Hi! Who are you, and what are you currently working on?
My name is Josh Belk and I am the founder of Belk Mobile Detailing. Belk Mobile Detailing is a mobile automotive detailing business in Springfield, Missouri.
We come directly to our customer’s home to make their vehicles look like new again. I’m currently a co-owner in the business, with the other owner being my brother Austin.
While Austin services our customers, answers the phone, helps with scheduling, and does detailing work, I help with budgeting, accounting, payroll, marketing, and growing the business to where we want to be.
Belk Mobile Detailing has been in business now for almost two years. We now have two full time detailers, have serviced over 500 customers, and are generating $8k-10k in revenue each month.
What’s your background, and what inspired you to start your business venture?
I’ve always been entrepreneurial and passionate about growing a business.
In high school, I would make hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in just a few hours buying and reselling sneakers and Supreme clothing, both of which are high profit items to resell.
I used to skip my first two classes every Thursday so I could stay home to purchase whatever hyped item was released on Supreme’s website that week.
By far the greatest profit I made reselling Supreme was when I purchased two Supreme Fender Stratocaster guitars. I paid $1998 for each, resold one the same day for $3600, and resold the second a few weeks later for $4400.
Around this time was when Amazon FBA was really starting to pick up. There were all kinds of videos on YouTube of Amazon sellers selling their course teaching you how to make money selling products on Amazon FBA.
With the money I had saved up from selling sneakers and Supreme as well as working part time jobs, I paid $1200 for an online course that taught me everything I needed to know to be successful selling on Amazon FBA.
I spent months in high school learning the ins and outs of the business, researching products that I could sell, and eventually ordering the products from a supplier overseas.
With a 50/50 partner, we decided we were going to sell a pack of rose gold balloons which could be used for parties, baby showers, and weddings.
Why rose gold balloons? Because the process for identifying great products to sell, which I learned in the $1200 course, told me that rose gold balloons were a great product.
Together, we spent $6,000 on the balloon sets, shipping, product photography, and other various business expenses.
After months of research, communicating with the supplier, and waiting for shipping, we finally received our balloons and listed them on Amazon.
Long story short, the balloons didn’t sell like we thought they would and we lost the majority of our investment.
After this failure, I started college and spent a few years without any side hustle. I constantly saw unique side hustles and businesses to start on YouTube and various websites.
I had all kinds of ideas floating in my head. You could say I had a bad case of “shiny object syndrome”, which I believe is one of the worst experiences young entrepreneurs today are experiencing.
There are too many choices, too many mentors, too many business ideas, too many YouTube videos…and while choices can be good it can also be very overwhelming.
There is so much information on the internet today and so many people trying to sell their course teaching you how to get rich.
Everyone online is telling you to buy their course and try this new business out or invest in this new idea. And these influencers do an amazing job of making the idea look attractive and easy to start.
Just when I was getting ready to start some new side hustle I’d see a new idea online with a different guru and I’d think to myself, “the grass looks greener over there”.
Since a young age, my brother and I have always been super passionate about cars. After getting his license, my brother was constantly driving around town and was always cleaning it as a result.
For a few months in mid-2019, I had been following a few YouTubers who were detailers and I was learning a little about what it takes to start a mobile detailing business.
One day I got an email from Tai Lopez, a popular influencer and entrepreneur I followed, that listed “Three Businesses Anyone Can Start Today”.
One of those businesses was mobile car washing. After speaking with my brother about this idea, we decided that together we would start our own mobile detailing business.
How did you get started? What did the early days look like?
When we first got started in November of 2019, I spent the first few weeks ordering the necessary equipment, building our website, designing our service packages, and setting up our social media pages.
After we had all the necessary things in place to begin working, I spent a few days going door to door at all the small dealerships around town offering our services.
To get our foot in the door, we were offering to detail the first few vehicles at these dealership’s lots for free. I probably spoke to 7 dealerships and only 1 of them agreed to give us a shot.
We ended up washing the outside of 10 of their vehicles for free and they never called us back. These small dealerships were used to paying a crew of guys $3-$5 per car to wash each car on their lot.
We were very desperate at first to start making money, but we quickly realized that only making $3-$5 a car from these dealerships was not worth the work.
After the dealerships, we moved onto detailing our friends and family’s vehicles. My mom sent out text messages to her friends telling them that her sons had started a car detailing business and were offering 50% for a limited time.
My mom sent that text out to over 30 people and only 2 of them booked appointments. At that time, we were charging $50 for a full detail.
That included the interior vacuumed, steam cleaned, wiped down, windows cleaned, door jams cleaned, and the exterior washed, waxed, and tires shined.
In the month of December, our first real month in business, we made $310 in sales from detailing for friends and family.
In an attempt to start increasing our reach and sales, we ran a massive giveaway for the 2020 new year. We were giving away a free detail every month for the entire year of 2020.
All you had to do to enter was share our Facebook post and enter your email on our landing page. My thinking was we would pick one winner for the giveaway and then offer the rest of the entrants 50% off our full detail package.
We hoped to get several new customers out of this giveaway. We spent over $100 on Facebook ads for the giveaway over about a week and had around 40 people enter their emails. I picked one random winner and sent them an email telling them they won.
That person emailed back telling me they were no longer interested in the prize. I then emailed the other people who didn’t win the giveaway thanking them for entering and telling them that while they didn’t win we were still offering them 50% off our full detail package.
We had only one person who responded to that email and set up an appointment.
How have you grown your business venture?
After failing to attract many customers from our 2020 giveaway campaign, I continued to run Facebook ads over the month of January 2020.
I experimented with different audiences, different campaign objectives, and different pictures and videos.
I learned that older women seemed to be much more responsive to our ads than anyone else, so I began to focus on advertising more towards them.
Over the month of January, from friends, family, and a handful of people who saw our Facebook ads, we made $212. I had spent over $300 in Facebook ads up to this point.
With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching in early February, my brother and I decided that we would offer a gift card for $59.99 that would include a full interior detail and an exterior wash. Using our website, I set it up so that people could purchase the gift card directly online.
Using the information I had gathered from our previous failed Facebook ads, I decided to use a video rather than a picture for this advertisement and targeted older married women interested in gifts.
I started the campaign on Feb. 5th and spent $10 per day until Valentine’s Day on the 14th. With the help from this Valentine’s Day special, we generated $1735 in sales over the month of February.
This campaign was our first big victory and it proved to me that I can be successful using Facebook ads. I think this campaign was successful because we used a video ad, a holiday special, and an easy online checkout system.
Over the next few months, we continued to use pictures and videos from the vehicle’s we were detailing to run new Facebook ads and specials. Our sales slowly began to increase and word of mouth was spreading about our new business.
During this time, I also set up a Google business page and began posting photos there. Over time, Google business would prove to be very successful in generating new customers for us.
Just last month, September 2021, we received 25 calls and 70 website visits from people who Googled for “detailing” and other related search terms in our town. This is all free advertising.
Another very successful Facebook campaign we ran was for Mother’s Day in 2020. We used a very similar approach we had used for our previous Valentine’s Day special, but this time we raised our price to $109.99 and we increased our advertising budget.
By this time, people were starting to recognize our brand when they saw our ads and our engagement on posts was much higher.
Looking back, I discovered that some of the people who had entered our New Year’s giveaway at the beginning of 2020 finally became our customers later in 2020.
These people might have seen 20+ ads from us before they finally decided to book an appointment. Therefore, I began to realize how important retargeting and persistence was when advertising online. We generated $4818 in sales in May 2020.
What is 1 small but powerful tactic you implemented that helped you achieve success? How did it make a difference?
As stated above, retargeting using Facebook ads was a very powerful tool that helped us to achieve success.
Later in the year of 2020, I went back and looked at the original list of people who entered our 2020 New Years giveaway and discovered that several people on that list became customers of ours several months later.
If I would’ve stopped running ads or posting on Facebook, those people probably would’ve forgotten about us.
These customers have family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances that they speak with every day.
We’ve learned that if we receive a call from someone who has been referred to us by a friend or family member that was a previous customer of ours, that referral will book an appointment nearly 100% of the time AND they will pay any price we say (within reason).
This discovery has allowed us to raise our prices without losing customers.
What is 1 of the biggest challenges you faced during your business journey, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge that we’ve faced so far has been not paying ourselves for the first 7 months. My brother and I worked for free and left every dollar we made in our business bank account.
Starting in the late summer of 2020 we finally began paying ourselves a percentage of each job, but before then we wanted to make sure we had enough money to buy new chemicals and equipment.
This time was especially hard for my brother because he was showing up every day, putting in long hours, sweating, and wasn’t getting paid from it. At the time, my parents were starting to tell me that I needed to pay my brother something.
From studying other businesses, I realized that many new startups don’t make money for the first couple years. While my brother understood, my parents still believed that we should be paying ourselves something.
So after accumulating a comfortable amount of money to purchase new equipment and supplies, we began paying ourselves a small percentage of each job.
The only way that we got through this time was by having a nest egg built up. Both my brother and I were living on our savings.
Looking back, I’m glad that we waited several months before paying ourselves because we ran into some unexpected expenses later in the year. We also realized that we had a massive tax bill accumulating.
Being self-employed, you have the ability to delay paying your taxes until the end of the year.
While employees have their taxes taken right out of their paycheck, we had to learn to set aside a certain amount of money we received from each job to pay for taxes.
After paying all expenses, taxes, and insurance there is a much smaller percentage left over for the owners than was originally received. While I understood this before starting Belk Mobile Detailing, actually experiencing it was a big wake up call.
What is 1 new or unusual trend showing up in your industry that you’re paying attention to?
However, I wonder if eventually home garages will become more popular amongst detailers.
Working out of your own home garage would be much cheaper than paying for a shop and would eliminate any commute time for work.
I’m not sure how customers perceive a detailing business that operates out of a home garage compared to a shop, but from our experience, people don’t seem to care.
What is the biggest factor that separates successful people from people who fail or never get started?
One huge factor that has helped us in our detailing business is seeing the bigger picture. My brother and I balance each other out because he’s able to focus more on the present and I’m able to focus more on the future.
Both are important in building a successful business. Since starting I’ve continually asked myself, how will our actions today create a better future tomorrow?
When we used to charge $30 for a full detail near the start of our business, my brother and I knew the work wasn’t worth the money.
But we saw into the future and we realized that charging $30 today would gain us experience, get our name out into the community, and give us photos and videos to post on social media.
If we would have thought to ourselves back then, “$30 is way too cheap and there’s no way I’m detailing an entire car for this small amount of money”, well we never would’ve ended up where we are today.
Today, our average detail price is $200. Back then when we were charging $30 for a full detail, we saw into the future and recognized that charging $200 per detail was going to take time.
Perhaps there was an easier or quicker way to build up to charging $200+ per detail, but our strategy and our vision worked.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started?
My advice to most people just getting started is don’t start on your own. I couldn’t have built Belk Mobile Detailing without my brother and my brother couldn’t have done it without me.
Without offering higher priced packages with paint correction and ceramic coatings, there’s no way we could’ve grown to $10,000+ per month without hiring an employee.
While you can build a detailing business on your own, there are lots of advantages to working with a partner. A partner is great for having someone to talk with about your business, bouncing ideas off of, and sharing/splitting up the workload.
For people looking to grow a successful full time detailing operation, I would recommend finding a partner who can fill in for the areas you are weaker at.
My brother is not good at setting up an LLC, accounting, payroll, social media marketing, website optimization, or hiring employees.
However, he is very good at detailing, scheduling, and communicating with customers. We compliment each other well in our business and are able to grow at a very fast rate because of it.
For anyone looking to grow a successful full time detailing business that doesn’t have a partner, feel free to reach out to me. Send me an email and I will see how I can help (email linked at the end)
How are things going today and what’s next?
Business has been going great and I am super excited about the future of our detailing business. We have recently begun to have some professional videos and photography made.
Feel free to check out one of the recent videos.
As our brand continues to grow, we are looking to hire more detailers to help service our increasing customer base.
For now, hiring other dependable, respectful, and hard working detailers has been the biggest barrier preventing us from growing.
In an effort to increase revenue without hiring additional help, we are also exploring increasing our available services and adding higher end packages, like paint correction and protection.
While we continue to grow in our local area, I’m also looking to partner with detailers in other cities throughout the country.
Like with my brother, I’m looking to fill the gap and help more people go full time detailing.
After two years of growing Belk Mobile Detailing into a six figure business, I know I can accelerate the process for other detailers who are also looking to go full time.
My main areas I assist with are business setup and structuring, social media marketing, website optimization, scheduling optimization, price increases, taxes, accounting, and increasing client retention.
What have been the most influential podcasts, books, or other resources?
One of the first business books I read as an early teenager was Rich Dad Poor Dad. I really liked how that book compared the lifestyles of a wealthy father and a middle class working father (the “poor dad”).
My father was much like the poor dad, so it was interesting to me to see the difference in work ethic and perspective the rich dad had. Another influential, and funny, book I really enjoyed was Living With Seal by Jesse Itzler.
This book is great because it’s easy to read, funny, and provides insight into the crazy, hard working mindset of David Goggins.
Other great books are Start With Why by Simon Sinek, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris, and Sam Walton: Made in America.
One of my favorite online influencers is Tai Lopez. One of his emails sparked the idea for creating my detailing business and he has some create content online.
Grant Cardone also has some great sales training content online.
While both of these influencers have lots of paid courses and memberships, I have learned a lot from them just from watching and listening to their free stuff on Spotify and YouTube.
Andy Friscella also has a great business podcast and is someone I definitely look up to.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you are interested in starting a mobile detailing business or are looking to scale your detailing business to six figures a year, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m happy to chat with anyone to see if there’s any way that I can help. You can also follow me on LinkedIn or feel free to check out our company website as well.
Jack Brewer is passionate about all things personal finance, and enjoys testing out new side hustles and investing strategies.