My Journey into PPF: How You Too Can Enter the PPF Market and Find Success
By Kyle Owen
I got my start in paint protection film (PPF) in 1999 through aviation, and here I am more than 20 years later, the owner of a successful shop with more than 20 employees, who has expanded into many areas, including ceramic coatings. I have learned a lot along the way that can help those coming up in the business.
After working in Avionics and installing “heli-tape” to protect the leading edge, I moved into the automotive sector in 2003 and started in sales for a Toyota dealership. Toyota offered rear bumper appliques (luggage area protection) at first, then introduced frontal protection. After someone sold these products at my dealership, I would be the one to install them after hours. The Toyota PPF program was administered by Star Shield Solutions. Star Shield cut the 3M Scotchgard kits and shipped them to the dealership. A short time later Star Shield contracted with me exclusively to perform all installations in Indiana and many of the surrounding states.
A Game Changer
When one supplier sent me a sample roll of their new Ultimate PPF in 2011, it was a game-changer. It was amazing how nice it stretched compared to the other films on the market. I went to their training in 2012 to participate in their beginner and advanced class. With the help of an amazing trainer, I picked up several great tips within the first two days that changed my installations immediately. I highly recommend this to anyone who has not been through it and is looking to up their install game.
Shortly after attending, I started a job with Stryker Medical as a field rep. This position required me to visit hospitals throughout Indiana daily, so it allowed me to continue installing PPF on site at my customer’s locations or dealerships. By the end of 2012 I hired my first employee.
We continued doing mobile work through the summer of 2015, when we attended the Porsche Parade in southern Indiana. My supplier offered on-site installations at this event and asked us to be their exclusive installers. We installed 14 full frontals over four days and realized the potential of work we could complete if we cut out traveling and went to a brick-and-mortar shop. Committing to a building created a sense of nervousness, but an industry colleague assured me that business would grow and grow it did. PPF had been a hobby to me since I learned how to install it, but I started to see how it could become a standalone business.
First Location Success
The first location for Clear Bra Indy was a small 1,600 square foot shop space with 300 square feet of office space. This allowed us to work on four vehicles at a time. Once I better understood the installation process for clear bra I decided to hire a person to prep our vehicles, allowing us to keep installing and delegate the tasks to someone without installation skills could do. Our installations were better and quicker. Hiring a film assistant to manipulate and cut kits, wrap edges, and heat seal increased our production capacity. This is the system we still use to this day and it makes for high output. In the summer of 2016, we subleased a spot in our building to a detailer that offered ceramic coatings. We quickly saw the benefit of ceramic and immediately realized this is a service we should bring into the shop.
In 2016 I attended SEMA for the first time, and went solely to find a ceramic coating supplier. After speaking with several of the top coating companies I chose Ceramic Pro, placed my first order, and returned home that same day. The choice to go with ceramic coatings required a larger space, and in 2017 we moved into a 3,900 square foot facility in Carmel, Ind. Initially I was concerned about the increased cost of the new shop, but within a few weeks the walk-in traffic easily supported the move. We added more people to our prep and installer teams and realized our potential was huge. Over the course of 2017 we maxed out the growth in the existing space and doubled it by expanding
into the unit adjacent to us the following year.
At this time, I made the decision to go “full time” in the business and started pushing the growth. I asked my supplier for some help in keeping up with the demand and they recommended calling in Chris West (aka Clear Bra Chris). Chris flew in from Anchorage, where he owns a successful clear bra business, to spend a week with us to knock out some work and provide advanced training to the staff. I recognized that his talent goes beyond installing film. Working with him to fine tune the operation of my business has allowed for growth in our installers’ skills and allowed me to turn over sales to our front office team.
Currently Clear Bra Indy has a total of 26 employees and is open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30.p.m. We routinely work more hours than this, but we generally keep overtime to weekdays, and keep weekends free for our team to promote a positive work/life balance. During the summer of 2020 we took over an additional, adjacent unit for total of 12,000 square feet. This new area houses our ceramic coating department and allows us to control the temperature and humidity of the installation environment.
Hopefully, if you are just starting out this has given you some motivation to keep going—there is definite potential in this industry for those who work hard.
Kyle Owen is the owner of Clear Bra Indy, and has also been named a top PPF dealer by PPFMag. He will be speaking about how to enter the ceramic coatings market at the International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ in 2021. Go to wfctevent.com for more details.
To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.