Back in 1998, LRM crowned Uso C.C. the Car Club of the Year, which was quite an accomplishment considering that Uso had only been cruising the streets together for less than a decade. At the start, Uso--who spawned out of the Harbor area of Southern California--only had a handful of members in the organization, but in just six short years the club had grown to include 22 chapters nationwide. When we first interviewed Kita Lealoa, the co-founder of the organization, for an article that appeared in the April '98 issue of LRM, he stressed that one of the biggest goals set for the club was to someday be the standard for all other clubs to follow in the future.
Well, needless to say, all of us here at LRM feel that Uso has met that goal, and in some cases, even exceeded it. Today, Uso boasts 36 chapters across the United States, including a new chapter recently started up in Guam. With more than 400 members and countless spreads in LRM, Uso has certainly raised the bar on what it takes to be a numero uno car club. So, who better to give us the lowdown on how to start and maintain a car club than one of the men who started it all, Kita Lealoa?
LRM: I think that the most often asked question is how did you guys come up so quick? Kita: Basically, we started with some local cities around us. When we started Uso we really didn't think about branching out like this, you know. But I told my brother Daniel, "How are we supposed to let everyone know what Uso means if we don't branch out?" So that's where we got the concept. And, I guess that we just got lucky; we also made a lot of mistakes along the way though. But I think to start a club and get it going, it's really word of mouth, and going out to car shows, that helps. When we're out at shows, people would just come up and ask how they could get a chapter started with us. Also, interestingly enough, now, we're just Interneting like crazy. Everyone's on line now, so that a good way of connecting with people, too.
LRM: Initially what is the process when you have perspective members? Kita: Well, we try not to throw all of our business out there at once and that's why talking to new members and speaking with them a lot is so important. Get a feel for what they are like and stuff. Like, I'm getting ready to go out to Guam and meet those folks. You have to really get to know the leaders of each chapter. If one of our leaders isn't meeting our standards we'll go in and just take over and get new people in there. LRM: So do you ever turn anyone away? Kita: Well, we don't turn anyone down, we give everyone a fair chance. But, yeah, there's been some people who just don't fit our standards.
LRM: Whatever it was it worked; 36 chapters now, huh? Kita: Yeah, 36 and we have about 20 other cities waiting to join in.
LRM: Can you name a few of your newest chapters? Kita: Well, we have a chapter in Guam now, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, Denver, Espanola, Albuquerque, Corpus Christi, Modesto; those are just a few that I can remember right now.
LRM: How are you able to enforce your club rules? Kita: We have a main set of rules, but we are pretty flexible. Some chapters are full custom and some are radical custom. So we give them the rules and they add or delete their own rules. As long as they follow the bylaws by keeping the name in good stature that's all we ask of them.
LRM: What is the main thing that your members have to adhere to? Kita: Family. That's what we want. There are a lot of clubs out there that keep it like a male thing, but we want our wives and our girlfriends to be involved, too, and the kids.
LRM: So, you said that there are other cities waiting to get in; what are they waiting for? Kita: Well, I like to groom these people; we have really raised our standards for people who want to start chapters. Back in the day, it really wasn't like that, but now we really need to make sure that new people are up to par with the new wave of lowriding, the new millennium style of lowriding, especially our chapters out there that are out of state. We teach them the California-style of lowriding.
LRM: Which is? Kita: Candy paint, undercarriage, custom trunks, color-spoke Daytons. It's like if you go to Texas, you can clearly see that it's a different style of lowriding, some people may have chain steering wheels and one type of diamond tuck, and usually, you can define what part of a city they are from. That's how they lowride. In California, we lowride with Nardi steering wheels, high-tech dumps, chrome trunks, chrome undercarriage, stuff like that.
LRM: So, do you think that it's important for new clubs to have totally decked-out cars? Kita: No, like us, we don't need a fully done-up car right away, we'll settle for mild custom. What we like is a clean vehicle, we prefer candy, but stock is fine and we prefer chrome undercarriage, but basically we just want people to look at our cars admiringly because people have to remember that the way the cars are has a lot to do with the organization that they represent.
LRM: So even though you have diverse members, from all parts of the state and beyond, you're unified by a common look? Kita: Yeah, like when people look in the magazine and look at a car from Lexington, Kentucky, they see it and say, "I didn't know that car was from Lexington," they think it's a car from California.
LRM: Another thing that makes your club unique is that there are absolutely no color lines. Kita: Yeah, we have different people from all different nationalities, creeds and religions. We want to let everybody know that starting up a club that you can be a White boy in lowriding, you can be a Chinese in lowriding, you don't have to be a Mexican or a Black dude. When we get together it's all about one love and we're all on one page. As long as you love the game of lowriding that's all that should matter.
LRM: What would you say is one of the most rewarding things about having a car club? Kita: Meeting people. I meet people of all different walks of life. Uso, which means "brothers" in Samoan, is a real sacred word in my country. That's why we decided to go with it. I call my brothers Uso. To us, it's a universal word. It amazes some of my Samoan people sometimes when they see other races saying, "What's up, Uso?" It freaks them out. You have kids, White, Black, whatever with those Uso tattoos on them; it's a trip. It's just respect.
LRM: You also put on a lot of charitable events, right? Kita: Yeah, we do Toys for Tots, Graffiti Patrol, stuff like that. During the Holidays we pick a family from Red Cross and we have Christmas dinner with presents, food and stuff like that. We try to devote our time to helping the community.
LRM: What about law enforcement and lowriding, any advice? Kita: When you get smart with them and start talking trash, that's when the hate rolls in. But if you kick it with them and just say, "Hey, man, come and join us," then it's cool.
LRM: What is the most important advice that you can give to someone who is starting up a club? Kita: I just think that the biggest thing is really getting to know their members. That was one of the biggest mistakes that we made. Back in the day, we would just have a guy come in for three meetings and they're voted in. That is no longer our process, you're going to have to hang around with us for like six months before we even consider you being a member. We have tightened up a lot of things. Also, make sure that it's 90-percent the person, 10-percent the car. Get to know the people, they make you and represent you. We have a big strict policy about drinking alcohol and smoking during a function. They can do that on their own time. When we go to a function, we want everyone to be 100-percent. Sometime things can happen and if you're not 100-percent to protect your family then something can go crazy.
LRM: Any last words of wisdom? Kita: I just want people to know that our organization is not out there to compete with anybody. We are there for ourselves and for the glory of lowriding. We don't start trouble with any club. We should all be friends and not enemies. We aren't trying to say that we are the best in the world, but we try to be. We're trying to represent lowriding in a positive way and it's been a hard job for me and Jae, my CEO, to put this all together, and we're just trying to put in for LRM, as well. Every show that you guys have, we're there deep. ,
Forming A Non-Profit Corporation
Most of you have probably heard the term "non-profit corporation" many times; churches and charities are all non-profit corporations. But did you ever think that going non-profit would be something that you should do when forming a lowrider car or bicycle club? Well, think again.
Why Form a 501(c)(3) Corporation?
There are several main reasons why clubs should decide to incorporate and become 501(c)(3) federally non-profit corporation. These are:
·Limited Liability - when acting as an unincorporated association or as individuals pursuing a common goal, each person may be individually liable if sued by another person or organization. By incorporating, limited liability is conferred, and thus, only the assets of the corporation can be reached by a suing party.
·Tax Deductible Donations - after attaining 501(c)(3) status, the organization can attract donors that wish their donations to be tax deductible. Under current IRS regulations, donors can deduct an amount up to 50-percent of their adjusted gross income on their annual tax return.
·Eligibility for Funding - almost all local and state government agencies and privately operating foundations require funded organizations to have 501(c)(3) status. A routine part of funding applications is a request for an IRS determination letter as proof that the organization has attained 501(c)(3) status.
·Other advantages include (1) ability to use Public Service Announcements on local radio and television stations; (2) ability to use discounted space from Internet service providers; (3) lower postal rates on third-class bulk mailings, and (4) ability to use interns from local universities.
The main disadvantages to forming a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation are: (1) additional paperwork for maintaining corporate records, tax correspondence, and annual IRS reports, (2) payment of incorporation costs and fees, and (3) the time and energy necessary to maintain the corporation.
Additional Help Guides Available
There are various in-depth help guides available for determining whether your organization should establish a 501(c)(3) corporation and the step-by-step processes by which to form a non-profit corporation. The most helpful guides include: Anthony Mancuso, Esq., How to Form a Nonprofit Corporation in All 50 States: Qualify for Federal 501(c)(3) Tax Status, Nolo Press (1993), available at Barnes and Noble, or online at www.barnesandnoble.com for around $35.00.
The IRS also produces several publications to assist organizations that are seeking to become 501(c)(3) non-profit corporations. These can be obtained by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM and are offered free of charge: Publication 557: Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization and Publication 578: Tax Information for Private Foundations and Foundation Managers.
You'll also have to file for non-profit status with your state. Fees range from a low of $30 in Maryland to $300 in Texas, with most states charging about $100 for the filing. Filing forms are available at most good stationery stores. However, they are long and involved. If you like the "turn key" approach instead, many companies specialize in incorporation--including the two listed below--and they will provide you with complete packages and help with the paperwork.
USO gets together at LRM's Indianapolis show in 2001
An awesome photo op in Sacramento, California 1997.