Collisionworx Gets TSBDC's Rising Star Award
After an 18-year career in the automotive repair industry, Mike Whitlock partnered with his wife, Pattie, to open their own business, Collisionworx. The couple was recently presented the Rising Star Award, given annually to a small business that has demonstrated success using the business planning, training and face-to-face counseling services of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at Southwest.
The Whitlocks met with a TSBDC counselor in April 2008 to discuss how the center could assist them with achieving their dream of owning an automotive repair shop. They started with a business plan, which after several revisions, was completed by May 2008. The couple then started seeking a lender.
The TSBDC counselor put them in contact with the Tennessee Small and Minority-Owned Business (SMOB) program, which provides loans to startup companies. They applied for and were awarded an SMOB loan in July 2008.
Mr. Whitlock then proceeded to look for locations. After finding a suitable building, the Whitlocks again met with their TSBDC counselor to review the lease. Their next step was preparing the building for the business.
Collisionworx opened in January 2009 with 4 employees. The first year saw steady sales growth, but was still below breakeven. During this time, Mr. Whitlock took additional jobs to keep the doors open. His lender, Pathway, Inc., was able to work with him on his payments during this time. The TSBDC counselor was in contact with Pathway and the Whitlocks on the progress of the business, and its probability of showing a profit in the near future. The counselor also discussed alternative marketing methods that the Whitlock's could use to increase their business.
By March 2010, Collisionworx was showing a profit and had added several employees. In April 2011, Mr. Whitlock again contacted TSBDC for assistance in developing a loan package for an expansion. Working on a tight deadline, they were able to project the impact of buying a competitor's assets and building, and turning it into Collisionworx Express. Pathway, Inc. was again the lender.
In June 2011, Pathway agreed to lend the Whitlock's $1.2 million to purchase the competitor and set it up as Collisionworx Express. It opened August 1, 2011, with 5 employees. The Whitlocks now have a total of 17 employees between the two locations. Sales are expected to remain strong with the two locations providing an operating synergy that will drive sales and reduce operating expenses.
Photo caption: Pictured (L to R), Pattie and Mike Whitlock proudly display the Rising Star Award.