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Refined Auto Studio – The Idea (Part 1)

by

Introduction: This will be the first of a multiple part series to document my 3rd company in the detailing industry. I will include some helpful tips and tutorials, from everything to running a business and starting it up, to vinyl wrapping tutorials, detailing, and even some interior shop design tips. I want to try and help anyone I can and bring you guys along on my journey. As always, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have. Hope you enjoy and are able to learn from many of my own mistakes! (I jump around in this writing quite a bit, but I’m trying to give context in the best possible way in hopes that this can strike some ideas in your own market, whatever that may be.)

It’s no doubt, the correction and coating market in detailing is booming. We see more and more shops pop up on a nearly daily basis. If you have a good location, you can pull in a good amount of work. Pair that with, in general, some nice correction work and long lasting, high gloss protection, and clients are blown away with our work as detailers. I’ve been doing this for a while now, but my success has been deterred by my less-than-ideal location in Rural Wisconsin. I couldn’t help but thinking nearly every time, that there was more that could be done. Not necessarily a bad correction, but more commonly, just not having enough hours with the car due to the price we were charging. Even though we’re charging low 4 figures for a detail, often times I find people just don’t see the value, and we have to keep moving due to hourly being so low if spending too long. They’re used to a $200 detail service for a car wash, shampooed seats, a greasy interior dressing, and maybe a wax. This was where I found high-end in the high-end market, and again, in my less-than-ideal location.

Gradually, more and more work went into each car. Disassembling, debadging, wet sanding, multiple step corrections for complete clarity, coating every. Single. Surface. It became so much more to me than detailing. We were going way past general detail standards. We were spending 35+ hours on a car, but yet, I couldn’t charge more because we were still “detailing”. Clients still were in sticker shock when they called, even when often times I was making $10/hr or less when everything got broken down. It was shortly after this that I decided a change needed to happen, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I studied the market around the country, and commonly, guys were getting $2500+ for a two-step correction and coating. In Central Wisconsin, that was just unrealistic. What else could I do to continue this in-depth work and get paid for it?

I always felt there should be something more. It seemed that our clients that truly have the same OCD tendencies as me could benefit from more. I found a common thread between many enthusiasts, including myself. The supply of manual, analog feeling, new cars was dwindling quickly. These people that disliked all the electronics were the same ones that were driving 10+ year old 911’s, M3’s, AMG’s, and even some of the older Italian supercars. After talking to many of these owners at local shows, I found they felt this analog feel, as well as subtle, but beautiful automotive designs were lacking in the brand new vehicles. They preferred their older car, even though they had money to buy the brand new one. Sound familiar? This was when this new idea and realization came upon me.

These long hours into cars, in-depth detailing and disassembly, were hardly on detailing levels anymore. This was getting into restoration. However, typically, you think of a classic car, getting torn down, rebuilt, painted, new engine, etc., when you think of restoration. What about the “in-between” cars? These 10+ year old driver cars, the 2000’s and newer that wanted their car to be new again, or even taking it back to the classic car owners that want a restoration without intruding on the factory paint, factory interior, etc.

Working a 9-5 as a mechanical engineer, coming home to detail until I couldn’t anymore, and getting up the next day to do it all over again was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my life, but leaving the steady paycheck, obviously, wasn’t ideal.. I did it anyway. It’s been a big step, and a hefty, pay cut, but I’m pursuing this as a way to hopefully grow the detail industry into something that more people can commonly recognize and appreciate.

I present to you, Refined Auto Studio, bringing you the future of car ownership. We will be specializing in Aesthetic Restoration – Priding ourselves in disassembling, inspecting, decontaminating, and giving you a proper finish and long term protection, no matter the surface, and no matter how new or old your vehicle may be. To give the full package for auto enthusiasts, we will also be offering vinyl wrapping, window tinting, and powder coating. This creates a destination for your vehicle to truly get an aesthetic transformation, no matter what your goals may be. We will be available for restoration work and vinyl work nationwide, flying or driving to your location and creating ease of mind, working in your garage.

Expect to see a wide range of different topics from me going forward, and as always, feel free to reach out with any questions you may have at isaac.refined@gmail.com. If you’d like to watch our transformation more closely or are interested in scheduling with us, feel free to follow us on Instagram at @refinedautostudio, like us on Facebook, or find us at refinedautostudio.com.

Isaac Mittlesteadt
Refined Auto Studio
Reedsburg, WI
refinedautostudio.com

11 comments on Refined Auto Studio – The Idea (Part 1)

  1. Anson says:

    Good article. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to figure out for awhile now. What is it when its restoration work but you’re not repainting or removing tearing it off the chassis? I definitely restore vehicles but getting that idea across without giving the wrong image is difficult.

    • I pondered on this for probably a year or more.. Trying to even think of a “title” for myself that was different than a “detailer”, because unfortunately people just don’t correlate detailer with a 4 figure correction/coating job. Aesthetic Restoration was born out of this concept, and I think that it’s a fairly accurate statement. Just market in such a way that you’re explaining that you don’t actually spray cars, replace interior, etc. If you want to take this route, I’d encourage you to “like” the Refined Auto Studio Facebook page. You can see how I’m wording things for marketing purposes.

      If you have any direct questions, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email. I will try and get back to you as quick as I can with some useful information!

  2. Looking forward to it! Are you still in rural Wisconsin? Do you think this will work better for that market?

    • Yes we are! I do believe it will as people, especially around here, don’t get the concept of the high end correction and coating market. 4 figures for a detail is just not happening for 99.9% of the population. By bringing in the terms of “Aesthetic Restoration”, I hope to brand things a bit differently, but it also allows us to charge a better rate, and get more in depth, which my OCD just loves. Lol.

  3. Good luck with everything man! You’ve got a darn good head on your shoulders and I can’t wait to see what Refined Auto Studio brings to the table this year!

  4. Larry says:

    Thank you for sharing, Isaac. Several local shops have rebranded themselves into paint protection from detailing as their business names and it makes complete sense. For the couple owners I’ve talked to, this has helped focus their client base while avoiding the trashed mini van inquiries. As a part-timer, I continue to struggle with pricing, although I feel I’ve landed on a comfortable spot in the last four months. For an enthusiast, my pricing is very competitive but a non-enthusiast considers me very expensive. Fortunately, that too helps curtail my client base and the low-volume I’m striving to maintain. I like the perks of my career over the enjoyment I spend detailing, so I’m always going to be a part-timer. Looking forward to reading more!

    • Exactly. Detailing in general is discussed as the “hand wash and wax and shampoo the seats”. Although this is what a lot of guys like, I wanted more.. Hopefully this helps brand things a bit different, and puts me at a separate level from detailing. Not better or worse, just different!

      Pricing is always a difficult battle. I think a part-timer should be priced into the enthusiast market if they’re not relying on it for income. You can allow those others to slip away. If you were to ever transfer full time, you may need to bring your pricing down for the first few months just to initiate cash flow, the most important aspect of a business in my opinion.

      Thank you! More to come without a doubt!

  5. rlmccarty2000 says:

    As the owner of two 2011 BMWs (M3 and 335d) I totally understand people’s desire to keep that analog feel. Bringing back to life some of these cars is hard work, but the results are very rewarding. I prefer to buy older cars for the feel and also the price. Getting them lower on the depreciation curve maximizes your investment if you are careful. I’m not sure if I will ever buy new again even though I have the money to do so. I love to take a neglected vehicle and try to bring it back to life. It’s what us detailers were born to do.

    • All very good points. Both beautiful cars by the way.. Jealous. One of the funnest cars I’ve driven was a 335d. The torque is just absolutely insane. I prefer fast 0-80 or so cars over highway monsters, so it fit my driving style quite well!

      I’m hoping to really hit enthusiasts like you with the ideas and level of work we are producing. I’m very excited to see how the market reacts to something of this nature, which I don’t think has been done like this before, ever.

  6. Ralph Barsalou says:

    Black 2013 Nissan, do you come to the house? Remove Web Scratches, and how much?

    Thanks

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