Women Riders

Inspirational Women: Michele Wierzgac

Written by  September 1, 2014

When she was 50 years old, Michele Wierzgac’s mother made her promise not to pursue her desire to learn to ride a Harley. Her reasoning: “If something were to happen to you I couldn’t take care of you and who would take care of me?” Michele could not argue with that logic and held off realizing her dream.

When her mother passed not long after that conversation, a friend of Michele’s took her for a ride to help with her grief. It was at this friend’s urging that she decided to take riding lessons and begin to fulfill her wish to own a Harley. The life changes that came with it were just icing on the cake.

Michele astounded her instructors with her natural ability to ride, and a mere six months after receiving her license, became a certified riding instructor. Her first bike, A Harley-Davidson Softail Heritage, racked up 55,000 miles in its first four seasons. Michele has been riding now for five years. She says that becoming an instructor has made her a better rider.

Michele was an event planner who was adept at taking charge and at the same time, making her clients feel relaxed. On the advice of friends, she took these natural talents to become a professional speaker, lecturing on how we can rebrand ourselves. When I asked her what branding meant, she said it is how we project our message to the public. She speaks about marketing, for both the individual and business, how to become a good leader and many other topics that aim to maximize impact and results.

Michele has become an in-demand speaker and guest lecturer as well as an ad-hoc professor for many colleges and universities. When she was developing her website, she knew she would need her own “brand,” a simple message that was catchy yet unique. “Solving business issues with the lady on the Harley” was the result of brainstorming with friends.

When Joan Krenning was planning her inaugural Steelhorse Sisterhood weekend rally, she contacted Michele to be among the list of speakers Joan was inviting. Michele had never spoken at a bike rally before and never incorporated her riding experiences in her lectures. She told me that when she appears on stage, she is in a “smart” business suit, belying any indication she rides. It was this invitation and the resultant exhilarating weekend that would inspire Michele to try something new.

While in college, Michele played volleyball. One of her teammates became base commander for national forest fire fighters in Grangeville, Idaho. Michele set a goal: see if she could make the trip to Idaho from Illinois solo.

Coordinating her trip through Facebook, she equipped her bike with a satellite receiver so friends and women rider groups can watch as she goes. She says she was never really “alone,” just solo. The 5,000 mile round trip took her seven days and she ended up in Washington state before heading back to Illinois. Along the way, as she stopped in towns, her phone would ring with riders welcoming her. She said she met a wonderful community of women riders willing to connect and maybe ride a small way with her as she headed to her next destination. She took four days coming back to be able to enjoy the scenery, take some pictures and meet with friends and fellow women riders.

Michele now wants to incorporate motorcycle riding and the business side of it into her lectures more. She feels there needs to be more acumen for women riders and wants to inspire and encourage the younger generations to recognize women riders as a viable business.

After our conversation, Michele said she would send me a copy of her book, The Talking Stick. Expecting a type of self-help narrative, I was quite surprised when I instead received a journal. The book contains pages that the reader fills out including topics such as “Describe your skills” and “Who are your brand champions?” It also contains brief descriptions of what each entry should focus on and has inspirational bursts such as “Being concise is a fundamental skill to getting your idea heard.” The book can be purchased on her site, www.micheleandco.com

I want to thank Michele for taking the time to speak with me and sending me the book. She is a delightful, intelligent woman whom I hope to one day meet in person.