CAR-SHOW QUALITY: With little startup costs, Paul Fugiero’s business started in his garage.
Business Spotlight: Come Rain or Shine
Reflections Auto Detailing LLC was born not only out of its owner’s entrepreneurial spirit but also his obsessive compulsive disorder.
“I’ve had OCD my whole life and it turned into always keeping my car clean,” says founder Paul Fugiero. “I wanted to learn how to get swirls from the car wash out of my car.”
While he didn’t formalize the business until a year ago, Fugiero has detailed cars for a decade.
The work started as a hobby when he was into some modified car racing, grew with jobs for family and friends, and continued while he was in the Army.
“Everyone told me when I got out of the military in 2009 I should open my own detailing shop,” he recalls. “If I was smart, I would have.”
Aside from a stint as a detailing employee for Acura of Springfield, he’s worked out of his personal garage, a subleased space in a mechanic shop and in January moved into a new building with two garage doors and a wash bay covering 2,750 square feet.
The entrepreneurial risk became real last summer, when he quit his part-time job with the post office. He had worked full-time as a mail carrier and in the processing plant, but all the while did detailing work on the side. Like many budding entrepreneurs, Fugiero was faced with the decision to go all in on his own venture.
“My wife was scared. I was scared. I was just taking that leap,” he says. “You don’t know where your next paycheck is going to come from in a business only a couple months old.”
Once he committed, Fugiero says it began to pay off.
First-year revenue for Reflections Auto Detailing reached $60,000 – nearly doubling what he expected. He wrote a business plan but kept the numbers loose.
The startup required no upfront investment. He already had equipment accumulated over time.
“I didn’t pull out a loan. I did everything out of pocket,” Fugiero says. “I just upgraded stuff as I went.”
He spent nearly $20,000 between April and December last year. One of his prized tools is a $600 Rupes polisher from Italy, and he’s now working to become an authorized user of IGL Coatings’ Kenzo products. Fugiero already offers IGL ceramic paint protection, which covers a clear coat.
“It makes it car-show quality,” he says of the 100 percent silica application. “Water doesn’t even touch your vehicle – no water spots.”
Last week, Fugiero returned a Cadillac CTS4 to his lone commercial account, Springfield Automotive & Rental, right next door on West Sunshine Street. The black CTS4 had deep scratches and multiple paint swirls – enough to do wet sanding, two rounds of heavy compound polishing and waxing.
“We gave him a tall order,” says Andrew Carpenter, sales manager at Springfield Automotive. “He did a good job.”
Carpenter says the dealership usually spends $140-$400 on detailing jobs. Springfield Automotive works with a few detailers – “some buddies of ours, just when we need something simple. If it’s bad we send it to him,” Carpenter says of the work with Reflections.
Fugiero says the vast majority of his business is with individuals, and he’s not after the dealership business.
“I’ve never needed dealer work to get by,” he says.
He does have a fleet agreement with the U.S. Post Office, his former employer.
“We’re going to be doing all of Springfield’s,” he says of the 110 or more postal trucks he’ll detail in accordance with the vehicle’s regular six-month maintenance schedule. “We’re just taking it one year at a time to see where it goes.”
The new business will generate $8,000 this year, and Fugiero is eyeing Joplin postal trucks next and Kansas City in a couple of years.
He projects $100,000 in 2017 revenue.
With one employee, Reflections handles jobs for minivans to Ferraris, but most common are BMWs. Fugiero says his most memorable job was a Rolls Royce Phantom for retired businessman Neal Lynch in Hollister.
Through a mutual friend, Fugiero offered to detail Lynch’s car in exchange for using it over a weekend at his booth during the Hot Rod Holiday car show at the Springfield Expo Center. It ended up being a $2,000 job, including the interior and exterior color correction, but Fugiero says it was worth it.
“That drew a lot of attention,” he says.
For Lynch, the look of the Rolls Royce is now a conversation piece.
“I’ve got a couple of neighbors who pride themselves in finding flaws, and both of them said, ‘This is amazing, I can’t find a flaw.’ They are meticulous,” says Lynch, an 81-year-old Hollister resident who founded the Dorothy Lynch salad dressing company before selling it in the 1960s.
“My car looks better than the day it was brand new.”