Arlene Battishill is a woman with vision and a squadron of scooters. She works for a housing construction company, but the plummeting economy, as well as the downward spiral of the housing market, has her looking at all possible contingencies.
In what some have been calling the worst economy since the 1930s, she has jump-started a business in Los Angeles that eschews a high technology approach and goes for good old-fashioned spectacle when to comes to advertising.
Battishill started ScooterGirls, a mobile advertising company that sends flotillas of attractive, young women dressed in stylish clothing sporting company logos and streaming in formation on scooters through the streets of Los Angeles. In her tongue-in-cheek words, it’s “Hooters on scooters.”
She came up with the idea with the help of her two college-age nieces who are students in the LA area. One niece, Rene Waniolek and Alena Dawn, one of the ScooterGirls, are designing the clothing the mobile models will wear, as well as a fashion line the company will sell for scooter riders as well as joggers.
“They’re great looking, high-quality, reflective clothes that make women look great when they’re riding scooters, which have become so popular because of gas prices lately,” says the Silver Lake resident.
Battishill also sells scooters. While an Italian-made Vespa can cost as much as $4,000, her scooters, made in China, sell for as little $900.
I met Battishill at her ScooterGirls booth at the Sunset Junction Street Fair in late August, when gas prices were rising precipitously. A throng of people in the throws of gas panic surrounded her, peppering her with questions about fuel efficiency and safety.
I know what you’re thinking. Traffic is bad enough already, and do we really need to be sending more polluting fumes into the environment in the name of advertising? But Battishill says the scooters are incredibly fuel efficient, getting upwards of 70 miles per gallon.
“The cars are generating significantly more pollution; and as for traffic, we take up two lanes of traffic with 30 scooters and that’s the equivalent space of four cars,” she asserts. “I don’t see it as having that much impact.”
Until a few weeks ago, she rented a commercial space in downtown LA that she operated as a scooter retail, rental and service center. But the theft of a trailer containing 8 scooters made her reconsider the security of the area and she pulled out of the space as she considers other options. (Alas, the trailer was eventually recovered, but without the scooters.)
Buoying her business, Battishill and ScooterGirls were recently featured on the NPR-aired news program, The World. And this being Hollywood, she just signed an agreement with a TV producer to develop ScooterGirls into a docu-soap reality series which they’ll be pitching to the networks.
“With everything positive that’s going on with ScooterGirls, we’re not sure what direction all of this is going ultimately, so we’re taking it one day at a time,” she says.
Battishill is circumspect about the opportunities surrounding her and she remains open to all possibilities.
“I was interviewed by a Seattle blogger in response to the NPR story and it looks like I’m going to be adding a video feed to his site,” she told me last week. “All inspirational and motivational talk for people who are struggling with losing their jobs and feeling desperate right now. I might become a motivational speaker out of all of this!”