High school sweethearts Tina and Palani Ryder have been married 30 years, as of October 12th (congratulations!). Together with their first-class paint technician, Justin (their son), and a body tech apprentice, Duke, they opened their doors for business on Nov. 1st, 2015, with extensive experience working for others but without starting with a base of customers. They didn’t have a single one! Nor did they have any DRPs. They spread the word about their new shop through Facebook and Instagram and gathered all their family, church family and friends to support them in their local Christmas parade the following month. Where I come from, that means bundling yourself up, hot chocolate and winter boots, but that’s apparently not an issue in Hawaii, though I’ve never been there at Christmas.
Tina, Palani and their team handed out over 2,000 business cards and fliers while walking the entire parade route, shaking hands, spreading the word that they were open, locally owned and managed, and located on the windward side of the island.
Things began to roll from there.
“We struggled the first few months building the business, but with super strong financial backing, we were able to invest in up-to-date equipment, training and endure the startup costs,” says Tina. “Starting Kapa’a Auto Body is truly a blessing to us Ryders as we’ve always strived and dreamed of starting our own shop. With the sudden closure of another body shop, we were approached with this great opportunity and, with the solid financial backing from Mr. J. T. King, we were able to start Kapa’a Auto Body and have the passion and skill set to build and maintain it long term.”
“Here we are going into our 10th month in business and we are a DRP with most major insurance carriers and our team has expanded to 14 total.”
This includes youngest son Micah, who is their detail specialist and an apprentice under his father. In 2016, their projected annual revenue is $2 million, and their goal for 2017 is $3 million! Wow!
I asked Tina to share her experience with how important it is for a business to have an effective presence online.
“We’ve witnessed and experienced other businesses that did not invest in professional web development,” says Tina. “Being that technology plays a vast role in society today, and locating information at the consumer’s fingertips is key to capturing the sale, we decided to take Mike Anderson of Collision Advice’s suggestion to contact Mark Claypool and his team at Optima Automotive. We had no idea what to do, so we reached out for guidance, had a few conference calls, then secured a young, local web developer to start our website.
“The young web developer said he knew exactly what to do with building the content of our website and how SEO worked. He kind of educated us at the same time. We met with him once and shared some of our ideas and vision and asked him to not post our website until we reviewed and approved it. Well, that’s when it all started. He designed the website all with his own content in which he shared ‘he knows what’s best for the website and content needed for the SEO ranking,’ etc., and next thing we knew the website was a so-called test site, live on the web. This raised a red flag, so we reached out to Mike Anderson and again, Mike highly recommended we speak with Mark Claypool.
“We had a web conference call with Mark to explain our concerns and forwarded Mark the test website. Mark shared shocking news that you should never build a new site live and exposed to search engine scrutiny, and that he was able to determine that a large percentage of the content was copied from other shops and pasted into our website. At that point, we knew this was not going to continue on and immediately terminated the web developer and transitioned our business to Optima. Lesson learned, but a lesson we will always share with new business owners as an investment that is vital to any business.
“In our 10th month in business, we average a large amount of customer business from our website and especially from the high SEO rankings Optima has gotten for us. We have noticed a huge difference and increase in sales, especially over the last few months as our rankings have risen to the top of page one. We maintain all our own social media, which has also played an important part in the referral base to Kapa’a Auto Body. We monitor our online reputation and provide immediate responses to inquiries and customer concerns. We know that’s important in keeping up our reputation and the integrity of our shop that strives to provide the best customer service experience, quality of repair, professionalism, up-to-date equipment, tools and technician training.”
Doing It Right
From startup to over $2 million in sales in 10 months, Tina and Palani appear to be doing everything right, and their effective online presence is providing tangible results, i.e. cars to fix. Great job!