Editor’s note: Made in Tarrant is an occasional series on small businesses started in Tarrant County. Submit your business here.
Who: Austin Pruett, owner and founder
What: A local auto detail shop that specializes in paint correction and ceramic coatings.
When: June 2020
Number of employees: Three
Where: 12015 Bella Italia Drive, Fort Worth, TX 76126
Pruett wrote about his experience starting his business. This post has been edited for content and clarity.
I married my high school sweetheart in 2015 and moved halfway across the country – from Atlanta to Fort Worth – to attend seminary. We were young, broke and didn’t know anyone in Texas, yet we were incredibly excited about the new opportunities ahead.
Four years later, I graduated with three master’s degrees and was excited to start my career. Enter 2020. I had verbal offers for teaching jobs, but they all failed to materialize. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was unable to find a position and I was unfortunately laid off by the marketing company I worked for at the time.
That year was a tough year for everyone, no doubt, including our family, but there was a lot of good that came from it, too. In May 2020, my wife and I welcomed the birth of our first child – a girl named Sofia.
I knew I had to provide for my family, but I did not know where to turn.
Growing up, I drove beater cars. They were great and got me from point A to B, but after many hot Texas summers with no air-conditioning my wife and I decided it was time to upgrade. We purchased a 2018 Mazda CX-5 GT with working doors, AC and heated leather seats. I was ecstatic.
Then I realized, this is one of the biggest purchases of my life. I have to protect it and take care of it, but how do I do that? That’s when I discovered the wonderful world of car detailing.
When I first heard of auto detailing, I thought it was a rather pretentious name for a car wash. I soon realized there is a lot of skill and technique involved in properly caring for a vehicle. I became obsessed – reading every article, watching every YouTube video, any piece of information I could get my hands on.
From there, I began taking care of my own car, then my wife’s car, then friends’ vehicles, then family – the list grew. I saw more and more that I could really provide value for people. I fell in love with auto detailing.
That’s how Fort Worth Auto Detail began.
We started with $500 of our own money. No major investors. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. This business has been done before.
I actually got to connect with Chicago Auto Pros, which is one of the biggest detail shops in the country. I got to meet them at a conference and there’s monthly Zoom meetings and I text them pretty regularly. They’ve been super great.
I have reached out with SCORE, and got connected with a business coach who’s also been incredibly helpful.
Don’t fall for all of the scam calls that are going to come. Early on, you’ll get these calls of “this is what we can do for your business.” And it sounds really great. And you know, especially in the startup phase your cash flow is so, so limited.
That first year, we didn’t make a ton, but it was actually very profitable. Because there was no overhead – it was just myself and some startup equipment and some chemicals and things like that. Then the second year we essentially broke even because although we were growing and the revenue was going much higher, we had hired employees, got the shop and increased our marketing budget.
It really wasn’t until just recently, I would say a couple months ago, where we really actually started seeing a lot of the stuff that we’ve been working toward starting to pay off.
Running a business? Not easy. It’s very stressful on yourself, on the family. You’ve really got to take an interest in their lives and what’s going on with them. Are they OK? So you’re not just managing you, but you’re managing you, plus your family, plus your employees.
Your circle just kind of grows and the more and more it grows, the more and more you just have to keep all the plates spinning. And I feel like people just think “oh, it’s just doing the work.”
But it’s so much more than being a technician. There’s so much more that goes into actually being a business owner.