163: Stewart Waliser of Stews Self Service Garage
56:55Stewart grew up in a Seattle suburb and was an active kid. When he turned 16, he got a beater $500 car and was tasked with keeping it running. He used this car to learn maintenance and slowly acquired mechanical skills. He went to college and continued to modify cars. He was living gin the dorm and didn’t have a place to do the work so he called several shops, but nobody would allow him to do the work at their shop. It was at this point that he shifted from wanting to be a surgeon to owning a DIY garage. He spent all winter break creating a business plan and researched other self-service garages to see if the idea was even feasible. After dealing with a shady real estate broker, difficulties with city zoning, fire marshal fixes, and having to relocate with a 3-day notice, he was finally able to open his self-service garage. He has now been in business for 5 years and has signed another 5-year lease. The goal for this year is to expand and grow the business. He currently has 7 bays with lifts, provides tools and some specialty machines, and employees 4 employees to help around the shop. They keep things simple by charging a flat rate for time and not doing a la cart charges to use tools or ask questions.
162: Nathan Cicio of Cicio Performance
1:41:27Nathan grew up in Florida working on cars to help his dad’s business. In his twenties, he moved around always chasing entrepreneurial ventures but wasn’t always focused on cars. He eventually purchased a 2002 WRX Wagon and then he was hooked! The modifications began and he couldn’t get enough. This led to starting a performance shop with two buddies and eventually meeting Doug Wilks who was the owner of Top Speed Performance. Nathan then began organizing tuning appointments for Doug to fly in and tune several vehicles at once. After some time, Nathan offered to buy the business from Doug and run it on how own terms. He kept the original employees, changed the name to Top Speed Motorsports, and grew the business over the next ten years. He recently changed it to Cicio Performance and now has two locations. One is in Atlanta, GA (the Top Speed Motorsports location) and the other is in Virginia Beach, VA. He has plans to open a third location in another year or two. With the new name, Nathan focused his efforts on running the business efficiently and tracking every metric possible. This has allowed him to open the second location and he is able to split his time between the two and manage them. His goal is to ensure his customers have a pleasant experience and work to get the cars completed as quickly as possible. He still works on GTR’s but is expanding the services to 911’s and plans on doing a ton of work with the new C8 Corvette when it comes out.
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161: Chris Riggs from Speed by Design
1:23:44Chris got his career going in cars by doing a buy-in for body kits while he was in college back in 2001. He ran this business all through college and made a decent living. But, after graduating, he became a medical salesman. He worked there up until 2012 when the company he was working for got bought and he was given a buyout payment. That same year, he started Speed by Design. Initially, he wanted to do installs for GTR’s. He soon realized that Oklahoma wasn’t large enough to warrant a specialty shop like he wanted to make so he shifted gears and focused on manufacturing and e-commerce. He has continued to grow the business over the years and is proud to offer quality products manufactured in Taiwan. They have expanded from just GTR parts to Fords, AE86s, and are beginning to offer McLaren parts.
160: Ben Silcock and Andre Simon return to discuss HP Academy
45:55Its been about 4 years since we last talked to Andre and Ben of HP Academy. Originally, they were focusing on keeping the business small and running it themselves. They soon realized that they needed to hire some extra help. They have grown to 7 people and really helps generate content. Andre and Ben now release interviews each week and have greatly expanded their online education program. The online courses include tuning, engine machining, race car wiring, and vehicle setup. They are currently working with Engineered to Slide to even create a set of fabrication courses so be on the lookout for even more great content! If you’re interested, they are always looking for talented individuals to join their team. So, feel free to reach out to them if you think you are qualified.
159: Bryan Thompson of Powerhouse Racing
1:16:54Bryan Thompson started out in Utah and bought himself a Toyota MR2. He quickly started modifying it to go faster. He ended up going to college to get a Computer Science degree but was cut short because of his love for cars. He then followed a friend to Dallas to begin working at Dinosaur Performance (which later purchased Powerhouse Racing). Soon enough, he was giving the reigns to run Powerhouse Racing. Even though he preferred working on cars, he soon realized he could develop parts that he really needed to make. After a few years, Bryan was given the opportunity to buy Powerhouse Racing and jumped on it! He has spent the past few years focusing on manufacturing products and expanding their offerings. He is putting systems in place to better handle the demand for their parts and try to get them out quicker while continuing to improve the products.
158: AJ Hartman returns for an update on AJ Hartman Aero
47:52Back in 2017, AJ was humming along and making composite parts for race cars and street enthusiasts. He was approached by a customer who was wanting to help AJ scale the business, so he sold off 49% of the business. They changed the name to RHR Composites, hired 2 people, contracted some aerodynamic parts to be designed, and moved to a larger facility. Along the way, their vision for the future didn’t align so AJ had to buy out his partner to take back 100% of the company. Even though it was a huge struggle, AJ looks at the events as a learning experience and tries to keep a positive outlook on the situation. He shrunk the company back to just himself, changed the name back to AJ Hartman Aero, and the business is humming along nicely. He has focused on reducing waste and improving efficiency within his shop. Even though he has moved out of the 6,000 sqft shop and back into the 2-car garage behind his house, he has been able to get more product out and make more money. This goes to show how important it is to focus on efficiency versus trying to make more money. AJ set his mind on improving the business and getting the most use out of his time. This has translated to higher profits with fewer resources.
157: Matt Beenen returns with BuiltRight Industries
43:22Since he was a kid, Matt always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Using inspiration from his childhood, he decided to start a side gig to follow his dreams. His initial idea consisted of 50 latches that allow you to drop the Ford F-150 back seat down to access some secret storage. To his surprise, a Facebook post in a small F-150 group resulted in him selling out rather quickly. So, he began his journey to go at the business full-time. His second product development was a bedside rack system for the F-150’s. This side hustle first took over a bedroom, then grew into the garage, and grew again into a storage unit that was run off a generator and a string of lights. His biggest struggle has been dealing with knockoffs that originate from his success on Amazon. He even wrote a blog article warning other small business owners about the pitfalls and helping people learn from his experience. Fast forward to today and BuiltRight Industries is housed in a 5000 sqft warehouse and has 2 full time employees and a couple part timers. He has worked hard to expand the business to other vehicles and continues to develop new products. And he has even begun selling his products through Turn14.
156: Alejandro and Pablo Moreno of Tandem Automotive
1:20:58Alejandro and Pablo Moreno didn’t start a shop together but found they could grow a business by working as a team. Alejandro got his engineering degree, worked at Bell Helicopter for a while, and went back to school to get his MBA. In the meantime, Pablo was an auto mechanic, went to flight school, and then decided to start Tandem Automotive with a friend to work on drift cars (hence the name). When Alejandro finished grad school, he was looking for some sort of entrepreneurial venture and wanted to help Pablo. He crunched some numbers and made some changes at Tandem Automotive. His quickly discovered that something needed to change at the business if they wanted it to succeed. They looked at their current customer based and decided it was best to specialize in modifying and maintaining Toyota SUV’s and trucks. Alejandro used his CAD skills and designed a custom wheel for their common application. While he thought it would be a great way to generate some extra profit, it turned out to be a real headache. Dealing with overseas manufacturing turned out to be extremely difficult and costly. But they overcame the hurdles and have had several hundred wheels produced. Tandem Automotive has also undergone several ups and downs with employees. They have tried to balance the number of techs with the workload but have struggled to hire hard workers and keep them busy with work. They have put systems in place to track the time and verify that they are charging appropriately and making money.
155: Theresa Contreras and Sara Morosan of LGE-CTS Motorsports
1:09:05The business was originally started by their parents who did maintenance and custom work in California. Theresa studied graphic design and worked as a machinist. She went back to work in the family auto body shop and worked in the front end. She taught herself how to pinstripe and paint and continues to do so to this day! Sara was also interested in working at some sort of automotive business and studied business and automotive classes. Strangely enough, she worked at a competitor’s auto body shop for a few months before realizing she wanted to start a business that sold aftermarket parts. She started the business from the family body shop before building a dedicated space in 1999. These businesses operated separately until 2011 when they merged the two businesses. LGE-CTS Motorsports is a combination of the two original names. LGE stands for Louie & Gerry Enterprises and CTS stands for Custom Truck Shop. They now do a bunch of SEMA builds for Ford and Kia as well as custom builds for retail customers. During the slower season, they focus efforts on the repair side of the business. And they are currently working on expanding the online store to help generate revenue throughout the year. They now work out of a 12,000 sqft building that they rent from their parents and employ 13 people. They are both very active with SEMA and other organizations to get people (and specifically, girls) active in the automotive industry and interested in making a career out of it. You can also find them at offroad and enthusiast events throughout the year. They keep themselves very busy and wouldn’t have it any other way!
154: Vadim Belogorodsky from CANtrolls
1:07:34On this episode we get a chance to talk with Vadim Belogorodsky from CANtrolls. CANtrolls is a company focused on using CAN interface hardware to make engine swaps easier… but it goes way beyond that! Vadim taught himself to program at age 13 and has since worked on medical devices, oil rigs (doing CAN-based Networking) and most recently with Zero Avia an electric aviation startup. Vadim is a standout in the automotive aftermarket for his ability to get things done. I know him personally to be an ambitious self-starter so I thought we could all learn what makes him tick, and maybe he’ll teach us some things along the way.