Troy Semeniuk, founder and CEO of Auto Obsessed™, a premium e-commerce and retail business offering auto detailing products, services and experiences in Canada, shares his experience in this post.
Q. Why and how did you start your company, Auto Obsessed™?
I started Auto Obsessed because I wanted to work for myself. I always had side gigs keeping me busy, with the ultimate intention of starting up my own business one day. Initially, I was a retail store manager, followed by a career change into technology. I learned a lot of business skills within both those industries, specifically retail, that have helped me build Auto Obsessed.
When my latest job in technology changed with budget cuts and downsizing, I got the push I needed to jump into something new. Thanks to the sudden lack of job security, I was really motivated to find the next thing. Anyone can pick an idea and start a business, but I wanted to make sure I was offering something that I was truly passionate about, and that’s how I built a premium automotive detailing products online business and a unique experience with my retail store.
At the start, I was also still juggling a full-time job and managing my own business, so since then my biggest struggles became cash flow and time – two things you never have enough of. But the real challenge started the day I decided to quit my full-time job and go all-in on my own - that was a whole different beast.
Q. How do you describe Auto Obsessed? What differentiates you?
I’ve always thought of my cars as a precious commodity, so that’s the kind of business I’ve designed. We offer premium, specialized automotive detailing products, services, and an elevated experience for our customers. Because of this, the studio and retail boutique are very different from what you expect from a typical automotive business. The boutique is modern with a curved bar with stools, classy wooden product displays that are functional. The Studio is all white walls, ceiling and floors, and we keep everything spotless. This expectation translates to our online store experience as well.
We sell over 2,000 detailing products and focus on fair pricing and nearly same day processing – your order comes in that morning and it’s out the door later that day. We also have a wholesale arm, where we supply resellers and dealerships with high quality products. As part of those premium products, we also offer an exclusive product that we helped create called “OBSSSSD”. We consulted on this line based on what we wanted as cars aficionados and professional detailers, my thought was that if it’s perfect for us, then it’s perfect for any other enthusiast in the industry.
Q. You mentioned trying to offer same-day delivery where possible. How do you manage that and especially when it comes to managing inventory?
This is where my background in retail has helped immensely. By using data and technology systems we’re able to easily keep track of inventory levels, as well as trends in what our customers are looking for. Of course, seasonality has a huge impact on our business. Because of the Canadian climate, we complete inventory buying in the fall to carry us through the winter months and ensure we’re ready for spring, our busiest season. I also keep my finger on the pulse of trends in the market so I can anticipate what our customers will want or need ahead of time, resulting in faster delivery.
My Business Platinum CardTM from American Express® is a key tool to help me manage this challenge. When we need to boost inventory, I don’t have to worry about cash flow. With the charge card, we have access to a larger credit limit and I schedule large purchases in a way that I can take advantage of the extended period to pay my expenses.
Q. What made you decide to switch to American Express? And how has it helped you manage your business finances?
While I recognized American Express, I had some concerns that my vendors and customers may not accept it. I realized quickly that I was mistaken and signed up for my first American Express Card. The products I use are tailored to my unique business and spend patterns, which has been a huge change for me when it comes to better managing our cash flow. When I made the switch, I was first introduced to the option of having a cash float of up to 55 days interest-free*, which really helped me extend working capital.
Another hesitation with adopting American Express was the idea of paying my balance in full each month. Ironically, now that I’m an American Express Cardmember, I find this process has helped me, as I’ve been stricter with managing my finances. Now I consider myself a huge advocate for American Express, especially when chatting with my clients – many of whom are fellow small business owners.
Q. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Be prepared to jump in and give it everything you’ve got – that relentless work ethic is what makes the best entrepreneurs stand out from the rest. Try and find a niche that’s important to you; something you’re passionate about and that isn’t overly saturated. Explore whether that passion can be turned into a business. Make sure you have a good team – that includes finance and legal. You need a good business lawyer to help, whether that’s with contracts or employee documentation, or even general consultation. I made mostly a handshake deal early on that cost me a lot, and I would have done it differently today. Focus on finding a strong accountant who understands your business enough to provide a solid plan for future growth.
Also, don’t be afraid of hard work or failure, because you’ll experience a lot of those. There are no sick days, you don’t get a company pension, and you work more hours than you could ever imagine. But I support myself and many other people that now work for me, and I take a lot of pride in that.
Descriptions and opinions are those of Troy Semeniuk and Auto Obsessed™, not those of American Express.
* As a charge Card, the balance must always be paid in full each month in which no interest charges will apply. The interest free grace period is 28, 29, 30 or 31 days from the closing date of the current statement to the closing date of the next statement depending on the number of days in the calendar month in which the closing date occurs. The number of interest free days varies based on a variety of factors, including when charges are posted to your account, whether your account is in good standing, and the closing date of your statement.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.