Ideas really are a dime a dozen. “Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea,” said Nolan Bushnell, founder of both Atari, Inc. and Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza-Time Theater chain. “It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.”
Count the father-and-son team of Jeff and Jason Haas among the latter. They want to wipe the dust and cobwebs off the $23 billion professional car wash industry with Team Blue Hand Car Wash, a franchised hand car wash concept they believe will not only change and lead the industry, but also become the first national car wash “brand.”
Team Blue is not another “me too” automated tunnel or vending-style, self-service wash. Instead, Team Blue’s national chain of franchised locations will offer superior 100-percent hand wash and detail services that provide the “best hand car wash experience in the industry,” according to Jason Haas, the company’s co-founder along with his father, whose story of founding Team Blue is as intriguing as the concept itself (see accompanying sidebar).
Team Blue is well positioned for its foray into the national spotlight, not only because it offers a better quality wash; clean, customer-friendly operations and a unique “brand experience” to customers.
Its business model incorporates a “Keep it simple, stupid” operations strategy from facilities to service to staffing. A substantially lower investment cost than competing full-service tunnel wash concepts not only allows Team Blue to enter smaller population markets, open more centers and gain more of a national presence, it also provides the opportunity for success at substantially lower sales volumes per center.
“There has been zero creativity in the industry,” said Jeff Haas, a lifelong entrepreneur, whose goal is to have 35 Team Blue locations either open or in development across the country by the end of 2012. “My guess is the industry has been built with a ‘vending machine’ business mentality that doesn’t lend itself to the need or development of a national brand.”
The first Team Blue opened in the small-market town of State College, Pennsylvania, in May 2008 and it didn’t take long for customers to take notice. Given an alternative to traditional car wash options, customers cast their votes for their new preference early and often.
Despite being located on a road with a traffic count of only about 100 vehicles per day and with practically no visibility from a nearby commercial highway, Team Blue turned an operating profit in just its fourth full month of operation in its converted three-bay facility that had formerly housed a tire sales and repair business.
“We’re finally going to give customers a choice in the marketplace because they really haven’t had a choice until now,” Jeff Haas said. “The total brand experience that we provide customers is our advantage.”
Growth will come from three types of franchises: 1) affiliated (company-owned) franchises; 2) operating franchises owned by individual operators or groups who own and manage either on a hands-on daily basis or oversee operations as absentee owners; 3) managed franchises in which individuals or groups own the franchise and contract with Team Blue Management Services to provide and coordinate all aspects of initial construction, ongoing management and operations and more.
Team Blue ground-up centers require sites as little as ¾ of an acre. Centers can also be located in leased existing buildings requiring only 2,700 to 3,200 square feet, allowing for faster start-up. The investment range begins at $420,750.
Popular unlimited and limited Team Blue membership programs – with automatic monthly renewals charged to a customer’s credit card or checking account – provide recurring cash flow for franchisees, substantially mitigating adverse weather effects.
“We expect to attract a combination of sole entrepreneurs, investment groups and multi-concept operators,” Jeff Haas said. “The simplicity of the concept lends itself to multi-unit operations. Team Blue Management Services is designed for investors who are interested in owning a franchise and perhaps the land and building, but not necessarily interested in running day-to-day operations. We can take care of that for them.”
While Team Blue is a new franchise concept, Jeff Haas is a veteran of the franchising industry and has more than 25 years of experience and expertise in concept development, franchising, operations, architecture and construction, sales, marketing and hospitality gained from his involvement in a diverse range of industries.
Haas opened his first restaurant, Bubba’s Breakaway, when he was only 22 and developed it into a five-state, 21-unit franchised sub and cheesesteak chain. He is the founder and CEO of Haas Restaurant Group, Inc., which owns and operates franchised restaurants in State College and Altoona, Pennsylvania, with combined annual sales of $3.5 million.
“You can’t put a price tag on my franchising experience,” Jeff Haas said. “I have been through this before and know exactly what to expect and what is needed to be successful as a franchisor. I also know what franchisees are looking for in terms of opportunity and style of operations. Team Blue provides it, especially in this current economic environment.”
Despite the age of the car wash industry, Team Blue represents a unique ground-floor opportunity for franchisees to offer a “first of its kind” operation within their local markets. In the often-duplicated franchise marketplace, Jeff Haas sees Team Blue as a fresh face.
“A lot of franchise concepts are already in crowded markets,” Haas said. “Everything seems to be a ‘me-too’ concept. If you open a Team Blue in your city, you’ll be the only franchised concept of your kind. While our initial investment is substantially less than a traditional tunnel wash, it still requires a greater investment than the average small-business opportunity, so that helps keep competition out of the marketplace. It’s not like going into the restaurant business where you have dozens of other competitors the first day you open.” •