Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
In 2013 I decided to start a company where I would restore antiques and antique toys. After 25 years of working in education and information technologies, I decided to cash out my 401K savings to start Hoosierboy Restorations. I began in my mother's garage and quickly began receiving projects to restore. I quickly outgrew the small 2 car garage and expanded my operations to my present 2200 sq.ft. facility.
When I’m not working in the shop, I’m spending most of my free time researching antiques and antique toys. My enjoyment comes from seeing customers' faces light up when they see the finished restored product for the first time.
7 years later, we have restored hundreds of projects. Everything from 100-year-old toys, to historical furniture, to a T-33 Airforce jet ejection seat.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
At 10-years-old I saw a bicycle in a neighbor’s trash can and asked if I could have it. I ended up with two broken bikes and combined them to make one, which I rode and eventually sold.
In junior high school, I took woodshop and fell in love with woodworking. Evenings, my father, the school superintendent who had started out as a shop teacher, would take me to the school’s woodshop and we’d build furniture and Christmas presents and fix things.
Today, my career is based around restoring old bicycles, pedal cars, Coke machines as well as other items. I previously worked at Beech Grove schools doing education technology, but began to get burned out and wanted to do something that I really enjoyed. Around that same time a TV show called “American Restoration” was on the History Channel, and it inspired me. I thought, ‘Wow, that guy [on TV] is making a living at restorations, maybe I can do the same”. So I just kind of blindly cashed in my 401k and jumped into it not knowing what to do or how to run a business or anything like that. I started in my mom’s garage, and I put up a website right away.
This is me in 2013 at a local auto show trying to drum up business
Probably the most important thing I've learned is the importance of communications and organization. I had to develop these 2 skill sets, which took some considerable control and discipline.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
People began calling and emailing me asking to restore items, including an old friend who had light sconces that needed to be done for the outside of a building. I fiddled around with a paint gun and, after dozens try, I started to get the hang of painting.
More people started calling, and I began reading books and watching YouTubevideos on everything from graphic design to metallurgy. I slowly began to see improvement in my technique, and eventually started producing restored items I could be proud of.
Eventually, the workload became more than I could handle on my own, so I started down the long path of trying to find skilled craftsmen and women who could help lighten the load. Today I currently have around 35 jobs in the shop, with customers from the U.S. and Canada. After many years of going through employees, I’ve finally landed on 3 excellent employees I can count on to help get projects out the door.
Describe the process of launching the business.
The Internet’s a wonderful thing, and it’s really helped my business. It got me known not just locally, but globally. I immediately signed up with Godaddy, and started designing my website with their easy to use Website builder app. Having a background in graphic design, I immediately began creating an eye-catching and “friendly” logo and registered a business Facebook page. I had business cards made up.
The business was initially funded by cashing out my 401k. That money was dedicated to purchasing equipment, and to fund the upgrades that were needed for my mother’s garage. The marketing was all done on a shoestring budget. Before starting Hoosierboy Restorations, I was the press secretary for the mayor’s office in Beech Grove, Indiana from 2004 -2010, where I had developed contacts with local media outlets over the years. I began sending emails to my contacts, and shortly I was invited to appear on the local CBS affiliate morning show. I also contacted a reporter with a local weekly newspaper. She came to my shop and did a nice 'expose’ on my business. Since then I’ve appeared on local television programs, featured in weekly newspapers, and magazines, and been interviewed on several radio programs.
‘Your Town Friday’ visits Beech Grove!
RESTORING YOUR MEMORIES: HOOSIERBOY RESTORATIONS
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Keys to attracting and restoring customers:
Regular updates to your website. This is key for Google rankings and attracting new customers.
Google My Business and Google Maps. Half of my customers come from Google My Business and maps. It’s important that new photos and stories be uploaded to these sites. This shows potential customers the type of work you are capable of. Additionally, you need to make sure the location on Google Maps is correct, this will ensure that your customers can find you.
Regular monthly email blasts. I started from the very beginning saving email addresses. My Godaddy account came with a Constant Contact subscription, which I utilized early on.
Open communication channels with my customers. Once a lead is converted into a customer, I provide the customer with my cell phone number and personal email address. I let them know that they can reach me anytime to ask questions.
Project Management Software: A good PMS is vital to the workflow, as well as communicating with your team, and customers. As a project moves through the shop, each phase is captured, and a project update email is automatically sent to the customer.
Social Media: We update our Instagram and Facebook accounts at least once a day. We have researched appropriate # and incorporate them in every post. Our bios can be cross-referenced, and also links to our website are easily found.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, we have restored over 700 projects for hundreds of clients. Over the past 7 years, I have developed new restoration techniques that assist in improving productivity.
It is important that you do not over-promise something you are not sure you can deliver on. This can kill your reputation right out of the gate.
The short term future is a little sketchy due to the recent health crisis, but the long-term looks bright. My customers could be categorized as baby-boomers. (45 - 65 years old). Baby boomers have more disposable income than any other generation, more than 10 times more than millennials.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Probably the most important thing I've learned is the importance of communications and organization. These are 2 areas, I must confess, I was not accomplished at. At 50 years old, I had to develop these 2 skill sets, which took some considerable control and discipline.
Financial and bookkeeping was an area that I also lacked skills in. I would suggest that anyone going into business become as familiar as possible with financial bookkeeping by taking an online course, or by watching the multitude of free videos on youtube. Next, choosing a solid bookkeeping software platform is vital. The choices range from finding or developing an Excel spreadsheet template, to a full-blown, cloud-based solution like Quickbooks or Peachtree.
Communication is also vital, and by developing your communication skills, you will eliminate many critical problems from the beginning. Learn to talk to customers, vendors, and employees face-to-face and on the phone. Nothing beats a clear and concise conversation with someone. After the conversation, it’s important to record the key points discussed in an email (or at least a text). Follow-up should be noted in your tasks calendar. Finally, it is important that you do not over-promise something you are not sure you can deliver on. This can kill your reputation right out of the gate.
Go through the exercise of creating a viable business plan. There are literally hundreds of apps, websites, books, and videos on the subject. Prepare to spend at least a week creating the document.
Under Promise, Over Perform!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Tudodesk: It’s an estimating, invoicing, job management, shipping, communication, and support platform that powers workshops worldwide.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- TV Program: American Restoration (History Channel)
- TV Program: American Pickers (History Channel)
- TV Program: Pawn Stars (History Channel)
- Podcast: Mike Rowe
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Do your due diligence. Research, research, research. Investigate other businesses in your area that are already doing business. Visit the location by posing as a potential customer. Check out their online presence (website, Facebook, Instagram..etc). Check out their online reviews on Google, Angelist, etc)
Speak to people you respect that is in positions of authority to see what they think of your business proposal.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I always have my antenna up when it comes to searching for good employees. If I meet a person with the right skill-set, I’m going to schedule an appointment. If I’m impressed, and they come to the interview totally prepared, I’m going to make them an offer on the spot.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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