18 Mar 21

The story behind DRR USA is inspired by the desire for better safety.

Lou and Kim DeCuzzi are the husband-and-wife owners and founders of the ATV manufacturing company, located in Brunswick, Ohio near Cleveland. Riding dirt bikes and ATVs was a passion for each of the pair’s three boys, growing up on a large property in northeast Ohio.

“Really, as soon as they could walk, they were on a bike. We were always traveling on weekends for races. The problem was when they started getting into the ATVs, none of them were safe,” said Lou.

This is what first inspired Kim to start her own company, developing ATVs for kids with enhanced safety features. Both Kim and Lou had previously worked as executives at large corporations but wanted to do something more meaningful that could also provide more flexibility to their work schedules. So, in April 2000, Kim launched DRR USA and not long after, Lou left his job to join the family business.

Kim handled the business management, while Lou was able to lend some of his expertise in engineering to prototype the initial ATVs. Some of the work was also contracted to partners. The initial vehicles were gasoline-powered, high-performance ATVs for both children and adults. Everything changed in 2017, however, when they began prototyping an electric-powered ATV that could travel without making a sound. 

When their first electric model was created, pictures and videos of the product were shared on the internet and that’s where, in Lou’s words, everything “took off like a rocket ship.”

“We had people from Homeland Security and various government officials asking us about our electric ATV. They saw this as a tool for their search and rescue teams. So we got to work, building and assembling,” said Lou.

Today, DRR electric ATVs are used by government entities, military branches, farmers, universities and are even used for Ecotours in Jamacia. DRR USA also has a license to sell their ATVs in Europe and Canada.

As DRR USA has built up its business, it has tapped into a number of economic development organizations, including the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP). In 2020, GCP notified Lou of an opportunity that could help enhance his growing business — ELITE Americas. 

“When COVID-19 hit, we were thinking in the short-term, just in how to survive as we’ve had issues with suppliers,” said Lou. “But in this program, they are teaching us to look further down the road — what you’re going to do in three, five and ten-year increments. You have to look long-term to be able to expand and grow.”

One of the biggest issues for DRR USA in recent years is its ability to keep up with its fast-growing demand.

“Every time I turn around, we need more. This program has helped us realize how much we need a new facility to increase production. Not only that, but it helps break down the cost implications on margins and sales.”

The ELITE program is also teaching its participants the value of and strategies behind capital infusion.

“We just finished a pretend ‘Shark Tank’ exercise,” said Lou. “I don’t know how to talk to investors. I don’t think anyone really does. They gave us the outline and the path. They say this is what you need to present, and this is how to present it to investors. And then they’ve showed us what to do once we actually get funding. These steps will really help us.”

DRR USA has been through business development programs before. While Lou says those previous programs are more like a high school or college coach working with an athlete, the ELITE program is really a next-level coach, like one preparing an athlete for the Olympics.

“Other programs helped up come up with a plan and implement the ideas from the plan,”

 said Lou. “ELITE really helps us see where we’re going to be several years from now as a business, which we had never done much of before.”

“We’re a learning group. If you’re not learning, you’re not moving forward. ELITE is helping us learn what's next.”

Would you tell your Inspiring Story?