What was the ‘aha’ moment where you decided to leave your day job and work for yourself?
I kept having this idea and wanted to get involved so I hung out at another car shop a little bit and was talking to my friend who is an amazing entrepreneur. He came from the finance area and I had helped him actually start up a venture capital firm and was working with him. We were constantly listening into people’s ideas because people would come in and pitch us all day.
I was struggling with my own thing at the time because I was like, all these people are so inspired and are so excited, yet I want to do all these things but I felt like I was stuck in what I knew.
He just sat down with me and was like, “You know, you can do anything you want”. People say it to people everyday but whatever it was, if it was that moment, that was a life changing moment.
From that moment forward, I was like I’m just going to do that. There were really no other options and no other alternatives. Everything I did was a step to get in that direction.
How did the business initially come together?
I actually started the business with $30k when I was 25 with my ex-husband after having a 2-week old baby. He had a background in some racing and had restored cars as a hobby growing up with his father. I had the business background and the passion and the drive to do it. I don’t think he really was that vested in it initially. I don’t think he really believed that it was something that was going to work. I had wanted to just start it and go big and he was like, “You’re going to lose a lot of money. Don’t do that. That’s stupid.”
I went around to some of the places I have gotten some work at and developed relationships with people and was like, “Hey, do you want to come work for me?” People came and it was amazing that by the third or fourth month, we were doing over $100,000 in sales. It was absolutely amazing because most small businesses don’t make money for years, let alone with the $30,000 initial investment.
After I decided to pursue my idea, I was driving around looking at shops to rent that looked like they didn’t do a lot of business and wanted to lease. I was being very cautious to not jump into anything too big, lengthy, or a large space. I drove into this shop and it looked like a wrecking yard. The cars looked like they haven’t been moved for years. There was literally dirt packed between the car and the concrete. I was like, this is the one because it is definitely was not doing any business.
I walked in and I said, “I’d like to lease your property or possibly buy it. Who do I need to talk to?” The guy who I was speaking to was actually the owner of the property and he looked at me and was like, “What?” He was so rude to me and shooed me away like I was some little kid. He was like, “What do you think you are going to do here?” I was like, “I want to have a car shop.” He was like, “Who do you represent?” So he assumed I was a broker or something. He’s like, “Who do you work for?” I was like, “Just me,” standing there by myself in my little suit.
I think it took him a while to absorb it and then in the process, I had sent a man in to talk to him because it was clear to me he obviously would feel a lot better speaking to a male. So I was like, “You know what, let’s just send somebody else and maybe then he will take it seriously.”
That was really how it started and like I said, I got a few of the guys I had met along the way just going to different shops and getting different projects done. I brought them on board and ended up getting that location.
As far a being a female in the industry is, there’s not a lot of upside really. Maybe I’ll get a few more likes on some pictures on social media than a guy working on a car, but there’s really not a tremendous upside to it. It’s caused problems with me personally such as dating, it has caused problems in my marriage because I think I am a little more assertive. I wouldn’t say necessarily aggressive but I definitely am not as feminine. I’m not going to be a homemaker. I’m not going to sit home, cook, and clean. I want to be in the car shop. I want to be driving cars.
For anyone reading this, what advice do you have for entrepreneurs that might be on the fence?
Just realize there are people who are going to like you and some people who aren’t going to like you. It doesn’t really matter. Just put those negative people out of your life and just focus on the positive and believing in yourself. You’re going to fail over and over and over again, and you will look stupid sometimes. You’re going to feel bad but just know that it’s always temporary. It’s going to pass but you’re going to have failures. You’re going to feel shitty about it and somebody is going to say something about it but it will pass. That’s what I would say to anybody who wants it. You’re not going to become successful, you’re not going to own your business or work for yourself if you are not disciplined and don’t keep moving every day.
Speaking of failures, have you ever had a significant setback?
I would say it’s probably around kind of allowing my personal life to get involved in business and I think that’s difficult. When you’re an entrepreneur, everything mixes, like this morning, I was dealing with family, I was dealing with banks, and I was at the shop. It all just comes together when you’re an entrepreneur and you work for yourself, but over the years, you learn to separate it. You have to keep your personal life personal and you have to keep your business life business and have a little bit of separation between the two and not doing that is where I feel like I went into my biggest failure and I learned so many lessons about that during that time.
The car industry is very competitive and your longevity is a testament to your success. What’s the secret?
It’s extremely competitive and extremely cut throat. Everybody wants to get in the car game, whether they want to start their own real line of aftermarket accessories or their own car shop. Everybody wants to be part of this world since it attracts a lot of people. There’s really no secret ingredient. You have to be very resilient and you have to have very thick skin. I don’t know if it’s that I have thick skin or just have the ability to block a lot of stuff out. I found a way to exist in this industry and just get along with everybody. I’m genuinely interested in people. I’m genuinely supportive of what other shops do but that’s really rare.
I had a situation yesterday where another shop said a number of times that I don’t know what I’m doing and just the face of the business. They are a little bit new in the industry so I wasn’t even angry about it. I just stopped by and I said, “Hey, I thought I’d come by your shop. I just wanted to say hi and introduce myself. I had heard you had a couple of questions about some things that were going on so I’m here and if you have any questions, please just ask me.” I just felt like I really need to sit down and talk to that man and have that conversation.
I think getting in this industry, you can’t come in like a bull and be ready to rip everybody apart. Just be nice to people, just be cool, just focus on your work and that’s the most important thing. You don’t need to try to undermine anybody. You don’t need to try to throw the competitors under the bus. You don’t need to try steal clients or any of those things.
If you do really good work, that is going to speak for itself and I think that is the most important thing for anybody who wants to get in this business as I just see a lot of shops opening and I see some things happening that aren’t really proper. I think it’s done because they believe they are going to get ahead in some way but you’re not going to get ahead. You just need to focus on your work doing quality stuff.