December 12, 2012

Fleetwood Hicks ’85 offers a new spin on celebrating the University’s second century with his custom-made cruiser bicycles. Hicks, founder and owner of Villy Custom LLC, created the limited-edition SMU Centennial Cruiser to mark the milestone. The bikes made their debut during SMU Family Weekend September 28-30 and were featured during Homecoming festivities October 25-28.

Alumnus Fleetwood Hicks, founder and owner of Villy Custom, and SMU student Adelaida Diaz-Roa, chief brand officer for the company, with the limited edition SMU Centennial Cruiser.

“The SMU Centennial is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and it’s an honor to commemorate this milestone by offering my fellow Mustangs a unique way to show their pride in SMU,” says Hicks, who has competed on the ABC reality series “Shark Tank.”

The red, blue and white bikes sport special features such as an SMU “bling badge” on the front, the “SMU Unbridled 100” logo on the rear fender and a Mustang logo on the seat cover. Prices start at $549.

Hicks founded his company in 2009 and has made more than 1,500 cruisers, a recreational two-wheeler noted for comfort and durability. The bikes are fully customizable, from frames to chains. All bikes are built, packed and shipped at the Villy Custom assembly facility in Dallas.

A self-proclaimed “lifelong entrepreneur,” Hicks has big plans for Villy, which is also the nickname of his bullmastiff, DeVille. In May, Hicks appeared on “Shark Tank,” competing against 20,000 businesses for one of 60 spots on the prime-time program. After making his pitch to five celebrity panelists, he persuaded billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and Barbara Corcoran, real estate magnate and business consultant, to invest $500,000 for a 42-percent stake in his venture. They now serve on his board of directors.

Hicks earned a marketing degree from the University and counts two fellow Mustangs among his management team. Taylor Rodriguez is the accountant and logistics manager. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics with financial applications from SMU in 2012.

Adelaida Diaz-Roa, a junior at SMU, is an investor in the company and serves on the board. She began working for Hicks in 2010 as an intern and now holds the title of chief brand officer, managing website design and social media marketing.

A marketing major in Cox School of Business, Diaz-Roa says the hands-on learning experience “is an amazing opportunity to take what I learn in the classroom and put it into practice in a real business.”

Hicks and his team are gearing up for growth. In October, “The Price Is Right” game show selected Villy Custom cruisers as a product offering in segments that will begin airing in spring 2013. “The show has been an American staple for over 40 years, and their prize selection staff told me that they have rarely, if ever, offered a bicycle on air,” says Hicks.