Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And, um, often these entrepreneurs who I interview have SAS economics going for them, right. They create software, somebody signs up and then they make money on a recurring basis.
And if it’s not software, it’s often a variation of it. Like content is not that far off of software. If you sell a instruction, videos, and people pay you on a monthly basis for it, essentially the same. Brent Oakley has a different business and I am fricking fascinated by it. He’s actually not even here to tear, to talk about his carwash business.
But he started a car wash business. And for some reason I’m freaking fascinated by it. I think maybe it’s because it just seems so simple in a world where everything seems so complicated. I think because it’s an older business, it’s amazing that he found an opportunity to build it. I think it might also be that he found a way to build a membership ongoing component into it.
I have no idea what it is, but I’m curious about prime car washes, carwash business. And then the thing that is here to talk about is a business called vibe. He realized that, you know, if you who’s got the right music in your place, you could create the right vibe, which encourages more people to buy. And if you run ads in it in between songs, then you can actually get people to buy stuff.
And he ran this really cool experiment to prove that out. And he did it in his locations. And then people came to him and said, what if can we have this type of music, this type of vibe in our businesses. And that’s what evolved into a company that he’s here to talk about, which is called vibe Nomics. And the way it works is they will place a device into stores that want this music, this vibe in there, they will then create the vibe through music.
They will then go out and get advertising and then pay the stores for playing their stuff in it. I invited him here to talk about both those businesses and we can do it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors. The first we’ll host your website, right? You got an idea. You need a website, go to hostgator.com/mixergy later.
I’ll tell you why you need to use that URL and what you’ll get at it. And the second, if you have an idea for something that is more ongoing revenue, recurring revenue sell membership, and you could do it. And I’ll tell you later on why you should go to dot com slash Mixergy. First, Brent. Good. Go.
Brent: Andrew thinks that, uh, that. It’s awesome.
Andrew: Dude. I told you I was fascinated by the carwash business. You said you’re not the only one. What is it about carwash that gets people so interested?
Brent: Yeah, well, first, what you said at the beginning is it’s an old school business and the best thing about the car washing business is unlike my current business. People have to pay you before you provide the service. So you get cash, you get cash first, which is fantastic, but you know, cars are cool.
Everybody loves it. You, you can relate, you understand it. And I get all the time. One of the main things I always said when I, when I build a car wash somewhere and I’d be telling somebody about it, he’d be like, you know What I was going to build a carwash. And I’m always thinking to myself, if you only knew how much these steak and things costs and how hard it is, you know, the carwash business is actually.
Because it’s a single purpose building and if it doesn’t yeah. Work, it’s not like I can turn it into a Mexican restaurant or, you know, some kind of Shane, so banks don’t want to finance them. So they’re, they’re, what’s called a single purpose or a scrapable business. Meaning if it doesn’t work. Another carwash is going to come in there and work.
It just didn’t work. So they have to scrape the business. So getting financing for carwash is really, really difficult. So it’s much harder than you think that the tunnels that they’re making now are so sophisticated. Uh, we had, you know, almost a couple million dollars and all the equipment and, um, the automation behind all of it and the stacking and the system.
So it’s, uh, it is quite
Andrew: mean by the tunnels?
Brent: So when you get your car and you pull into the tunnel where the, the belt, um, we call them dollies is, is pulling you along all the chemicals and the chemistry of water and the understanding of the chemicals that go on the car itself. There’s a complete study and understanding of how water moves on your car and the density of that water drop and whether or not it’s pulling off the dirt and all that good stuff.
Andrew: You know what, somewhere along the line, some self-improvement author, must’ve written about a guy who had a carwash that maybe a stuck in my head, but I remember it was like, it’s not even about the property. It’s about the real estate value that you own the property. And so it goes up it’s about, um, continuity of service, which you, you develop.
Is it, is it a moneymaker in any way? Like talk to me about maybe not, maybe don’t wanna get too deep into your, I do want to get into yours. Talk to me about the money opportunity here. Come on. We’re business people.
Brent: Yeah, well, the car washing business in general is one of the fastest growing businesses in the U S right now, as far as mainstream business goes. So I don’t know if you saw, but, um, the first, um, publicly traded business, Mr. Carwash, uh, just went public. Um, so people PR private equity, everybody’s getting on board because the margins are really, really great.
It’s kind of squeezing some of the, the poor operators out, the old school dime car washes and do it yourselfers. And those are kind of going by the wayside. So, uh, the money is a, it’s a very good margin business, but it takes a lot of discipline to, To run them correctly because they are so capital intensive.
Andrew: To set up. So you’re saying that tunnel is expensive it’s but once, once it’s set up, if I pay $7 and 50 cents to go through one of the tunnels on the cheap end here in San Francisco, more likely, maybe $18, there may be paying 50 cents of that into soap and equipment and water. Am I right?
Brent: Yeah, the margins are really, really great
Andrew: Got it. That’s the advantage.
And then some of them will also have people who come in over and dry. And so that takes away some of the margins, but still high margins, more than 50%.
Brent: Yeah. And you really capitalize on the membership, uh, draw. That’s why all car washes have gone to this membership that way rain or shine. You’re still able to draw off that it’s better for the customer and
Andrew: I think so too. I would prefer it if there was a place here, because I don’t want to have to think, is it going to rain tomorrow? Am I, is my wife going to drive through a dirt road tomorrow? So I don’t want to pay for it today. You just go I’m here. I’m going to drive through it. We’ll move on. All right, let, let’s talk about how you got into this.
And I promise we’re going to talk about biodynamics, but we’re going to build into it. You got started with this because your dad had some kind of business idea on the side. What was his side hustle that led you to start car washes?
Brent: Yeah, he, he would buy and sell cars. And really, he was pretty, he was a tinker handy guy. Um, and he would go out and he’d buy a car for, you know, three, $4,000. He’d throw some new wheels on it. He’d detail it, clean it up and he’d sell it. And as soon as my brothers and I were able to drive, my dad could only buy and sell 10 cars a year.
And, uh, under his title and not have to have a dealership license. Uh, so then as soon as my brothers and I got our license, he started buying and selling on our titles and our names. So the deal was, I never had to pay for my car. All I had to do to always have a car to drive is keep it. Um, so every time I drove it, I had to come home and I had to take a Shammy rag and wipe it all down and make sure that it was spotless.
So if my dad was showing the car, um, and it just made it, it made it fun. Cause I’d literally show up one day after basketball practice and I’d have a new car sitting in the drive that I was gonna be driving for the next two weeks until he sold it.
Andrew: What’s the funniest car that you have to drive.
Brent: Oh, I had a, uh, I don’t know, the 5.0 Mustang convertible was definitely, it was back when those things were pretty awesome.
He put the spinners on the wheels and it was fantastic.
Andrew: did it, did it help you date or get friends? I don’t think you needed it, but did it, did it do the things that we as kids imagine that if we had a Mustang, if we had a convertible, if we had the hot car that we would get did to do it.
Brent: Yeah, but the problem was, I also had to drive a Pinto when he put that in the drive. So, you know, you drove what you had. So I had the Mustang. I was pretty cool. I was the laughing stock when I was driving around the Chevelle. So
Andrew: uh, I had to drive around. I’m not a car person, but I had to drive around a yellow Volvo because my parents thought that was the safest car. And, um, I did not like it, it, I don’t know why it even matters. It becomes kind of a joke and I don’t want the joke to be on me. I’ll laugh along with you, but I don’t know.
All right. I get that. How did it turn into a carwash business?
Brent: No, actually the carwash business?
came from my, my wife, um, really triggering me to do it. Um, here, where, where we live in Indianapolis, there was only an exterior only wash and. Uh, she wanted the inside of her car wash and she didn’t want to do it. She has a really big job and she’s always got people in her car.
Um, and she was pregnant at the time and she was walking from a carwash, um, over to a Starbucks and she ended up falling and being really upset about it. And she came home. She’s like, I don’t know why I gotta go out. The carwash to get a coffee. Why don’t they just make it like a Starbucks and have a beautiful cafe and a nice place.
And membership-driven where you’re getting your carwash, but you kind of forget about the fact that washing your car cause you love the experience. Uh, so I started writing my business plan that night and that’s why I came up with prime carwash, where it was built for women and professionals to come in and forget about the fact that we’re watching You
Andrew: You know what that is kind of a bad experience. I took my kids, uh, to get our car wash on the inside. And it’s, it’s a good 45 minutes where you’re trying to entertain the kids where I’m looking around. This is San Francisco, where people are always busy doing something, but they’re staring into outer space looking at their car after it comes out to see if someone, if they’re, I don’t even know what it’s not like we’re protecting the car.
No, one’s going to do damage to it, but we’re just staring at the car. I get it. But if I could be inside. Have some good internet access feel like I can sit and work I’m down for that or these days more like outside. All right. And so how much money do you have to get in order to do this?
Brent: Yeah. Each washer. I mean, really? They range. Yeah. the first wash was around $4 million. Um,
Andrew: dogs? You don’t come from me.
Brent: I don’t and it was, it was a hustle. I was in medical device sales, a pretty good living, but not enough where a bank would be crazy enough to give me.
$4 million. So, um, I had to, it was my first taste of raising capital and I just Did it with friends.
Andrew: Did your friends who had $4 million to lend you
Brent: yeah, we borrowed most, we borrowed most of it. I had come up with 20%, uh, just an institutional bank. Um, it
Andrew: were willing to lend you money on a car wash with everything that we talked about?
Brent: Yeah. With, with no experience, no experience. I actually, uh, Because
I actually ran into somebody who had already built a carwash and had experience doing it, and they were willing to they’re now my best friends. Um, but they were willing to support and come to bank meetings with me and gave me the playbook.
Um, and they were out in Baltimore. So we weren’t going to be able to, I mean, we weren’t competing with them at all. Uh, and they were just generous enough to help me.
Andrew: as friends or as investors or something else.
Brent: Just just as a, I called him up cold, called him and flew out to Baltimore. Uh, his name is Chris Rivera. He runs an incredible operation in Baltimore called Canton carwash, but I flew out there and met him and, uh, You know, we hit it off one evening.
I started calling him and helping him. And when it came down to, I went to about 27 banks and finally one gave me an about bank 18. I started asking Chris to come to the meetings with me and I would pay to fly him in to go. And he basically led the bank to believe, which was actually true, that he would be, I’d be following their playbook and they showed them their numbers and what they were doing And all those things.
Andrew: And so you got his playbook, you got his support. He got no equity, right? This is what I’m saying about you earlier, that you don’t need the car in order to get friends, even as a kid, you do have this attitude, this comfort with people that I hit on, as soon as you and I just connected here. You told our producer that some of that came from growing up on campgrounds.
How’d you end up on campgrounds. And how does that make you into who you are? And imagine if that becomes dude, imagine if that becomes a self-improvement thing that suddenly you see all these shy entrepreneurs go to live on camp grounds to follow your footsteps, but how’d you end up on campgrounds and how did it help, help you become who you.
Brent: Yeah. Again, my dad, he’s, he’s been, you.
know, good and bad, such an influence in my life, but, uh, he decided that he could build our house by himself. And, uh, he sold our house. It sold quicker than we were supposed to, and it turned out, um, it, it caused us to live in a camper for two years While he was, and it was a 24 foot camper with five of us.
And, uh, at the time.
Andrew: out your house.
Brent: While he’s building out our house. So, um, so he had to do everything by himself to, to be able to afford it. But, uh, while I was there, what was, um, you know, one of the things I learned is you learn how to network quickly. You learn how to make friends quickly, because if not, it’s going to be a pretty lonely time living in campgrounds.
So all these kids were coming in and they were on vacation. And I was able to make friends with them. The only sad part is they would leave a few weeks later after they had their vacation and I’d meet a new group of friends coming in. So, um, but that maybe that’s where I picked up my networking skills.
I don’t know.
Andrew: All right. And so this is the, this is what then made you into a salesperson. It seems like. Where were you working at? Merck and then Metronic. And I’m imagining at both those places, you have to go and knock on a lot of doors. Be the guy who’s like warm enough that somebody would let you into their office when they’re busy.
Am I right?
Brent: Yeah, it’s, uh, you know, carrying the bag I’ve always said is one of the most challenging things. And even here at five, an omics, I always just respect the heck out of our salespeople. Um, it’s an exhausting job. It’s like a, you know, I’m putting all the pressure on them the last few days of every month, and then they hit their number and you basically say at, you know, the way to go and then.
On day two of the next month, I usually give them day one. I’m like, what do you got for me? And it’s just a new grind again. So sales is hard. Sales is.
Andrew: also feels like you’re coming at it from like a sports attitude. It’s like we’re hitting numbers. Do you have a sports background? Is that where this coming from?
Brent: I do, um, play baseball, basketball, football, um, try to walk on at Purdue. Uh, my first year there didn’t work out very well. Uh, not a lot of playing time, things like that, but, um, yeah, I, you know, I’ve had some of the best coaches around played a lot of travel ball and you learn, you learn a lot. It’s just, you know, it’s a constant grind for sure.
Andrew: All right. And so when you were doing the carwash, it was called prime carwash. The experience was a prime experience. Like your wife wanted where she could sit down with coffee, not feel like she has to get away from there until they work it out. What else came in with the playbook? What made it work?
Brent: Um, Really the customer service. I mean, we, we wanted everybody to come in and feel like they were at a country club. Um, so the, the membership allowed us to learn a lot of things about our member base. And the other thing great about the member base is their cars were always clean. So it wasn’t like you had to spend a tremendous amount of time cleaning their cars.
So the rest of the time you were. Giving them white clubs, glove service, you, you, we knew their, their kids’ names. That was all on the computer. When they checked in, as soon as their car came in, they were still in the car going through the tunnel, but we knew they were going to be coming through the door.
So the second Andrew walks through the door, we’re like, Andrew, good to see you. You know, how are things going? So it’s really just that personal touch that people were not expecting from a carwash. And that
Andrew: do you do that? How do you do, how do you even know who Andrew is to be able to welcome him?
Brent: Well, if you’re a member, then we scan you in. As soon as you come in.
Andrew: Ah, got it. And so the scan tells you who ne who I am. And then I guess on the computer system, it says something about me from last time. Is that right?
Brent: That’s right. Yeah. And then, you know, the other difference is, is when you get, and some of the great companies Chick-fil-A being the first one that comes to mind. When you take the time to teach a 16 year old kid, what it is to give customer service, meaning we would get them out of the carwash. Like when you’re at the car wash, you’re in it.
And it’s kind of the grind of the day and stuff. So what we would do is once we closed down or even closed the carwash for a day, we would take them and give them classroom training. And it was, we would literally sit them in a classroom and Give them the attention that they needed to understand what it is.
Uh, what we call it, aggressive hospitality, um, it to be over overly, uh, engaged in all customers that are there. Uh, and I think they learned a lot from it
Andrew: Give me another tip for aggressive hospitality. I might need to do that here.
So, um, you know, uh, a big part of it is to understand, and this is where vibe and omics came from. I’ll tell you a quick story on that is when I was trying to figure out how to get, um, a better idea of.
Giving people a better experience when they’re there, it was really customizing their visit. So we had a kid that was here. He went on to play basketball for Michigan state, brilliant basketball player. His family came in, they had just won the sectionals against a rival high school. And his parents were standing in there.
One of my. People who knew that I just put this new audio system in my place and we could, we could have any voice talent. We want say anything we want, we, we actually spun up a done on a done on that ESPN thing. And it was all the stats from the night before that their son had, and they were aware enough to know this is who’s coming in today.
To prime carwash and we can do this for them. So they call a, there are professional voice talent, they put it on and while their parents are standing there, they have the stats. And what happened last night. And it’s All about this kid and watching, watching his folks melt like little puddles, cause they couldn’t believe we did that for them.
And that wasn’t me. That was one of our employees. It’s like, we should do this. And, uh, that was, uh, that was the moment that one I thought we did. We did great teaching aggressive hospitality and. I think I have a business here.
Andrew: I’m going to suggest that anyone was listening to this should go and run with the phrase, aggressive hospitality. I would love to see it. Brent, did you like trademark? That phrase is that.
Brent: I didn’t.
Andrew: give Brent credit. I think here’s the thing that they should do. I talk about my first sponsor.
It’s whole skater. You need a website go to whole skater. Here’s my subject. Imagine if somebody’s got the domain aggressive hospitality or maybe came up with their own name and then attached to aggressive hospitality as the focus, talk to you or recorded all the things that you’ve done that goes into aggressive hospitality, looked at other businesses and see what they do to make their customers feel good.
Like what do I do before an interview starts to make a guest feel good? I’ll tell you one of the things that I do is I say what’s a win for you, Brent, because I take an interest in the guests. I want to know what their win is, and then they stop feeling. There’s pressure to do whatever it is to promote the book, to promote the business.
Cause Andrew’s got it covered. He asked upfront, imagine you put all that on a site and then you become maybe the consultant company that helps other businesses add aggressive hospitality. And the reason I like aggressive hospitality is hospitality sounds so touchy, feely. It seems less like an exciting thing to do.
The aggressive part goes in and kind of counteracts that and makes it feel like something I’m looking at you. And I think you may be wondering if you should run with that idea.
Brent: I love it. You’re exactly right though. Hospitality is the please. And thank you. Is that you, you just learn growing up. It’s the things to do. Aggressive hospitality is giving it. Well, even when you don’t want to, it is, it’s constantly thinking how to.
Andrew: And you know, who does that really well is when you pay for a high end consulting company and you go to their office and suddenly you see that they have some big signage with your name on and you go have the day end up going out and having a sign that welcomes me in. And if the owner loves sports, then the sign looks like a baseball, like a sign.
And so you feel more welcome, but you also get a sense of the vibe, all right. People, whether it’s that idea of something else, when you want to create a website, And I, I still love the idea of a blog, just nothing but a basic blog as a way of emphasizing what works in this space and then going out and selling it because you’re going to become the expert.
The more you study it. But whether it’s that idea, anything else when you need a website go to hostgator.com/mixergy. HostGator’s the site that I used to host or the company I used to host my site. It will give you great hosting, inexpensive, dependable, and it’ll scale with you. And if you use my URL, instead of their URL, I get credit, which I appreciate you for, but also you’re going to get their lowest possible price.
So they’re already low price. You’re going to get them even lower. Um, and Franklin, Brent, what am I people, I swear, I should find the person’s name, emailed him back and goes, you know, I found it for 2 cents. I swear. It’s like two, 3 cents cheaper somewhere else. He goes, Andrew said, it’s the lowest price. So I go back to Matt at HostGator.
I say, someone showed me it’s a lowest price as their email goes, all right, we’ll lower it. So now we’ve got like 4 cents off people. It’s already low price. You’re gonna go a few cents cheaper, but you’re going to get great service from a company that will jump on stuff like that. hostgator.com/mixergy.
Alright. Vibe dynamics. The idea came from where, what were you trying to do at your location?
really. The thing that I was doing already is we did a lot of, a lot of signage, a lot of displays, and it was really challenging for us to constantly have a graphic designer making stuff look cool at all times. And one of the number one things, when we’d send out surveys to our membership base, that they would say about prime carwash is the music and the vibe is so cool in there.
It sounds like a w hotel when you walk in. And I kept thinking the fact that, you know, they’re, they’re listening, people are listening, um, I ran a little trial and I, from my playlist, I inserted a little file that would play three times an hour, and it would announce that we sell and we will replace your windshield wipers.
And the biggest play on that was when people come to a carwash it’s sunny and it’s beautiful. So they’re not thinking about the windshield wipers. And for three years, we’ve been trying to sell windshield wipers. They’re great margins, but nobody, they walk right past them and never buy them. So I started playing this thing and in our first month of having it, we sold more cars, more windshield wipers in one month than we had in three years of, of having windshield wipers.
So I quickly learned people here when you’re talking.
Andrew: Do they really, I mean, I’m listening to myself, I’m listening to my AirPods. I’m listening to my, my, my kids, if we’re going in, I guess maybe the vibe, but I guess I might notice that the vibe is there. Maybe not notice it, but it influences me. The ads are people actually stopping and listening to an ad.
They were listening to this windshield wipers.
Brent: Yeah, that’s a great point. And it’s mind blowing to think. Um, and, and I’ll, I’ll tell you the difference. There’s a big difference. And this is where vitamin omics really separated ourselves. It’s gotta be personal to you. The reason that you love your Pandora or Spotify or whatever it is, is because it’s your music, it’s what you want.
So when you’re talking about shopping in Kroger and having a good understanding of day parting of who’s in the store at what time, and then how we bring it to your attention. Really matters. So if we were to take a generic content, like you would hear on the radio in your car driving, and we just throw that into Chrome.
It’s not going to work. Nobody’s going to hear it, but our complete understanding of the people that are are there and the experience they’re going to get when they hear it, that we can call out what aisle it’s in and all of those things that it’s so specific to your moment while you’re making a buying decision is why it works otherwise.
You’re right. It’s just noise.
Andrew: All right. And so it’s not the same as the ad. That’s playing on the radio, which is generic and man for everyone it’s for us. And what was the bird poop thing that you added to the windshield commercial?
Brent: Yeah. So, I mean, the, the, the whole point is when you come in, uh, usually the second you leave the carwash, it’s just, uh, it’s just what happens. It either starts raining our bird poops on your car. It’s just, it’s what happens every
Andrew: Uh, and so they’re already worried about that. It’s in their head, just like I said, am I going to now have this carwash ruined?
Brent: That’s right. That’s right. So our whole point about the windshield wipers and why we made it so specific to that is do it get your windshield wipers on right now, because you know, the second you leave here, a bird is going to poop on your car and you’re not going to have good windshield wipers to get that off.
So it was kind of the running joke of what the content that we put on there.
Andrew: Okay, and this is you. I get you doing the bird poop app because I feel like you’ve got that warmth and that comfort to say things that are a little bit. Uh, a little bit, um, I don’t know, uh, out of the ordinary, but the music, are you such a music fan that you’re able to go on your iPod, I guess at the time, and then set up some playlist and get the right vibe.
Is that who you are?
Brent: I am I, my, my very first venture that was, uh, not, uh, not IRS, uh, probably certified with, uh, all the, the things I needed to do, uh, was in college. I ran a, uh, a DJ company called premier sounds. It was my first time that I learned how to use other people’s money to make money. So I took a credit card and at the time I was growing up.
They used to stand outside and hand out credit cards to people. Um, so I took that limit. I had an $8,000 limit and I went out and I bought a trailer and a bunch of, uh, music CDs and had all this stuff and I would go to frat houses and basically I thought, you know, what, if I’m going to be here partying anyway, I might as well get paid.
So on by, you know, one Thursday night gig would basically take my minimum payment. So Friday, Saturday, Yeah.
That’s my, that’s my fun money when I’m in college. So, uh, that was the first time, but I fell in love with music. My dad’s a musician again, influencing my life, um, fell in love with music. And what I did quickly realize though, is a complete understanding of music is really, really hard.
Um, and you, can’t always, it’s not a perfect science, but we do have, and we really, we have music theorists on, on staff here. And what they do is they spend time. What people in California are listening to is much different than. Nashville and Texas and so on and so forth, but it’s understanding those folks and, and what’s typical.
Um, and then always being able to change it up by day partying. You know what you’re listening to on Friday afternoon, when you stop into Kroger, are people buying at Kroger Friday afternoon? They’re buying things, getting ready for the week. Again, they’re parties at barbecues. You want a certain vibe while you’re you’re shopping for that versus what’s the Tuesday morning.
Crowd buying. They’re buying staples for their kids and, oh, we got another long week. You got to take that into consideration. So there’s, there’s All kinds of things we’re thinking about.
Andrew: All right. And you’re talking about Kroger because Kroger is one of your clients you’re in there and you’re in their supermarkets. All right. Is this how I, it was a little incredulous. When I saw this, you said to our producer business owners would come into prime, our carwash, and then they would ask us about what radio station we were playing.
Do they really care aren’t business owners so much on their phones that they don’t notice, even their kids. They’re listening to music.
Brent: Yeah. Well, what would happen is they’d come in and they’d hear the tagline listening to prime carwash, radio, blah, blah, blah. And it.
was this whole thing. And they’d come in and say, how are you doing this? How, how do you have your own radio station? Uh, so the dry cleaners across the street. Well, I want my own radio station and then the pizza place.
And so then what we started do is triangulate this, this area where. Some like a car dealership that wanted to advertise with prime, they could be advertising at prime. They could advertise at the March, they could advertise at the dry cleaner. So no matter where you were shopping in that area, you were always hearing the same advertisements at All places.
And that was the network effect that drew the conclusion to what biodynamics could.
Andrew: All right. The first device, was it an iPod, like a little iPod with some music? It was,
Brent: Yeah. It was a used blue, uh, device that was used and scratched up and terrible.
Andrew: oh, blue mean those, those cheap phones that, I guess at some point, I think even Amazon turned it into the Amazon phone. That’s what you got.
Brent: Yes, that’s what we bought as, as, as used as they could be.
Andrew: You know what? I was at a tech event, um, and someone pulled out a blue phone. I think he was just trying to see, can I use this cheap phone? It, it was a little slow, but it was fine. They’re inexpensive phones. It was fine. And if you’re playing music, it’s not going to stutter from music. Why? I feel like you’re uncomfortable with you’re talking about this blue thing.
not at all. It’s funny because I’m thinking back to my, the first days of I have an Amex and it was pretty funny as we were so concerned with being able to have professional voice talent in real time, be able to deliver content quickly. That was the whole thesis of the software we built. And we put so much emphasis on that.
We forgot about having to. Interchange the music. So we’d get a, we’d get a customer that would call and say, Hey, um, you know, you can’t play bringing sexy back in my location. Like it’s not appropriate. And so we would have to say, Hey, look, you’re due for an upgrade anyway. So I’m going to send you a new device.
And we would literally put a brand new device on to change one song out of their playlist. And
Andrew: you weren’t working remotely. Oh,
Brent: right. So we were still in proof of concept trying to figure out if this thing was even going to go. It was, it was a nightmare.
Andrew: All right. Who’s Scott McCorkle.
Brent: Yeah. So Scott was probably the, the biggest influence, um, for me as a professionally, as somebody trying to get into software And understand it, I’m not a tech guy.
Um, I didn’t have a lot of experience in software businesses, and Scott had helped find. Founded exact target, which here in Indianapolis was a huge success story. They sold to Salesforce. Uh, they built their second largest headquarters here in Indianapolis called Salesforce cloud. so uh, McCorkle became the CEO of Salesforce cloud reporting directly to mark Benioff, long story short.
Scott came in, uh, to prime carwash as a member, loved my technology. And, um, asked me about the business. he’s like, I love your business. I’d love to meet with you. I thought he wanted to buy car washes at the time. Turns out he actually really loved the software business that I was trying to create. Um, he got excited about it.
Taught me how to raise capital in the software space. Uh, he helped me put together. My first round of $3 million became the executive chairman of the board. We become super close friends ever since. And, um, he’s still on my board.
Andrew: And so he’s the one who saw that there was an opportunity here that this was gone, that this potentially could get big. What did he see?
Brent: Yeah, I think he saw the, the network effect, um, in, in the same way, you know, everybody says Uber five, this and Airbnb this, and, and it’s all about the network effect. And I think that’s what he always believed by bananas could do it. If you could take retail and location-based businesses and give them a platform where all of their customers become, um, a network of people that, uh, advertisers want to talk to that it could be a really powerful business.
And that’s what he saw happening.
Andrew: But it doesn’t have. So he worked at exact target.
Andrew: That’s a software company. It feels like he was, he would look for more software companies like that.
Brent: Yeah, he believed, he believed that the software and itself had to be enterprise software, uh, to be able to control a network like this, that. you were able to target. So just because he wanted to see a place where, Uh,
CVS and. Kroger and Walmart and all of these places, um, they could work independently of one another because they had to, but they still had to come together as one unit to allow advertising take place.
That was his dream. right.
But we could have it. Tens of thousands of locations and they all get to work independently of one another, but yet they become a place where we’re talking to Anheuser Busch and some of these other folks to sell within their stores because the products are sitting on the shelf of all these stores and they have that.
Like, they have that, that in common at the end of the day, Nestle just wants to sell more Nestle product. And even though they don’t care if it’s selling at CVS or Walgreens or Walmart, they just want to sell more.
Andrew: And if they’re buying it on YouTube or Instagram, they have to count on somebody remembering and going into the store. But if it’s right there, Kroger they’re selling and they get direct. They also could figure out how many more sales they’re getting because the ad was in this
Brent: Yup. And that’s a big piece of the software too, is the API forward thought process has to be that you’re also delivering measurement. So we’re so close to point of sale that when we start running these ads, we know immediately if we’re getting a lift and those products we’re able to deliver that back.
So it truly is the last section of point of sale.
Andrew: How long were you getting these blue brand cell phones? How, how
Brent: We did it. We did it for, uh, about a year and it was, um, you know, our first, our first, because all of these devices, we needed also cellular data on them. Um, because we wanted wifi only works some of the times. So we needed to know if wifi goes down in the stores that cellular are gonna pick up. So we actually, um, we broke her to deal with sprint in the early going that route.
Took a like kind of catapulted our, our relationship with a lot of these providers made it very simple. We could just send them a device, they plug it in and it’s already up and running And they got their own branded radio station within 24 hours of them saying, I’ll do it.
Andrew: And so was it you in the beginning making those phone calls and closing the first sales?
Brent: Yeah, it was, I had, so my co-founder Adam, um, is a guy that was all professional, voice talent. He, he ran it all. He could, uh, his voice is wonderful, so he made it sound like gold and that’s what everybody. Bye. Bye. I would, I would be cold calling and get some of these people. And we started with, you know, one-off locations, the suntan cities of the world, and, and trying to get into those places.
So we were calling anybody who would listen, um, and try to put, try to put a device.
Andrew: What’s the first advertiser that you got.
Brent: Uh, the Hoosier lottery actually was the very first one. So we, we were lucky enough to win about a 50 location, uh, gas station chain here in Indiana. and the Hoosier lottery was a place that they, they walked in they knew we were creating this atmosphere and they called me and they said, Hey, um, can we advertise and, and recurs and, uh, I said, sure.
That sounds great. Um, they’re like, how much is it? And I gave him a price and they instantaneously asked me if they could lock in that price for a year. And I was like, I might not know What I’m doing here, but I’m pretty sure I am undervaluing myself. You never have somebody say, can I buy more than at that price?
Andrew: Uh, and in retrospect,
Brent: Oh, my gosh, terribly. And I was lucky enough to find a guy who has been in the advertising business and media business for over 30 years. I hired him as my chief strategy officer and, and he came in and listened to the story. He’s like, Brian, you got people calling you wanting to advertise, and you’re quoting them this kind of number.
Are you out of your minds?
Andrew: the CPM that you were charging cost per thousand?
Brent: At that time, probably like 30 cents.
Andrew: Oh, okay. I get
Brent: Yeah. Now, now we’re like, uh, I mean, on average, it’s, it’s much higher, much higher than that.
Andrew: Multiple dollars.
Brent: yeah, for sure. I mean, uh, you know, it depends on the store and the DMS, but will range anywhere from 10 to $15 CPM. So, um, which is, which is.
Andrew: So who’s your lottery. That’s Indiana state lottery. That’s a great land, right?
Brent: Yeah. Yeah, it was awesome.
Andrew: organization gives you some credibility. And then did you have enough locations to serve them or did you have to then go out and hunt for more locations?
we did. And every time we opened up, we really did have a lot of great success in, um, in the convenience store space and what was nice and what I, what I learned of why biodynamics is going to make it. Our companies and our network partners love us. Our attrition is zero. I mean, people just don’t leave once you lock them in.
I think it’s twofold one. They want to be able to have content and self content about themselves. I think that’s the number one thing. Um, and then the second thing is they’re trying to push products, so they would be doing this anyway. So they might as well get paid for it. So they’re trying to push All of, you know, The stuff that they’re doing, they’re trying to push that.
So now they’re also pushing it, selling more product. Plus the brands are paying them to push their product. So it’s just all around a window.
Andrew: All right. Let me take a moment. Talk about my second sponsor. It’s and then we’ll come back into your story. It’s memorable. So what memorable does is it does what you did. Brian, you took carwash and you turned it from a one-off, uh, expense into an ongoing revenue stream for you. Right. By creating a membership.
I feel like membership everything right? Maybe not every, a lot of things should be on membership. Like the thing that I’ve talked about a lot is haircut should be on membership. I’m not going to go and get a haircut unless, you know, I’m pushed to it. But imagine if I’m paying the same monthly fee, all right, Olivia, I’m gonna go schedule my haircut.
Haircuts should be on membership. Everything should be on membership. And I think that when it comes to online content, especially it should be membership. Do you have an idea for something that should be turned into membership?
Brent: I you took it right out of my mouth. Or my, my next retail media or my, my next main street media business will probably be membership?
Brent: I love the idea. I think it all the time I’m like I go in every two to three weeks, get my hair cut. I should never, I, it should just be, I should be able to go in whenever I want and just get my haircut and I’ll pay a monthly and not have to worry about it.
Andrew: Right. And it’s not like men are go. I think, especially when it comes to men where we’re not getting that much, we’re not going to anyway. Great idea. Uh, I was listening to a podcast, the, uh, my first million podcast, Dharmesh Shaw, who runs who’s the founder of HubSpot. He’s still starting these businesses on the side.
I think he’s almost a billionaire now from fricking HubSpot. He’s still running businesses on the side. They asked him, what’s the business that you’re creating. And he’s saying, I’m going to take professionals. I’m going to create a community. And they’ll pay me for this access to the community because people want to get together with other people where we’re like them.
What was the aggressive hospitality is the thing that we were talking about earlier. Imagine aggressive hospitality gets a community of people who are implementing aggressive hospitality at their businesses. Whenever somebody, here’s why I’m bringing this up in the context of my ad. Whenever someone needs software to turn their ideas into a membership, that’s where member full comes in and it will turn your email newsletter, your, your, if you’ve got a community, it’ll turn that.
Yeah. It’ll take your, your parts of your website videos, whatever it is, you want to turn it into a membership member full is there for you. It’s now owned by Patrion accompany that you know, and respect, but it’s, it’s just funny. On its own. And if you want to try it for free right now, of course, Andrew’s gonna hook you up.
All you have to do is go to dot com slash Mixergy to use it for free member, fool.com/mixergy. Brett, I should have asked you, how would you do, how would a vibe and omics do that ad better?
Brent: Oh, man. I, that is. My, uh, my specialty. You you’re actually, you gotta, you gotta fantastic boys. I need to get you and Adam together, you might be doing some voice work before it’s
Andrew: I would love it. Imagine if I get to add that. Oh, man.
Brent: Yeah. The voice is slick and it is, it is the right pause at the right time. Like there’s so much to it. I, I, I usually sound like a buffoon when I’m trying to do some of this stuff.
Andrew: Um, and now it’s going to go to my head. Wait till you see how I sweet. You’re not going to say I’m going to sweet talk a Livia with my voice tonight now that I know what it’s like. Great.
Andrew: All right. So yeah, vibe and omics, you’ve raised what, $3 million at this point in the story, you started to go out and get clients.
Talk to me about what your process is. I want to understand the Brent approach to getting customers so that maybe I could implement some of these ideas.
Brent: Yeah, I think, you know, it’s changed a lot when you’re starting out. What, what you think you’re building at the time. It’s not what you end up with as a business owner. So, um, we pivoted a lot, the, the thesis of. The business in the beginning was that location-based businesses would be, um, would be the main thing that we always think about.
And, and we still have kept them at the front of mind, but at the end of the day, in order for us to survive, we had to realize that. The Kroger’s of the world, they are our network partners. So the way that I always explain it is it’s very similar to the way that Lexus who builds cars, treats their dealerships.
So Lexus is building cars for the end user, which is us, you and I buying Alexis. But in order to get where they’re trying to go, they have to really treat all of their Lexus dealership. Like gold. And, and we started to think about it in that light of look, we’re trying to get our advertisers to reach the customer, you and I, the only way that we can do that is treat Kroger and circle K, and all of these folks like gold and make sure that we understand how to promote them, how to make them look great.
What’s their vibe. So the story has, has transitioned over the time. Hey, you can brand yourself. Um, we’re gonna, you know, we’re gonna make sure that you sell more things for yourself too. Now we have advertisers that pay. So our customer ultimately used to be the, the locations we pivoted that now our customers are the agencies And those folks. so the story’s changed, but that’s really how we look at our business.
Andrew: And so how are you finding businesses looking at, or advertisers looking at you at vibe dynamics in a world where they’re so. Getting data back from, you know, all the online ads that we’re doing.
Brent: That’s what we had to do. We had to, we had to build a software that even through an audio space, we could make it digital. So when we started thinking about what it would be to be audio. Digital out-of-home advertising, um, what it would take to get there. And really it became, it had to be data-driven. We had to understand who was coming into these locations.
It had to be measurable. Uh, we are delivering the, the ad and it’s working and it had to be automated. We had to be able to. Put it out there in a space that everybody who wanted to look for it could see it. So we’ve connected with one of the largest DSPs, which is, um, basically if you think about it from a New York stock exchange, you can look at all the stocks and you try to figure out how to buy them.
You have to have a platform where you see all the different stocks you can buy. Well, agencies do the same thing. They look across the board and they have software that integrates to all of these different mechanics of buying. Advertising. So if they want a digital billboard, if they want TV, if they want to put it on a website, now you’ll see vibe and omics.
And a lot of these places listed as well as an audio option for
Andrew: Wait, there’s some kind of software that they’re using DSP. I looked it up it’s demand side platform. So there’s some software that they use that shows them all the, um, what is it called? Uh, billboards and vibe anomic type ads out of office, out of home.
Brent: called, uh, out of home advertising.
Andrew: they have all these different out of home advertising options in that platform.
Brent: That’s right.
Andrew: didn’t even know that
Brent: So it’s fascinating. It’s a fascinating world. And one that I had to learn and, and thankfully, um, you know, the gentlemen that I, I I’d come in cause it’s an entire language that I didn’t understand, but literally it is the, the agency sit at a level where everything is traded now programmatically.
So when Anheuser Busch has their agency of record out looking for what they’re going to do. I’m making this up, but let’s say, Anheuser-Busch says my budget’s $50 million. I want to make sure that we’re hitting these types of people. This is there’s all these studies and all this research. You have to be in the mix to when they start thinking about where they want to spend money, they need to understand, Hey, if you’re buying while people are out walking their dog and while they’re in their car and while they’re at home, the last place you have to think about is when they’re making the buying decision.
And audio is right there. That’s where we, we, we started playing that space and we’re the only audio company that plays in that space. There’s not another one like us, so it makes it nice.
Andrew: And then do you come back and connect it to their, um, to their sales? Do you connect to the registers
Brent: We sure do. Yeah. So that’s the, that’s the last piece of the being measurable?
Andrew: right now that happens. So if Nestle quick advertises with you, you can say you spent this much in this store. This is the lift that you got.
Brent: That’s right. We read and we call them lift studies. But, um, we do that often, uh, where somebody will ask for a lift study and we’ll put it together for them. And it’s all based on true point of sale data, which is very similar to why people love. Buying on the other, you know, the, the internet type of advertising because they understand click, they understand it, that relate to an Amazon sale.
We’re giving them the same thing in a physical space, which is very difficult to do. And probably why we’re the only ones doing.
Andrew: All right. One of the issues with advertising is that you don’t get paid until after the ads run. Do you then wait and pay your, your locations after you get paid?
Brent: I wish.
Andrew: you have to pay them before you have to pay them what monthly in order to be in their locations. Oh, wow.
Brent: We pay them quarterly. And, uh, so what happens is it’s a rev share program and this is back to treating your networks like gold. And we really do. Um, we, you know, it’s not, it’s not their problem of how we negotiate our terms with all of our. Uh, vendors and, and all of that. So we made, we made the decision, um, and it’s a costly one, but we wanted to make sure that we were predictable so that Kroger and the folks that we were in business with, they love doing business with Abenomics.
So we said, no matter what, as soon as we’re done with the quarter, whatever was earned, meaning whatever message was played, We’re going to pay. For those messages, whether we get paid or not. And then our terms are sometimes net one 20 with some of our providers. So we’re waiting awhile.
Andrew: We’re so lucky that at some point we implemented pay upfront for advertising here. Just, it’s also a bookkeeping headache. You’ve got to go after customers after the ad ran, and it’s an awkward conversation to have.
Andrew: One of the issues that, um, my producer told me about is that, that you I’ve mentioned how you’re outgoing, you’re you must’ve been a great freaking salesman.
And one of the things you said was as a salesman, if I wanted to earn more, I just worked harder. And you said that that doesn’t translate so much as a leader.
Andrew: what’s what happened?
Brent: I think, I think the most challenging thing, um, is, is you’re not always, um, you’re not always able to get results by just working harder. You, you have to be able to influence. Team members. And sometimes that takes a really long time. Um, and you may not always agree with the way that they’re doing something.
Um, and you try to tell them and it could backfire, it could make it worse and you actually lose production from them and you don’t realize it. So, uh, that’s been one of the hardest challenges is figuring that piece of it out, uh, as a leader. I think the other piece that is hard. Is even the transition from, from Medtronic when I wanted to do better, I just worked harder.
So sold more at prime carwash. I had a lot of employees, several hundred employees, but they were all 16 and 17 years old. And I was able to just say, I don’t care if this is what you want to do. This has got to how we’re going to do it. And you’re going to do. When you build a company like vibe dynamics, you’re hiring people who are really smart.
They’ve gone to school and they’ve had all these experiences and you’re bringing them into your business and they know more than you. Like. For instance, I didn’t know anything about advertising. So I bring in somebody that knows a lot about advertising. Your job is still to run the business and it’s still to direct the ship.
You’re still the captain and you’re still the bus driver and everybody else is on the bus. But you really have to be able to allow them to do what they do or you’re not going to go anywhere. Um, so trying to influence that piece of it and relying on others is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn.
Andrew: You know, when I think about biodynamics, I think about this other company that I interviewed a few months ago, soundtrack your brand. They used to be a Spotify company.
Brent: I do. I know him well.
Andrew: It feels like what they do is they’re like Spotify for stores, they charge stores in order to play music. You’re now paying stores in order to play music and get their, their, their brand in and you’re dialing it in for them.
It seems like it’s, uh, I loved soundtrack your business as a, as a product, but Viber, Nomics has a lot on them. Doesn’t it?
Brent: Yeah. You know, it’s two different models and I know the folks very well actually soundtrack your brand kind of folded back up underneath Spotify. They they’re. Yeah,
they’re not really there. Thing and their own entity anymore. And it was fascinating. They raised a lot of capital and they were so good at understanding what people wanted to listen to in that space.
And I thought there was a lot of, I thought there was a lot of cool factor around what they were doing. I think the thing that I never got bought into is I think music is cool. And I think picking the right, the right. Sonic vibe is very, very cool. I’m not, I’m not doubting that. But what I am saying is, I don’t know that your purchasing decision is going to be based on the fact that I’m playing a John Mellencamp song and you don’t like John Mellencamp.
So I’m leaving the store. I don’t believe that you’re going to your local grocery store because you love their playlist. I think you can add an hand. How you, how you feel when you’re there. But ultimately what I thought is we need to be pretty right on how we look at music. We need to understand it and have a good understanding, but ultimately we need to know more about the customers and their, their buying habits and when they’re coming.
So that for our brands, We can ensure that we’re getting the right message and the right content to, to influence their buying decisions. And so two different thesises, um, you know, soundtrack your brand was they’ll buy more because I’m going to play the right song at the right.
time. Mine was, they’re going to buy more because we’re going to tell the story about Nestle, right?
When they’re deciding if they want a candy bar or not.
Andrew: I think also they were targeting people who were not, and it is a whole lot, lot as the founder. I liked the business a lot. They were also thinking no ads just play music. And if you’re going to play music, you have to pay for it. We’re going to make it easy for you to pay for it. So if you’re, um, uh, I don’t know a Levi’s and you need to play music in your store.
You could either work out an agreement with someone else. You’re going to work it out with us. Might as well get us and get this whole Spotify library. Um, all right, I get it. What’s the future then for vibe dynamics. Okay.
Brent: You know, we, our number one goal is going to be able to realize if, if all grocery and all convenience and all of these retail media understand the power that they have because of all the customers that come to them. If they all come together and they realize all tides rise, all ships and they all stick to kind of one provider for the entire marketplace in a very similar way that everybody goes to Amazon at some point, the power that they have, a lot of people are going to Facebook and the power that they have.
It’s all about the network, these retail media providers, because we’re sharing the revenue with them. If they realize if we all go together on this effort, And we keep CPMs where they need to be. Uh, we keep a value. We understand that we get So. much lift and we’re able to tout that across the organization, whether you’re a Kroger or Publix or all hold or Albertsons, it doesn’t matter.
You’re not in competition with each other at that level. You’re actually all the better. You all do. The more advertising revenue you’re going to get for one.
Andrew: More locations, which then allows you to go to advertisers and say, we’re going to hit people from multiple spots and they’ll be sure to listen, allows you to increase advertising rates throughout, and also allows us to be a stronger option in a world where there’s so many other options that have a big audience.
Got it. That’s the vision and it’s not, we’re doing this. And then at some point we’re going to add coupons in the stores the way was it Rupert Murdoch had a business like that. No, you’re shaking your head. This is it. Audio based advertising. How do we get a more locations? Do you think you’re going to do self service where if the local, um, um, maybe not dry cleaner, but the local grocery store wants to put it in.
They could do it and earn a little bit of money, but also have music that’s licensed and, um, and fits their vibe.
Brent: Yeah. In some situations we’re already doing that. Um, there’s, you know, in locations where it makes sense, we’d probably never take a little little place that only has eight or nine locations, but we’ll take eight or nine locations in San Francisco because we already have such a big footprint there and you can just add them in and where they get a benefit from it is they get included.
And some of your larger grocery store chains and they’re already buying. So now we’re going to put in a couple of these smaller little locations, they’re getting a rev share too. And if they were just by themselves, they’d never be able to get that type of action.
Andrew: Right. All right. What’s revenue. Let’s close it out with that question.
Brent: Yeah. So we are, um, you know, We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re tripling revenue every year. Uh, and we have now over the last three years, so, uh, it’s going to be an important run for us here over the next few. Um, we are getting ready to raise a series B. That number is going to be really interesting on how much I raised.
It’s going to really come down to do I want to go buy, uh, a competitor. Um, is it another piece of what I’m looking at is do we not buy the competitor, but we just lean in even harder to the folks we have here to just go and take the business and take the market, share that we need. So, um, lots of decisions that are going to need to be made here in the next few months that I’m struggling with right now, but we’re excited for it.
Andrew: You give me at least a ballpark of where you guys are. I have it here in front of me, but since you told it to us in private, I’m not going to say it. Can you just give people a sense of, are we talking about in the millions, tens of millions? Billions.
Brent: Yeah, by the 1 billion, uh, we would love to see, I do see this business being a billion dollar business. There’s no question, but, uh, currently, um, we’re, we’re, we’re going to end up this year, north of $10 million All in.
Andrew: All right, damn impressive. And then the carwash can, can I ask how much that is? How much does the carwash pull in?
Brent: Yeah. give you this number that the carwash business, if you’re running it well, is a third, a third, a third. You’ll have a third going to employees, a third, going to expenses and a third going to profits. Um, and we have our membership base. Um, You know, we have well over 10,000 members now. And, uh, an actual membership is around 49 bucks a membership.
So you can start realizing plus then you still have your one-off folks and your detailing service. So it’s a, it’s a, it’s a magical business, but it is a lot of work and it’s a lot of money to get them started every, every carwash today, if you do it right, it’s probably going to cost you around $7 million to put up.
It’s pretty crazy.
Andrew: you, your dad close.
Brent: We’re very close.
Andrew: You tell him, do you like text him and go dad? I got another carwash. Dad.
Brent: Well, my Dad. my dad came to work for me. I was able to get him and he was working in a factory. And, Uh when I started my first carwash, he came and he was the maintenance guy for me. So he was able to retire and we got to work together for a few years before he, he quit on me and moved to the lake.
I guess I paid him too much. But, um, yeah, it was, it was awesome to get to a chance to really work with them was really, yeah.
Andrew: All right on brand. All right. Vibe and omics is the business. Damn dude. That’s impressive.
Brent: Thanks. Thanks.
Andrew: I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen the first, you know, if you have an idea, you need a website, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And the second, when you’re ready to get some revenue by I especially like content as a model for content sales, especially on continuity service.
If you’re ready to try it out, go to member fold to let you try it for free. If you go to dot com slash Mixergy, and if you need a voiceover artists come to firstname.lastname@example.org, dude. Boom. Thanks. Thanks, Brent. Bye everyone.
Brent: Thanks, Andrew.