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Young to the Industry: How to Grow a Car-Wash Business
Have you ever dreamed of being your own boss and running your own business, even if you’re still in your 20s or 30s? The car wash business might just be the opportunity you’re looking for, especially when it comes to strong earning potential, freedom, and business growth potential.
We recently caught up with two young car-wash entrepreneurs who work with Mark VII. Ryan Zuercher from California and Matthew Lapolice from Canada share how they got into the industry, how they’ve grown their business and what keeps them motivated.
How did you get connected with the car-wash industry?
Ryan: Not many kids grow up thinking “I want to run a car wash when I grow up.” After college, I got a job with a petroleum company selling car washes. That got me interested in the industry. I was 23 when I started in the car-wash industry in 2009. Now I’m 36 and still enjoy working in this industry.
Matthew: In 2017, I was 25 years old and was selling heavy equipment to the construction industry. I also started learning more about the car-wash industry and why it’s a good fit for self-starters. While I liked a lot of what I was hearing from Mark VII, I was skeptical at first. My parents thought it sounded almost like a hoax. I can speak from experience, though, that the car-wash industry offers autonomy, good income potential, the opportunity to work from home, and the freedom to live where you want.
How do you grow your business?
Ryan: Most of my business comes from referrals. I also believe in proper marketing. Keep your car wash clean and inviting. Promote your business.
Matthew: I leverage LinkedIn as a marketing tool. I’ve had inquiries through LinkedIn turn into sales.
What do you wish more people knew when they get into the car-wash business?
Ryan: When I got into this business, I figured the biggest thing to focus on was the actual car-wash machine. The equipment is important, but this business is really about service and the company that provides the service. Be careful who you do business with. You’re only as a good as your supplier. Ask questions like, “How long has your sales representative worked in this market?” When I started asking questions like this, Mark VII was the only company I saw that offered total solutions.
Matthew: People sometimes assume this is a “set it and forget it” business. It’s a lot more hands-on than that. You need to inspect your car wash equipment regularly, keep up with cleaning and maintenance, and put time and effort into marketing and advertising if you want to succeed.
How has technology changed the car-wash industry since you started?
Ryan: There are new options to make car-washes more efficient and more profitable. You can try things like a monthly subscription system, where customers pay a monthly fee and get all the car washes they want each month.
Matthew: We’re a cashless society in Canada. When I started in the car-wash business, there weren’t a lot of options if a customer didn’t have cash. Now there are a lot more ways for customers to buy a cash wash if they don’t have cash.
What are some unexpected perks of the car-wash industry?
Ryan: The culture of a company like Mark VII has a small business/family feel to it. It’s a great fit for our family.
Matthew: I’ve gotten to travel throughout western Canada through my work with Mark VII. All this has helped me expand my business knowledge.
Why is now a great time to get into the car-wash business?
Ryan: About 90% of my customers are first-generation car-wash owners. Often it starts as an ancillary business that the owner grows from there. A lot of my customers have seven to 12 gas stations. There’s not much profit margin in gasoline, but there’s a much better profit margin with car washes. My customers often start by adding a car wash to one of their stations. When that succeeds, they add car washes to their other stations. The car-wash business is also a great option if you’re just looking for a part-time job or have some money to invest.
Matthew: There’s a lot of opportunity in this industry. The people who do well in this business are good business people. Customers will stay loyal to you if you provide good service and work to build long-term relationships with your customers.
What excites you about the future of the car-wash industry?
Ryan: Every time a vehicle is sold or a house is built in your area, that’s a new opportunity to grow your car wash business. Changing regulations can also work to a car-wash owner’s favor. In areas with growing population densities, some municipalities are become stricter about water usage and what can go down drains and storm sewers. That often means less car washing at home in the driveway. I’m excited that there’s still a lot of room for growth in the car-wash industry.
Matthew: Anyone with a vehicle needs a car wash, and that includes many businesses. Car dealerships, taxi services, transportation companies like Uber, police departments, municipalities and many others need the car-wash industry. Businesses that keep their vehicles clean and shiny know that this says a lot about their company. When you consider all the individuals and organizations that need clean vehicles, that creates opportunities for anyone in the car-wash business.
Enjoy learning about car wash business and growth? Read more stories here.