Push to Start: How Did You Get Yours?

The paint protection film (PPF) segment wasn’t quite a behemoth for the automotive aftermarket in 1996. Window tint applicators like Greg Powell, owner of Protective Film Solution in Cumming, Ga., didn’t see the value in it. But an encounter with a 1996 Lexus LS 400 shifted his outlook.

“What is the Technique?”

“It was very challenging back then,” says Powell, who protected the Lexus’s hood, fender and mirrors with PPF. “Learning solutions, how to tack and how to stretch. At that time, it was all hand-cutting. There was no software—you were just making it happen.”

Greg Powell, owner of Protective Film Solution in Cumming, Ga., works on a Lamborghini Huracán.

Based in Roswell, Ga., at the time, Powell’s team was tinting 10 cars each day when a Lexus dealership requested the PPF installation. The product caught his attention.

“I had to slow down and learn,” Powell says. “What is the technique? What is the solution? I had to play with it. What squeegees would I use? I more or less slowed down. I tried to be above the competition then—trying to show the customer how good that product was for their vehicle.”

The following years included many moments of learning by trial-and-error, but Powell broke through a barrier after a meticulous customer delivered a yellow 2002 Ferrari 360 Modena for protection.

“Once I got the seal of approval from that guy, I knew I was onto something,” Powell says. “I knew I could go further with this and make a career out of it. I didn’t look back. That’s when I knew. It took a long time.”

“I’m Up For Any Challenge.”

“I started tinting windows in 2013,” says Tyler Jenkinson, CEO of Tint Wrap Protection Plus (TWP Plus) in Evans, Ga. “My previous boss was doing PPF, and I saw how difficult it could be. He got aggravated with it. I was like, ‘This is something I want to do.’ Working with PPF and understanding it and how it works is like a big puzzle.”

Tyler Jenkinson, CEO of Tint Wrap Protection Plus (TWP Plus) in Evans, Ga., first took on PPF in 2015.

Jenkinson picked up PPF in 2015, taking on a towering 2015 GMC Yukon Denali for his first installation. His takeaway? “You can mess up a lot of money real quick if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

“We did the hood and the bumper,” he adds. “We’re all human, but I look back, and I’m like, ‘Wow, I could have done this differently. I could have had less contamination in this panel.’ It was a panel we had to rip off and re-do.”

Though Jenkinson’s PPF journey started in 2015, it wasn’t until a November 2019 Avery Dennison Supreme Wrapping Film Training session that the product fully clicked.

“The wrapping helped me learn how to PPF better,” Jenkinson says. “Learning how to bulk install versus doing a pre-cut kit. It’s more like a puzzle piece. With a bulk install, you’re just going at it.”

Perfectionism and PPF align, and it’s a good thing, too. Jenkinson takes pride in overcoming obstacles in the application bay.

“The challenge is to make sure the job is as perfect as humanly possible,” he says of his greatest pleasure in the PPF industry. “I’m up for any challenge.”

“You’ve Got to Follow the Film.”

“My full-time gig is law enforcement, and I’m finishing up my career,” says Rob LaBuff, owner of Buff Works Ceramic Coating, PPF and Detailing in Freehold, N.Y. “Throughout that time, though, I’ve always been passionate about cars and customizing vehicles.”

Rob LaBuff, owner of Buff Works Ceramic Coating, PPF and Detailing in Freehold, N.Y., opened his business in 2022.

LaBuff is used to working with his hands, having studied the art of auto body repair at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y., in the early ‘90s. He founded his company in April 2022.

“It was a BMW 3 Series,” he says of his first PPF project. “It was a good neutral color—silver. That one didn’t rattle me much at all. A couple of things I’ve learned since is that temperature and humidity are huge.”

LaBuff and his team completed a 32-hour PPF training course in June 2022, knocking out 12 PPF installations over the next four months. The company began 2023 with four booked appointments. His wife, a beautician since 18 with more than 30 years of experience, joined her husband in the new adventure.

“One of the things I learned in the course was that it’s like an even flow,” LaBuff reflected on his trajectory in the business while ceramic coating a vehicle. “You’ve got to follow the film. You can’t force the film to go places it doesn’t want to go. It’s got to be like a relationship you develop—it’s more than just slapping film on a car.”

Nearly a year into business ownership, LaBuff reflects on pursuing a dream he first had as a teenager.

“It was scary coming into this and taking that big leap into PPF,” he says. “I’m proud to be where I am—and I’m not here alone.”

With the launch of the Focus on PPF/CC newsletter comes a new platform for storytelling. Please reach out to editor Chris Collier at ccollier@glass.com for potential coverage and advertising opportunities.

New Year, New Me: Film Shops Rev Up 2022 Resolutions

The New Year dawns in 10 days, delivering a fresh calendar full of potential. With 2021 winding down, industry members are reminiscing on past accomplishments and reciting resolutions for the future. 23-year veteran Nipsy Mitch Goldman, owner of Tegridy Tint in Marrero, La., is focused on family for 2022.

Goldman aims to train his son in 2022.

“I’ve been bringing my son to work the past few months,” Goldman says. “I’m trying to teach him because he just graduated high school. All the time I’ve spent in shops—I’ve never spent enough time with him to push him. That’s one thing that hurts me because I spent most of his life working. I don’t want him to be like that with his children whenever he has children.” Goldman says passing on industry knowledge and teaching his son how to tint would be his “biggest accomplishment.”

40-year veteran Mel Villalon of Paradise Tinting in Long Beach, Calif., will hone in on a new segment of business in 2022.

“Anti-vandalism film is going to blow up,” Villalon says. “I’m going to do more elevator work and restrooms. There’s miles and miles of stainless steel that needs to be protected or finished.”

John Little owns All Pro Window Tinting in Decatur, Texas, with his brother Jason and has been in the industry since 1990. He plans to lean on the shoulders of others during the next 12 months.

Little looks to share responsibility in 2022.

“At my age, and my body breaking down, especially with getting COVID, a good goal that I would like to [pursue] is to step back, run the business, deal with customers, answer the phone and have somebody else do the physical work,” John Little says. “For many years, we’ve [had] a mindset where we want all the money. Now we’re realizing we wish we had trained people and brought people up under our wings to work for us.”

Melody Champagne, owner of Champagne Window Tinting in Roswell, Ga., is new to the industry, but she’s still shooting for the stars as January approaches. She plans to “work with the champagne theme and give it a modern, classy look where you can tell how much work I put into the place.”

Champagne plans to grow her brand throughout the New Year.

Many strive for more in the New Year, but it’s essential to step back, take a deep breath and reflect on accomplishments in the previous one.

“Hand-cutting was hard for me at first,” Champagne says. “When I started working at a dealership, I didn’t have anybody to teach me. I had to be self-taught, and I had to be able to talk to other people who have done it, too.”

For some, growth was found within.

“I haven’t been a confident person for a long time in my life,” says Jordan ‘Shady Jay’ Jernigan, main installer and shop manager at Luxury Window Tinting in Greenbrier, Ark. “This past year, for personal growth, has been a huge milestone. I’ve grown to appreciate myself more and have more confidence in myself than I’ve ever had. It’s let me be more of myself than I’ve ever been.”

Unfazed: Film Shops Thrive Through the Slow Season

The film industry finds itself in the thick of slow season, a period packed with cooler temperatures, varying demand and overall financial uncertainty. Which strategies and services are shops leaning on this fall? PPFMag caught up with owners in Georgia, Tennessee, Maryland, New Mexico and Colorado for a countrywide check-in.

Quesada says drawing attention to your shop is crucial.

“We have to be creative as business owners,” says Lawrence Williams Jr., owner of Tint Masters Window Tinting in Owings, Md. “If you’re just a window tinting company, I can see it [being] a little harder for you to make it through seasons like this. But you have to be willing to step outside the box.”

Williams entered the industry in 2004 and discovered ways to keep busy as a shop manager during business days that dragged. “The one thing that peaked outside of window tint for us in the cold months was remote starts and car-seat heaters,” Williams says. “That is probably the easiest money you can make.”

Chuck Cochran, owner of Eastcoast Motorsports in St. Marys, Ga., has been in the industry for 30 years. He recently hired a new employee in preparation for the busy season.

Cochran makes personable customer interaction a priority.

“Right now is the time that we use to beautify the shop, get pressure-washing done, change the showroom, wipe everything down and take a look at our presence so we don’t have to try to do that when we’re busy,” Cochran says.

What’s the key to Eastcoast Motorsports’ slow-season success? Cochran says it came down to focusing on personable outreach in 2018.

“When I quit advertising, we were doing around $800,000 a year in sales,” Cochran says. “Since then, we average $1.2 to $1.4 million every year. . . . We started concentrating more on our personal relationships with our customers, giving them a better experience.”

That experience is enhanced by a zero-discount policy that allows Cochran to hone in on worthwhile investments.

“If I give away 10% of my business on a million dollars in sales, that’s $100,000 gone,” Cochran adds. “I can take that $100,000, and I can buy better signage, [purchase] better rugs, have nicer windows, have better paint and make my facility cleaner. I can buy that new Keurig machine and a vending machine. I do those things with that money, and my customers see a direct appreciation value other than just saving them $10 or $20.”

Jan Milburn, owner of The Tint Shop in Parachute, Colo., opened his doors in August 2020, right before slow season. The initial crawl was manageable, but 2021’s pace began slowing dramatically in September.

Milburn plans to strengthen his service lineup for 2022.

“I’m down to doing a flat glass job—a business or a house—maybe once or twice a month,” Milburn says. “In the summer, I was doing one a week. I was doing 10 cars a week in the summer. Right now, I’m down to maybe five cars per month.”

Ceramic coatings, residential projects and persistence have kept the new owner pushing forward during an unpredictable second year.

“I’ve gone through my Tint-Wiz list and [touched base with] customers I did work for,” Milburn says. “Put proposals in that never got approved or jobs that I never did—follow up on them, see if they’re interested and if there is anything I can do better.”

Milburn plans to incorporate paint protection film (PPF), vinyl wraps, signage and graphics in 2022 to diversify and fortify service offerings. Gilbert Quesada, owner of All Star Glass in Bosque Farms, N.M., focuses on an appealing presentation to ensure a steady flow of customers.

For Case, it’s about making the first move.

“I’m hanging banners from my truck, parking my truck by the road and constantly trying to draw up some type of attraction [and] commotion to where it looks like we always have cars here,” Quesada says. “Make it seem like you’re not just going home; make it look like you’re busy.”

Business is generated by hitting the pavement and making conversation for some owners. Cory Case, owner of Case’s Tinting in Morristown, Tenn., says, “Carry business cards. If you see a car that doesn’t have tint on it, go up and introduce yourself because I’ve got a lot of business from doing that. If the back is ugly and bubbled up, say, ‘I’ve got a lifetime-warrantied film. This will never happen to your car if you let me tint it.’”

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Female Film Stars Find Voice for 2022

The women of the film industry will kick off 2022 with a different form of customized artistry. Prominent female film stars will ring in the new year by launching a calendar titled the Women of Automotive Film. Ten women comprise the calendar’s pages.

“I want to bring light to [the fact] that there are females in this male-dominated industry,” says Liz Lasa of Artistic Window Tinting in Yuba City, Calif., who is also known as ‘Window Tinting Queen.’ “Hopefully, it brings light to other females that want to get into our industry—to promote that it’s open to males and females.”

Each month after January 2022 features photos of a different industry professional:

Luanna Souzza of Tint Pro in Sunrise, Fla.

January 2022 (All 10 women)

February 2022 (Melody Champagne, owner of Champagne Window Tinting in Roswell, Ga.)

March 2022 (Amber Bailey, vehicle wrapper)

April 2022 (Luanna Souzza of Tint Pro in Sunrise, Fla.)

May 2022 (TBD)

June 2022 (Julia Collins of Kaloko Tinting in Kona, Hawaii)

July 2022 (Julieta Moreno of Boss Lady Window Tint in Katy, Texas)

August 2022 (Cheyanne Kahele, owner of Kaloko Tinting in Kona, Hawaii)

September 2022 (Erika Gare, wrap artist)

October 2022 (Raphael Love, owner of Love’s Mobile Tinting LLC)

November 2022 (Amber Renea, owner/technician at Revamped Rides LLC in Blue Springs, Mo.)

December 2022 (Liz Lasa of Artistic Window Tinting in Yuba City, Calif.)

Lasa represents December 2022 in the calendar.

“I do all of the automotive film where I work,” Kahele says. “I’m sweating and in T-shirts and shoes all day. I was looking forward to taking nice pictures, getting pretty, getting all glammed up and feeling good about myself. Because I don’t get to do that—I’ve got three kids, have my own business and [I’m] trying to build a house.”

Wrap artist Gare’s goal aligns with other women in the group. “I wanted to be a part of the calendar to connect with other women in the industry,” Gare says. “To inspire other women to embrace themselves for who they are and not just who they think they should be working in a male-dominated industry.”

Calendar feedback has far exceeded expectations for Champagne. “I think we all have something in common,” Champagne says. “I think we’re all tomboys in a way. It’s a great way for us to express that. I didn’t know what would come of it. I’m sure they probably didn’t know what would come of it. Now, here we are making a calendar.”

Kahele echoed Champagne, citing a notable character trait as common ground for the group.

“The more I’ve been learning about us, I think the biggest thing we have in common is perseverance,” adds Kahele. “There are so many things that we’ve each overcome in our own lives—personal and work. These ladies are so strong.”

The group has discovered a voice that the community continues to amplify. Renea says, “I hope that it shows all sides of us—not just sweating in big T-shirts tinting cars. We’re still feminine, too.”

Women of Automotive Film is slated to release later this month.

National Apprenticeship Week: Training the Next Generation

This week marks the seventh annual National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), a nationwide effort to recognize apprentices’ critical role in the labor force. The window film industry is one of shared knowledge, a culture fostered by a desire to train the next wave of installers. Veterans are leading the charge.

Al Satterfield installing a wrap with his two sons.

“Apprentices are the future of a company,” says Andrew Peeler, owner of Solar Shade Window Tint in Jacksonville, Fla., Lake City, Fla., and Savannah, Ga. “That’s what you’re training. You’re looking for someone to carry on what your other employees have done. At the end of the day, as an owner, you need an exit strategy, or you might as well work for yourself.”

Peeler prefers hiring apprentices over experienced installers, citing the ability to teach and mold. Throughout his eight years in the industry, he’s had 100-150 apprentices. He typically hires in groups of five or six at a time.

“We start them off at around $14 or $15 an hour,” Peeler says. “We have them go through a two-week crash course with one of our shop foreman. He’ll pick from there—who he thinks is going to be the best candidates to spend the time training.”

Film isn’t for everyone, but Peeler provides opportunities for suitable candidates. He says, “We may put you in [training] how to do paint protection over window tint; may put you in vinyl over film or paint protection. . . . It’s wherever somebody is going to fit.”

Peeler uses Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Facebook, Instagram and Google to connect with his future apprentices. The search is closer to home for Al Satterfield, owner of INTINTZ Window Tinting in North Kokomo, Ind.

“Both of my installers are my sons, so we’re a family operation,” Satterfield says. “My oldest son came up in school and he was an apprentice, and then this is my second son. My first son is a full-time installer now, and my second son has fallen in his footsteps.”

Satterfield’s oldest son installs a wrap.

Satterfield is 35 years into the game after tinting his 1984 Pontiac Fiero in high school. His first son, 22, started by cleaning windows, prepping cars and picking up trash, transitioning into tinting quarter windows and sidelites. Satterfield says he avoids pressuring his sons into his lifelong passion.

“I don’t shoehorn them into a profession,” Satterfield adds. “It’s a blessing that they’ve taken on.”

Mike Sanchez (far left) took home bronze in the Automotive Tint-Off™ at the 2002 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT).

Many industry apprentices go on to do big things. Mike Sanchez is the president of Budget Window Tint and the founder of DIRTY Promotions Film Tools and Supplies in McAllen, Texas. Years ago, the 34-year veteran trained Salvador Hurtado, vice president of Sal’s House of Tint in San Marcos, Texas. Hurtado placed first in the Automotive Tint-Off™ at the 2017 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was also awarded the bronze medal in the architectural division.

“He’s made me proud of all the stuff that he’s become,” Sanchez says. “But I was only a stepping stone in his career.”

Mike Sanchez has WFCT hardware of his own, earning bronze in the Automotive Tint-Off™ in 2002 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. As industry members reflect on the value of apprenticeship, one thing is certain—former apprentices are bound for success at WFCT 2022, Sept. 14-16 in San Antonio, Texas.