Jayme Hall was always more interested in designer duds than in diesel trucks. But in 2005, her husband, Chad, persuaded her to start a company selling performance diesel parts and accessories online. And now, well, ask her about her twin-turbo Chevy. As told to Judith Ohikuare.
Before starting Alligator, Chad and I were partners in a construction consulting company. He was working around the clock, and I was handling the finances. We weren't happy. We knew that if you don't love something, you're not going to stick with it.
We sat down one evening and talked through the things we love to do in life. Chad said, "Well, I love diesel trucks." It's all he reads about; it's all he talks about. Since he was 3 years old, he could name every big rig and semi on the road.
I knew nothing about trucks. I grew up in Vegas. I'm a typical city girl—into fashion, makeup, clothes, and design. But I didn't care what industry we got into. I'm passionate about the process of growing a company. So we decided to sell aftermarket parts for high-performance diesel trucks online.
We serve a fairly small, close-knit community of diesel enthusiasts out of our headquarters in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Chad handles sales and the technical side of the business, and I take care of customer service, finances, and administrative matters. Having a well-run company has made people respect me, and I've never felt like I had to prove myself.
The fact that I'm a girly girl in a man's industry has always been a running joke at work. Twenty-one of our 26 staffers are men, and most of them own diesel trucks. We get a good laugh when customers see me and ask, "What? You work here?"
One day this spring, everyone was joking around, saying, "Why doesn't Jayme race? That'd be interesting." So I said, "Yeah, why not?" I decided to get my speedway certification and start racing trucks.
In May, Chad and I drove to a track in Spokane, Washington, for my first driving lesson in our operation manager's Ford F-250 Power Stroke. When Chad hit the gas, it threw me back in my seat, and I giggled like a schoolgirl. We were flying around the quarter-mile track in 12 seconds. It was scary-wild, crazy-cool. At that moment, I started to feel a sense of belonging in a way I never did before.
Our marketing manager got me a pink helmet and some cute little race shirts with our company logo in pink. Now, we're building a 2006 Chevy Duramax with a twin-turbo engine for me to race. All the guys at work are involved. During our Jayme Training Sessions, I'll watch a build happen in the shop and stand there in my high heels and white jeans, asking questions or tightening bolts.
I plan to get certified in time to compete this fall. The adrenaline rush I get from racing goes right along with being an entrepreneur. I don't mind getting my hands dirty. I just love cleaning up right after.
JUDITH OHIKUARE is a reporter for Inc. magazine. She was a features intern for Seventeen magazine, where she covered health and wellness, and her work has been also been published in Marie Claire. Judith is from Brooklyn, New York. @ohikuare