MY FINAL STORY
by: Joey D. // UTVUnderground.com
I never thought I would actually be working to write a story like this. I can honestly say, once UTVUnderground.com took off I always thought this would be the last thing I would ever do. But here I am, 10 years later, sitting down and writing my last story as the Founder, Co-Owner & CEO of UTVUnderground.com.
UTVUnderground started as a hobby, it was never supposed to be a business for me. It was just a way to share my stories and photos with the community on my own site so that I could serve some advertising and receive free parts in trade to help build my Rhino. I had a “real job” back then, and while I was pretty good at it, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing as an active twenty-something. UTVUG was an amazing distraction and gave me something of my own to do in my free time. What resulted was a passion and desire I had never felt before in my young professional life.
Building a business from nothing brings a level of fulfillment and pride that few ever get the chance to experience. The only thing I can compare it to is raising a child or falling in love. UTVUnderground became and always has been more than just a job or career, it was a labor of love, something I dedicated my life too and sacrificed not only my financial well being to create, but also precious time with my wife and children that I will never get back. It’s easy to think that the best part for me as a business owner was when UTVUnderground finally found success, and that was great too. But in retrospect, the best part was those early years of building it.
While the early years of business are always the hardest financially, there is something about having your back against the wall and having nothing to lose that ignites a fire within that no one can stop. It didn’t matter how many days I had to travel or how many nights I would have to work until sunrise. It didn’t matter that I could barely pay the bills or couldn’t afford to buy my family or self certain things. The only thing that mattered was my work and the only thing on my mind was making sure everyone knew who UTVUnderground was. That feeling I came to realize was the entrepreneurial spirit you hear people talk about so often. It was a special feeling and it was a special time even if I was broke.
Off-road was always something that my closest friends and I loved to do and I can say with all honesty that had UTVUG never become what it is today, I would still be loading up my toys and taking my family to the desert any chance I could. It’s who we are, not just what we do. I am just a regular off-road enthusiast and I think that’s why UTVUG became so successful. It wasn’t forced, it was just a group of like minded people who shared a passion and had an outlet to share in it with the rest of a larger community. What was and still is special to me was that I was able to make the sport I love my career. That was actually something a lot of people warned me against back then. They said to never make your hobby your job or you will lose your love for it. And while that has never happened, when you go from just being a fan of the sport to someone who works in it, you do start to look at it differently. I can tell you, as it pertains to racing, it’s much better just being a fan and a participant than it is a promoter. But if you always remain true to what the sport means to you, and you work to always remain true to the sport, I believe its easy to keep your passion alive. I love building up the sport and the people around me, its the best part of the job for me.
Through my career I was able to travel all over this country and world to share in this passion. I came to realize that off-road was more than just driving a vehicle on dirt & rocks, it was also a way to bond with people that come from all different walks of life and cultures. I have been fortunate to meet some of the most amazing individuals, see some of the most beautiful landscapes, and experience things that many people will go their whole lives wishing they could do for themselves. When I think back on these experiences I realize that God has blessed me more than I ever feel I deserve. I will always be grateful for these experiences and relationships and I often reflect on all of the memories I have forged.
Had you told me back in 2008 that UTVUG would become what it is today I wouldn’t have believed you. Some people say they knew UTVUG would reach this level, and I’ve called bullshit on those people many times. I don’t think anyone could predict that our UTV forum would evolve into the 10 year old brand it’s become today. It took the help of many people along the way, including my partners Matt & Josh Martelli of Mad Media, to bring UTVUG to where it is. It also took the support of enthusiasts and racers who supported the site and the work coming out of it. Ultimately, your success is dependent not just upon the work you create, but the people who you create it for. I was blessed with being a part of an industry that returned so much of the love I put out. I didn’t build this site or brand, the members, racers, and community did.
When I reflect back and think of the things I am most proud of in my career I think it comes back to being able to forge relationships with so many great people and for helping people along on their own journeys. I have found that the things that bring me the most reward are usually the things I do that have no monetary reward. The money is never what drove me in my career. Of course I wanted to make money and take care of my family, but doing things that helped or influenced someone else’s life or career always outweigh a check. Bringing a new sponsor to a racer or supporting a charity always felt so much more rewarding to me and its those things and careers that I have been able to be a part of that I will remember the most. UTVUnderground put me in a position to give back in so many ways and I tried to do that as often as possible during my time here. My two best memories is the Make-A-Wish project that RJ Anderson and I did for Blake Level, and the very first Warfighter Made trip that we did. Those two events filled me with so much pride that if nothing else good came out of my ten years, those two events made it all worth it. Luckily I could go on for days about the other great stories and events I was able to be a part of as well.
Watching the sport progress over the past 10 years has been such a cool experience. The vehicles have transformed tremendously and so has the industry itself. It’s amazing to see how many companies are in this sport now making parts, accessories and building these vehicles up in ways we only dreamed of back in 2005-06 when our Rhino’s were the hot ticket. Now, anywhere you go in the world you can see UTVs being used and built. I am excited to see where it goes in another 10 years. While I do feel the industry may have leveled off a bit, and the glory years of massive progression are probably behind us, I do feel like there is still a long way to go.
When it comes to racing I think everyone knows my passion there. UTVUnderground’s foundation was built around UTV racing & the racers, and its where we built our name and brand. Up until we came around no one had the commitment to supporting UTV racing like we did on such a big and consistent basis. I am proud of what UTVUG has done for the racing community. I have personally witnessed amateurs turn into professionals and I am even more honored to have been part of so many great careers. I have to thank each and every single one of you who has ever ran a UTVUnderground logo on your car, shirt or hat, or thanked us on a podium. It never has and never will go unnoticed by me and I am forever indebted to you because I fully believe UTVUnderground would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for UTV racing. I always tried to include that in every racing story I wrote, a simple thank you, because your representation and support never went unnoticed, even if our photographers or myself didn’t capture an image of you. I will admit, I won’t miss the “why didn’t you post a photo of me?” comments.
The support from the UTV community over the years is what kept me pushing. But the people I surrounded myself with over the years also played some of the biggest roles in giving me the tools, motivation, support, and skill to take UTVUnderground where it is today. My wife and kids were always my inspiration and ultimately are why I do what I do as a person. They pushed me to work harder and always encouraged me and supported me. My family was there through the hardest of times and celebrated with me during the highlights. They are the sole reason why I will never not find success, because I can’t afford to let them down. Their unrelenting support inspired me more than words could ever describe and I love them all for that. My memories reflected below in photos shows just how many great times I had with my wife and children during these years. This career gave me the ability to include my family in a way that most people would dream of. If nothing else, UTVUnderground made me a better father, maybe not always a better husband as my wife will attest too, but I know even she would admit that we have lived a very good life during this time.
Close friends like Rusty Baptist who never looked at what I could do for them, but rather how they could be a part of where UTVUnderground was going also kept me fueled up. Rusty and I have been friends for the majority of our lives, and while I would lose friends during these years, he was one that always stood by me through the good and bad and was always willing to be a part of anything and everything he could. Next to him stands an army of other friends that also supported the cause through the bulk of the years. I hope you know that I love you all, and I mean that.
Of course officially partnering with Mad Media in 2013 was a major turning point as the Martelli Brothers infused new skills, ideas and abilities into our brand helping it go to the next level. Josh & Matt gave me an education on how to push the limits and know my own worth. They never failed to support me through the bad times and they were always there to celebrate alongside me during the good times. They call me the third Martelli brother, and while I will be moving on in my career, I will always remember the amazing things we did together.
The Martelli’s will be responsible for taking UTVUnderground into its next chapter and I have full confidence that they will not just work on UTVUnderground but rather continue on with my mission to always keep the sport and its interests at heart. As partners they have been loyal, reliable and supportive. I am forever indebted to their efforts as my partners and friends. My wish is to see UTVUnderground go to yet another level in my absence as the companies success will always be my own. Despite my moving on, I will forever be tied to the brand as the founder, and because of that I wish nothing but the highest of success for everyone involved in this next chapter.
I always thought I would retire as the Owner and CEO of UTVUnderground.com but rarely did I ever truly think about my own future in detail. When you are filled with the level of drive and commitment that I have been blessed with, you only think about the present and what you can do to win today. But as I approach 40 years of age, I have been forced to think more about my future and how that looks for me as my kids get older. I haven’t set too many goals in my life, I just always knew I wanted to succeed at something, but now it’s time I begin to really set forth on building for my own next chapter. I feel I have reached a point where I have done everything, or most everything, that I have wanted to do as the soul of UTVUnderground and I am ready for new challenges and ready to apply my skills in new ways.
As of September 4th, 2018, I will become a Director within the Transamerican Auto Parts (TAP) corporation which is owned by Polaris Industries and owns such brands as 4 Wheel Parts, Pro-Comp, Smitty-Built, Poison Spyder, Rubicon Express, and more. I will transition from the face of UTVUnderground to becoming a face for these brands, expanding upon my skills in media and the things I do behind the scenes currently with partnerships, racing, sponsorships, and content creation. What’s exciting is I get to actually take the skills I have learned over the course of 10 years at UTVUnderground and step into a role that will allow me to help take what is the largest corporation in off-road to its own next level. The opportunity presented to me is one that allows myself to fully and securely shape my future as a father and husband, and yet still challenge me in a way that I get to once again be part of something special and exciting while further shaping my career as a professional. It’s an exciting new chapter of my life, and I am thrilled that I still get to remain within the sport and industry that I have such a strong passion for. I am equally as thrilled that I have built a strong enough reputation and skill set that a company like TAP would seek someone like me out. If you knew me in school, you would be just as shocked as I am right now!
The UTV industry and off-road as whole has been good to me. The things I have been able to be a part of and do are too numerous to ever expand upon and the people I have shared these memories and times with are just as expansive. I would love to list out each and every person or company who has played a role in my life over the past 10 years but I am sure by now, if you are still reading this, you already know who you are. So with this final story I just want to give one last big THANK YOU. I truly have loved every single minute being the owner and founder of UTVUnderground and I will never forget all of the love this sport and industry has given me.
THIS ISN’T GOODBYE, IT’S JUST A SEE YA LATER….
P.S. You can always reach me via email at [email protected] & follow me on Instagram @JoeyD23
These 200 images are only a sliver of the memories I have earned over the 10 years of UTVUnderground. I look back and realize, I have lived a lifetime in this short amount of time. I will forever cherish these memories and friendships and I thank all of you who have been a part of my life during this time. Thank you to the many photographers and contributors who helped tell my story all these years…