What differentiates a wheel company from another? It is true that most wheel companies have similar designs, similar prices, and all make similar promises but if all of those hold true, then what is it that makes them unique? In 2010, a young man approached us at Secret Entourage and told us about his dream of going to business for himself by creating a wheel company, and as entrepreneurs with great belief in people, it simply made sense for us to encourage him. We did however warn him of the road and challenges he would face in the years to come. This is his story told through our lens…
In 2010, Chris decided that working for others wasn’t for him and that his chance to be free and create his own story was now.
Since Chris was very young, his expertise in entrepreneurship was limited and his past jobs were not aligned to his goals and ambitions. The lack of experience often leads to roadblocks and this was no different for Chris, except for his determination for success. Chris’ passion was the automotive industry and he was set out to do what others believe he couldn’t, which was to launch a great wheel company. As you may have noticed, wheel companies appear and disappear really quickly and there is a reason why they do but more importantly, there are a ton of existing wheel companies out there making it harder for anyone to just become a leader in the market place as a newcomer.
Despite all odds and despite the push back Chris received from friends and family on looking at less conventional ways to make a living; Chris went through and founded Watercooled IND at the young age of 18. He brought his vision to life through perseverance and proved all those around him that Henry Ford was right when he said:
“That you believe you can or cant’, you certainly are right”
The first few months of making wheels were certainly not an easy task, with very little experience and resources Chris had constant operational issues and hick ups along the way and truth be told, giving up simply looked like a great option but it was ultimately his perseverance that allowed him to break free of issues and create a better long term plan, rather than one focused on increasing business. Being new in the industry, everyone is always waiting for you to fail but it is through consistency and hard work that you can prove all those expecting you to fail that you are different than those who traveled a similar path before.
Through his struggles and failures, Chris learned about the true Art of Entrepreneurship and found a way to turn his dreams of making wheels into a wheel brand that would be known for something different than what others had branded themselves at. His model was based on producing high line 3 piece and cast wheels for mid range cars like VW and BMW but it was also about service for him. He wanted a business that wasn’t just known for order taking.
We caught up with Chris to talk a bit about the past, the present, and things to come.
Being fairly young when you started made it difficult at times to deal with negativity as well as the competition, what steps do you take to help yourself move forward?
I don’t think it would matter if I was 10 years old or 50 years old. Negativity and competition remains the same no matter what age you are. Do I think competition is good? I think it is good and bad, obviously if we were the only ones producing wheels in the world the amount of sets we would have built would be a lot higher. At the same time if we were the only ones there would be no one pushing us to create something new or create something better. We would just settle for “ok” and not amazing. That makes competition a valuable tool in my opinion.
When you started Watercooled IND, your perspective on business ownership and entrepreneurship was very different than today. Can you tell us how your outlook on your business has changed since the beginning?
I would have to definitely agree with that. Owning this and starting up from scratch would have to have been the hardest thing I have ever done. At first I thought we would just have to make a website and Facebook page and that people would magically find us and just give us business almost instantly. That was not the case. The amount of work that goes into everything and the attention to detail is most of the times overseen by the public.
Back in the beginning, Chris had quite a number of operational issues like finding the right suppliers, manufacturers, and dealers. We recall many conversations when he chose to refund his clients when he looked ahead and saw difficulty in keeping promises. He has always made the right call and since the very beginning has stuck to a very high standard of keeping his promises.
Business has its ups and downs, can you tell us your approach to staying consistent during early stage problems?
Business definitely has its ups and downs. Sometimes lead times are long and customers get frustrated, orders get delayed, finishes need to be stripped, orders get cancelled, etc. etc. EVERY business has its problems. What keeps us consistent is that we get to wake up in the morning and do what we love. We get to talk to people who have the same interests and love for the cars that we have. We have already ran into some problems and have resolved them. I’m just super happy it happened this early on and that we got to resolve them early on.
Looking at the past to identify how to avoid mistakes was one of the key strategies that helped Chris push ahead. You certainly can’t go back and change the past but you certainly can learn from it.
Now that the brand has been around for about a year, what would have you done differently if you would have known what you know today?
Well there is a lot of things I would have done differently. I would have really capitalized on everything. Photoshoots would have been done better, releasing of new designs would have been on cars instead of renderings, etc. etc. I think we would have just done things right from the start instead of releasing things that very minute.
Regardless of what the future holds, one can say that Chris has already been an inspiration to most through his perseverance and ability to see things through the end. Secret Entourage is proud to have helped Chris through helping him broaden his perspective at certain times. Despite the challenges one faces at such a young age and the experience one must be able to attain quickly in order to survive, we are proud of how far Watercooled IND has come in such a small time frame and are looking forward to seeing what the next few years look like.
To all those young people who support you and are inspired by the fact that you left your 9-5 to follow you passion, what advice do you have for them?
I really try to push anyone and everyone to find and follow their passion in life. Think about it, you spend about 8 hours a day working, 8 hours sleeping and the remaining 8 whatever you want. You spend 1/3 of your life working, and 1/3 of your life unconscious. Don’t you want to be happy for that 1/3 of your life? What I would recommend is finding a job that you like and working there and working on your new business or start up as much as possible. Do NOT focus on the money, if all you are following is the money each and every day you will not last long. The reason I say to get a job is so that you have money from that to support your life and all of your bills. This way you are not doing things in your business to just drive sales, you want to do things right and do things to grow, not essentially generate wealth at the beginning. That is the reason our wheels are so affordable at the moment. We are trying to get sets out into the world to generate buzz, to do photoshoots and videos and really capitalize on that. The money will eventually come but I am not worried about the money at this stage. Keeping my customers happy and showing everyone what we have is more important to me than the money I’m making now.
We heard you were redoing a few designs and introducing newer ones, can you tell us why you chose to restart? What type of new designs will we see and what does the future of Watercooled IND look like.
Well we are not redoing any designs we are just adding one or two to our line up. We are not going to restart and introduce all new designs but simply introduce a design here or there when we find the right fit. Once the CC1 was ready to be produced we knew it was going to be a hit. We were in love!
2013 will mark an important year for Chris and Watercooled IND as they have now worked out their glitches and are ready to have a year full of good surprises, beautiful new projects and a whole new cast line that has already gone viral through social media. Make sure to support Chris on FB and share his story with others working hard each day to see their dreams and vision come to life.
For those of you not familiar with Watercooled IND, make sure to check them out and “like” them on Facebook!