Dealer Profile : How She RollsJanuary 2009 By Audrey Gray
Three years ago, Rikki Huffman was a 23-year-old with a nursing degree, a new baby girl, and absolutely no business experience.
Her husband, Jimmy, spent a lot of time on the road, working at the oil fields within driving distance of their home in Hobbs, N.M. So when Jimmy’s brother suggested the three of them team up and buy a car audio retail operation that had come on the market in Hobbs, Rikki saw herself as a minor player in the deal.
“I guess I thought I’d work part time, just shadow my brother-in-law and maybe handle some of the management stuff,” Huffman said. “Ha!”
What actually happened to Huffman after they bought the car audio shop is a story that lives up to the store’s name, Sounds Incredible.
“Not long after we bought it, my husband got a job as an oil field safety supervisor, so he was gone all the time during the work week, and then my brother-in-law left within a year to go become a fireman,” she said.
Huffman was suddenly at the helm, a young mother with a daunting business loan to pay off and a cursory knowledge of the monitors, subwoofers and amps stacked in her virtual second-home, the 1,500-square-foot Sounds Incredible showroom. “It was a very stressful time,” she recalled. “Wish I had a dime for every funny facial expression I got when I told people I owned the store. They’d say, ‘Um, can I speak to the guy in the back?’”
Huffman took those looks as a challenge. In response, she gave herself a crash course in the mobile audio category, learning everything she could from her husband and brother-in-law, vendor reps and product literature. She quickly hired a top-notch installer, settling on 19-year-old Corey Skiles, who had already earned a local reputation for being able to fashion full systems and beautiful enclosures. Corey could only work three days a week, so Rikki flew solo the other days, while her husband helped her on the weekends.
As chief owner and operator of Sounds Incredible, Huffman decided to put her own touch on the place. “Instead of hearing rap music like most [mobile audio] stores, I put on Christian CDs and the Sirius ‘Spirit’ station,” she said. “I think that actually has really helped us. We’re more family-oriented, and moms don’t have to worry about hearing profanity when they come in. I take great pride in that.”