National Small Business Week: Owners Share Struggles and Successes

National Small Business Week celebrates American entrepreneurs’ economic contributions. Speed bumps may compose the road to a successful startup, but Tim Ham, owner of Felony Film in Atlanta, Ga., trusted the process. The installer’s record includes 10 felonies inspiring his company’s name.

Tim Ham is all smiles in 2022.

“I started two pawn shops and got into trouble buying a stolen truckload of items that handed me two years in prison and nine felonies,” Ham says. “I also ran a marijuana business for four years. It ended after I was pulled over with 85 pounds of marijuana, which got me another felony and two years of probation.”

Ham was homeless for two years during childhood, dropping out of high school in 9th grade. Ham, whose Instagram handle is “homeless_loser,” uses his past as fuel and embraces the struggle. He founded Felony Film in 2018, which amassed more than $2 million in sales in 2021 and now has four installers.

Felony Film recently applied ceramic coating and PPF to Atlanta rapper Future’s Porsche 911 GT3.

“If I could change anything in my past, I wouldn’t be who I am today,” says Ham, whose business is powered primarily by paint protection film (PPF). “If I were to go back and alter history, what If I were to tell myself I’m going to be successful? But then I go about it the wrong way and keep doing the pawn business versus the PPF business?”

Ham attributes his company’s rise to how he treats employees. He pays team members per car at a high rate, giving “staff members incentive to do 10 cars a day because they will make more money.”

“I’ve failed so many times—it’s about getting back up,” Ham adds. “Maybe you had a bad install or review. Work on your quality, even if it takes you all day. Work on your quality first and get your name out there.”

Running a small business is no easy feat. What are the common motivators, and how do owners maintain their flame for film? Mike Leffler began tinting at 15, admiring how the product transformed cars. Today, current gas prices and material costs compound Leffler’s operations.

“It’s been harder than I thought,” says Leffler, who opened Mike’s Mobile Tint of Shelbyville, Ind., in September 2000. “I just wanted to install film—I didn’t realize how much it takes on the business side.”

Wayne Phillips opened Fade To Black of Marshfield, Wis., in 2017, but he’s installed film since 1994. Phillips wears all of his company’s hats daily, which can be trying. He’s the installer, scheduler, marketer and bookkeeper, but memorable customer interactions make long days worthwhile. “It’s rewarding helping people with something they want,” he says. “Seeing people happy is a great feeling.”

Mike Leffler’s passion for cars inspired him to enter the industry.

The scene is similar at Barry’s Tint Shop in Hammond, La., where owner Barry Duhe rarely has time for reflection. “The misconception is that you clock in and out like you work for someone else,” says Duhe, who entered the industry in 1986 and founded his current company in 2007. “In reality, you have hours of administrative work to complete after shop work is done.”

The journey, not the destination, keeps owner-operators pushing forward alongside palpable pressure. As Leffler reflects on 37 years in the industry, he peers back at his solutions’ continuous impact.

“It feels great to drive by buildings and homes and say, ‘I did that 20 years ago,’” Leffler says.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has celebrated the National Small Business Week for more than 50 years. Click here for more information.

Start Your Engines: XPEL Sets the Stage at Texas Motor Speedway

Texas Motor Speedway features 20 degrees of banking in turns one and two and 24 degrees of banking in turns three and four. The grounds were home to the XPEL 375, a 248 lap, 372.8 mile Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) IndyCar Series race held from March 19 to 20. David Chukhman, president at Tritek Window Tinting in Garland, Texas, kicked off the race by proudly waving the green flag.

Chukhman kicked off the event.

“It was quite the experience to watch the cars go by at 200-plus miles per hour [MPH] right above the race track,” says Chukhman, an authorized XPEL installer. “It was also nerve-wracking because it could be catastrophic if you drop the flag on the track. Plus—I’m on live TV.”

Texas Motor Speedway was repaved and redesigned in 2017 and has produced memorable moments since the series’ inaugural race in 1997. Circuit of the Americas rests 222 miles from the track and played host to XPEL 225, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on March 26. Protective film and coatings provider XPEL is revving its engine in the hopes of sharing its products with a fresh pool of automotive enthusiasts. Harry Rahman, director of architectural films at XPEL, says, “We want to pull demand and expand the pie for all of our businesses.”

“We’ve connected the dots,” Rahman says. “When a NASCAR or IndyCar fan leaves, they will drive home and park somewhere. They’re going to drive to work the next day, park and sit in an office that may have windows or cubicles. As part of our business-to-consumer (B2C) strategy, we are focused on expanding the industry as a whole … the entire industry benefits.”

XPEL’s team was on hand for the event.

Rahman says XPEL’s cross-selling strategy includes exposing gearheads to architectural films that could benefit their day-to-day life. He also says paint protection film’s (PPF) market penetration is “still very low.”

“I would [estimate] nine out of 10 people [coming to NASCAR events] don’t know the benefits of PPF,” Rahman says. “In terms of architectural film, I would say nine and a half out of 10 don’t know window film is a solution to their problem. They’re looking at better air conditioning, blinds, shutters and replacement windows. The goal is to get all of our businesses equal opportunity in front of this customer.”

XPEL’s presence was felt in the stands and on the track.

XPEL recently announced the expansion of its Vision architectural window film product portfolio and commercial support services. The new films and services are designed to reduce the carbon footprint of commercial buildings by lowering peak-energy demand and maximizing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) efficiency, according to the company. Rahman says its recent racing initiatives tie all segments together.

“We feel this particular vertical hits home with the type of customer we want to go after—someone who cares about their car, trusts us and then will trust us with their home and their building,” he adds.

XPEL Named Official Paint Protection Film (PPF) for Xtreme Xperience Supercar Fleet

XPEL, Inc., a provider of protective films and coatings, announced its designation as the official paint protection film (PPF) provider for Xtreme Xperience. Xtreme Xperience will exclusively use XPEL’s PPF product on its fleet of supercars, muscle cars and support vehicles. The experience allows guests to drive or ride a selection of supercars and is hosted at more than 30 racetracks across the U.S.

“As soon as we started talking to XPEL, we knew this was a great fit,” says Christopher Meegan, Xtreme Xperience’s partnerships executive. “They are disruptors in their industry, as we are in ours. We head to some racetracks that leave our cars battered by rocks, dirt, rubber and other road debris.”

Robert Bezner, vice president, Brand for XPEL, welcomes the partnership.

“We’re excited to announce this partnership with Xtreme Xperience,” Bezner says. “Their incredible inventory of supercars give thousands of car enthusiasts once in a lifetime experiences, and we’re thrilled they recognize the quality of our product and trust it to keep their fleet protected and looking new.”

XPEL Acquires PermaPlate Film LLC

XPEL, Inc. (Nasdaq: XPEL) (the “Company”), a global provider of protective films and coatings, announced the acquisition of PermaPlate Film LLC (“PermaPlate Film”), a distributor and installer of automotive window films serving dealerships across the United States.

PermaPlate Film supplies mid-range dealerships primarily engaged in high-volume window film installation. Serving several hundred dealerships across the country, the addition of PermaPlate Film strengthens XPEL’s market presence, enhances its geographic footprint and accelerates the Company’s penetration into the mid-range segment of the market.

On a full-year basis, PermaPlate Film would add approximately $25.0 million in revenue for 2021, according to XPEL. After integration, the Company expects full-year post-synergy earnings before interest, taxes and depreciation of approximately $6.0 million which the Company expects to occur on a run-rate basis starting in Q4 2021. The Company also expects to incur approximately $0.5 million in acquisition and integration related charges in 2021.

“This acquisition further extends our window film business beyond the luxury and enthusiast car market,” said Ryan Pape, president and chief executive officer of XPEL. “We look forward to leveraging PermaPlate Film’s expertise to drive continued growth in this important segment.”

XPEL is acquiring PermaPlate Film for $30 million in cash, subject to customary adjustments. XPEL is funding the transaction with existing cash on hand.

XPEL Named Title Sponsor of Texas Motor Speedway’s Second Race of Indy Series

XPEL, Inc. (XPEL) announced a multi-year sponsorship at Texas Motor Speedway. The second race of the 2021 NTT INDYCAR series doubleheader, scheduled for Sunday, May 2, will be called the XPEL 375, according to the company.

By securing the naming rights for the XPEL 375, the company expects to generate brand exposure among core marketing segments including authorized dealers as well as consumers. The race sponsorship is the company’s second major professional motorsports activation in as many years.

“Last year we became the ‘Official Protective Film Partner’ of Team Penske and embarked on our sponsorship journey with Josef Newgarden and his No. 2 Chevrolet,” said Ryan Pape, XPEL CEO and president. “Our new partnership with Texas Motor Speedway solidifies our investment in the sport and we are excited to see how the race sponsorship will drive increased brand awareness to benefit our business.”