Photo courtesty of @carninja
With traditional business models resisting online sales due to old school techniques, Brown and his partner reached a half million dollars in revenue in their first year and over a million dollars in their second year.
Co-Founder and CEO at ModBargains, Mike Brown, started his company when he was 19 years old. Brown was a full-time college student setting up business meetings with professionals who had already been in the industry for ten years. Having to overcome the skepticism that so many young entrepreneurs face, he just needed a chance to prove himself. With traditional business models resisting online sales due to old school techniques, Brown and his partner reached a half million dollars in revenue in their first year and over a million dollars in their second year. I’d say they’ve proven themselves fit for today’s digital era.
Most car enthusiasts are introduced to the passion by their peers or their father. Mike Brown had both. He remembers his father washing his customized lowered truck that had an exhaust on it and this sparked his interest. Later, his business partner Ron Hay wanted to modify Brown’s 2000 BMW 323Ci and really make it standout. This sparked Brown’s curiosity and to the internet is where he searched about how exactly he could make it happen. He discovered that online automotive content – even from retailers – was very thin and didn’t answer his questions. That moment planted the seed in Brown’s mind that he should find his own way, and then share his knowledge & experience others.
Brown filled the gaps of content by posting about his own experiences on forum boards while becoming an expert in modifying his BMW 3 series. He had so much traction and so many inquiries about how to replicate what he had done for the community that he decided to make it a business.
In 2005, Brown set up wholesale accounts with retailers he bought products from and co-founded ModBargains, an internet-based automotive content platform. With co-founder Ron Hay, they focused on answering questions on a mass scale via detailed product descriptions & photos rather than one at a time through phone calls and emails like their competitors had previously done. “Our content is really good,” says Brown. “We answer important questions for automotive enthusiasts through the information out there on our blog, newsletters, website, and other social media.”
“We want to make the lives of automotive enthusiasts simpler, better, and less confusing to give them the confidence to modify a vehicle.”
ModBargains started completely digital and progressed to having office space and inventory. Today, they provide installations on vehicles through their service brand called ModAuto. Ten very successful years later, Brown still sees himself as an enthusiast.
Since being founded, ModBargains has seen a staircase effect of explosive growth with periods of stabilization and then back to explosive growth again. “We grew because we provided quality content and a quality service. We are thought leaders. In this industry, it’s rare to do both installations and inventory, usually one or the other, but that’s what makes ModBargains stand out.”
Brown and his company have always taken education seriously and that has been the catalyst for his content engine that continuously provides value to the automotive community. ModBargains is Brown’s internet marketing site with a decade of digital content that continues to grow, and that growth is fed by ModAuto installations. ModAuto is a separate model and entity that interacts with more automotive enthusiasts first hand. Brown wanted to have a brand that’s more of a tuning shop name instead of ModBargains which is their internet name. ModAuto bridges the gap between tangible and intangible and gives provides current customers and enthusiasts everything with something far more valuable.
“We’re a group of automotive enthusiasts with an expertise who seek to share content and educational knowledge to fuel the passion of fellow auto enthusiasts across the world.”
Brown knows that to run a successful business you have to know what’s going on inside of it at all times. Brown says he listens and pays attention to customers, employees, suppliers, and the general marketplace. He then follows up by implementing and supporting the trends and changes taking place in the world. This means understanding the digital era and making it a major priority if they hope to stay on top.
Millennials want to learn new ways to modify cars and ModBargains teaches them how. This can be difficult, but Brown says that it’s necessary to reassess the marketplace to find out how automotive enthusiasts are spending their time – i.e. on social media. “We are successful because we put in the hours and did the work,” Brown said, “its sacrifice, but it’s also passion for doing what you love.” Brown quoted Arnold Schwarzenegger, saying that “while you’re out there partying and horsing around, someone else is making the choice to get better and improving themselves.” During Brown’s college years, he didn’t see them as sacrifices but didn’t do typical college things. He structured his college schedule to have classes two days a week and found himself working during breaks and on days school wasn’t in session.
Brown also knows about the power of relationships and the internal culture with staff and suppliers better than most. As a young entrepreneur, he was so intense that sometimes relationships suffered, but now approaches situations to create a win-win. He also understands that he must create competitive advantage and see the positives rather than the negatives of mistakes. They’ve built an internal culture that people enjoy working for. When Brown began, he didn’t know how to do that at 22 so it was a learning process. “Some companies see people or employees as family and friends. That can be difficult and lead to hurt because family is forever whereas the relationship between employer & employee is different. I try to see myself as owner or general manager of a sports team and my employees are the players. My role is to put the right players in the right position for the entire team to win together. From one year to the next, the members of the team might be different, but the objective is the same – WIN, together.”