends through accidents — “some their fault, some not their fault.”
“It’s dangerous,” she says. “There are so many drivers out there now using cell phones. They’re taking bikers out left and right.”
“It only takes a second’s inattention (to cause an accident),” agrees Madden, who has lost not only friends but a brother to motorcycle accidents.
But that’s not even the main concern, says Madden. A worse problem is the condition of area roads.
“The roads are in very bad shape; there are lots of potholes,” she says “It’s much worse now than it used to be.”
The Gender Issue
Talk to a group of women bikers who’ve become part a culture well-known for its machismo, and the inevitable question is: How are women bikers treated by their male counterparts?
All three women say that female bikers are far more accepted now than they were when they first started riding.
“(Female riders) weren’t accepted when I started riding,” says Wyman. “I just didn’t care. I had a group of people I rode with who accepted it.”
Palma says being a female biker was “horrifying” when she first began riding.
“Clubs in the late ‘70s were horrible to women riders,” she says. “I got followed home and threatened. Male riders were macho, and didn’t want women riding. You’d have 200 people riding bikes, and three of them might be women.”
At that time, says Madden, the accepted rule was that the only proper place for a woman on a bike was on the back.
“Most groups prefer women to be passengers,” she says.
But, as in most if not all areas of life, that gender gap is decreasing among bikers.
“It’s different now,” says Wyman. “Some of the larger groups still don’t accept women, but in smaller groups it’s no longer a problem. Some smaller groups even let women ride as members. And there are women’s groups, one in Houston.”
“People think it’s cool now,” says Palma, adding that her husband of 24 years, John, has always accepted and even encouraged her love of bikes. “He’s let me be me,” she says.
Flying On An Engine
For these three women, motorcycles and riding are simply in the blood, and nothing comes close to hitting the road with a Harley.
“It’s like flying on an engine,” says Palma. “Riding is freedom. You have the wind in your face, 360-degree views — there’s nothing between you and the outdoors.”
“I love not being closed up in a car,” says Madden. “I just love the freedom.