Austin Johnson wanted to make a little extra money this past summer, so when he wasn’t working his full-time job as a machine operator at Kimberly-Clark, he started detailing cars in his driveway.
Just a few months later, the factory job is only a memory and he is diving headfirst into the entrepreneur life as the owner of Austin’s Affordable Detailing. Located at 601 Triplett Street in Owensboro, he serves everyone from single-car owners to companies with large fleets.
Once word spread beyond his friends, he began advertising on Facebook and the business took off.
“It’s grown very fast,” he said. “I started in June … I was losing money going to my job in September,” he said.
Johnson has hired three employees to help him handle the work, but he still inspects every vehicle that goes out the door himself. The company details an average of about 30 cars a week, although they have done as many as 60 in a week.
His larger contracts include Canteen, May Electric and the City of Owensboro – he is responsible for detailing the transit system’s 14 buses and 4 trolleys twice a year. The detailing process includes pulling all the seats out, pressure washing everything, steam cleaning all the plastic surfaces, disinfecting everything and removing graffiti, candy and gum.
“It’s a lot of elbow grease,” he said.
Standard detailing on a private vehicle includes washing, waxing, cleaning out trash, vacuuming, shampooing, steam cleaning and sanitizing and polishing. He also offers paintless dent removal, headlight restoration and a treatment to remove odors from vehicles.
May Electric has a contract with Johnson to clean and detail their 20 service vehicles as needed. Because the vehicles are in use during the day, Johnson picks them up after hours and returns them to May before they are needed again. President Chris May said Johnson’s services have led to cleaner and more presentable vehicles, which helps his company’s image.
“He just takes care of everything – I don’t even have to mess with it,” May said. “He does a good job for us.”
While Johnson might seem to be an overnight success, plenty of hard work and careful planning brought him to this point.
“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but never found the right thing until this came along,” he said.
One of his first jobs was as a detailer for Don Moore Automotive, where he learned to enjoy the work. He did detailing on and off for about seven years and even completed special training.
About four years ago, he began saving and planning for his new venture, investing into the equipment he needed to do the job well.
“It was pretty meticulously thought out,” he said. He has also surrounded himself with a group of entrepreneurs who can give him guidance. “It’s really important to have a network of people that are goal-oriented,” he said.
Johnson gets to spend more time at home now, which his wife Heather and three-year-old daughter Copeland appreciate.
“Working at a factory is hard on family life,” he said. “That was my main motivation for the whole thing.”
Taking advantage of an opening in the market has served Johnson well, and he hopes to continue that trend by adding services and salespeople to help him expand. Much of his profit goes back into the business.
“We plan on being here for the long term,” he said. “The quality of work we do is second to none anywhere — we have a lot of advanced equipment. A lot of investment has gone into the company.”
Starting his own company is “a labor of love,” he said. “I would much rather work on my dreams than someone else’s.”