Football to Franchises: A Student Entrepreneurship Story

The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship proudly celebrates achievements in the world of student entrepreneurship beyond our competitions and programs like Lavin Entrepreneurship Program, the Entrepreneurship Minor, and the MS in Entrepreneurship. This guest blog post comes to us from University of Washington Junior Isaiah Barhoum—an informatics and accounting student—who channeled his passion for football in High School into the competitive world of launching small businesses. These words represent his journey so far.

Isaiah Barhoum Student Entrepreneurship JourneyAfter my senior year football season ended, 4-5 hours a day became free overnight! Football was such a time-consuming part of my high school experience. Now I had no idea what to do with all this free time. Those next few months after the season were spent relaxing, focusing on school, friends and family—Then in February of 2014, I came up with an idea.

I was working for a large auto detailing shop at the time. One evening, as I was closing up the shop, I took a long look at the price menu displayed in the lobby. I had never really looked at it before; but when I looked closely at the prices, I saw an opportunity to provide the same services at a fraction of the price. I began casually thinking about this opportunity for months. I wasn’t sure how to do it, but I knew that if I figured out how to detail vehicles on my own, I could disrupt the market.

A few weeks later, it clicked! I would figure out the bare minimum amount of supplies needed to perform a detail, I would put them in the back of my car, and I would go to people’s houses and clean their cars in their driveway. This plan was fool proof! I could charge 1/3 the price of the shop that I work at and make $15/hour instead of $9. It was a win-win for everyone involved.

I began saving money, and by late March of 2014, I had roughly $500. I purchased supplies, leaving less than $50 in my bank, and began spreading the word. I told everyone what I was doing when I went to school the next day. Pretty soon, I had my first customer booked. His name was Garrett Hall. In April of 2014, I charged him $35 and the rest is history.

That summer, Big’s Mobile Detailing was founded. People spread the word via social media and I worked anywhere from 8-15 hours per day. I taught myself everything from client interaction to search engine optimization, using a lot of time, money, and energy along the way. After all of my trial and error, I was left with a business process that was finely tuned, and provided me with a lot of individual growth.

By the summer of 2015, I had enough of an organizational structure to hire someone. Now almost three years later, I have hired 15+ people and I am re-structuring the businesses in order to do something that no auto detailing company has done before.

Big's Mobile Detailing Isaiah Barhoum picture Student EntrepreneurshipIn 2016, Big’s Mobile Detailing began the process of becoming a recognized Franchisor by the State of Washington. Our goal is to begin offering franchises during the Spring of 2018 strictly to other college students. I want other students to have the learning opportunity that I had without experiencing the same stress and failures. Big’s Mobile Detailing has a unique set of attributes that makes it the ideal business to teach students foundational professional skills:

  1. It is straightforward. Big’s has an extremely structured set of internal processes that are easy to follow.
  2. It is low cost. Big’s has very little overhead, this means minimal initial investment for the student.
  3. It is applicable to life. Big’s will teach students things that they can apply to their school as well as their professional futures.

In 2018, I plan on helping six students launch their own businesses. By 2021, our goal is to have helped more that 80 students start their own businesses, and begin operating in nearby states like Oregon, Idaho, and California.

One of the biggest takeaways that I have gathered from my experience is that entrepreneurship isn’t always pretty. As students at such an innovative university, we have a tendency to strive for the next big technology, niche, or trend. Although I am interested in technology, I am also aware that blue-collar, proven industries are an equally viable route when starting a business. If you look to these industries to launch your first business, you will learn foundational business ownership skills that are necessary to run a more innovative company later on in your career.