Profile in Success: Team Blue Hand Car Wash
Some people in their 20s, having survived the test-heavy and 8 a.m. class schedules of college life, can take a lackadaisical approach to post-college living. It’s easy to move back home, slowly adjust to adulthood and find a juxtaposition between being a responsible grown-up without being a fuddy-duddy. But, Jason Haas, all of 26, is an exception to that rule.
Haas was living a pretty good life while in school. He was a sociology student at the prestigious Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. The 6’ 2” guard was there on a full scholarship playing basketball and was a sophomore when the team was ranked number one in the nation in 2003. During his tenure, the team also won a Pac-10 championship and twice was named an All Pac-10 Academic selection.
He learned early on about disappointment and redemption after being cut from the basketball team in the 7th grade. But Jason didn’t give up. Understanding the importance of perseverance and tenacity, he practiced with his dad every day.
The hard work paid off and years later, with a successful basketball and college career in full swing on the West Coast, Jeff Haas worried his son would never return to the colder and coast-less State College, PA.
To his surprise, Jason did come back, and not only that, he wanted to work for his father. Jeff couldn’t have been happier.
The elder Haas is a self-taught entrepreneur. A self-proclaimed school of hard knocks graduate, he started Bubba’s Breakaway, a small sub shop, with a $3,000 loan from his mother and an $8,000 loan from a local bank. He had zero education in how profits and losses worked, but knew he wanted to work for himself. The first few months in business were shaky.
“So,” said Jeff, “I quickly learned that understanding profit and loss was very important. I was fortunate at a very young age, my early 20s, to learn how to make businesses profitable. Within six years of starting my first Bubba’s Breakaway restaurant and without any additional equity capital, I was able to expand Bubba’s Breakaway into 20-plus units.”
Jeff eventually sold the business to a venture capital firm and started up many other businesses, including ones focused on marketing distribution, and commercial and residential architecture and construction. He also founded and became the CEO of Haas Restaurant Group, Inc. which owns franchised restaurants in State College and Altoona, PA. He knew his son could also be a successful business developer and presented him with a challenge.
A father’s challenge
“In July of 2006, I returned home to Pennsylvania to work with my family’s architecture and construction firm,” recalled Jason. “A year later, my father challenged me to come up with a new concept from scratch.” Not only did the concept have to work as a standalone business, it also had to be suitable for national expansion through franchising. Not such an easy task to take on, but Jason was up for the well-intentioned dare.
Jason always had a love of cars and even a love for washing his car and thought of turning those loves into a way to make some money. “After analyzing the local and national marketplace, and thinking of something that would lend itself operationally to franchising, I presented the Team Blue idea to my dad.” Jeff thought it was brilliant and soon the father and son became business partners.
Before embarking on his plan, Jeff offered up four points of business advice to his son:
• Work harder and smarter than your competitor;
• Give your customers or clients what they want;
• Make your customers or clients feel appreciated; and
• Treat your employees the way you would like to be treated.
Team Blue takes off
The first Team Blue Hand Car Wash opened in 2008 in State College on a road that only saw about 100 vehicles per day. However, despite the low traffic, they washed about 80 cars on opening day and from then on, the business was a success.
Wanting to duplicate the driveway washings he enjoyed doing as a kid, Team Blue offers carwashes and detailing services all by hand. Teams of three work on each car, using environmentally-friendly materials, and each wash takes about 15 minutes. Customers wait in a “relaxation area” complete with wireless Internet, computer workstations, plasma televisions, PlayStation 3 video games and complimentary tea and coffee.
One of the main goals of Team Blue has been to create a friendly relationship with each customer — mixing hospitality with business and the staff has been trained to treat each customer with respect and courtesy. “I was astonished at the response we received from our customers. We made a great first impression on the local car owners. To open up the doors for a new concept, and have people respond the way they did, was remarkable,” Jason remarked.
Now a, second location is getting ready to open in Camp Hill, PA.
From one to many
Jeff, having turned Bubba’s into a chain, and as CEO and founder of Haas Restaurant Group, Inc., knows a thing or two about franchising. “Because I had Bubba’s Breakaway at such an early age, I did not have the business skills necessary to expand it at the pace necessary to compete nationally with SUBWAY®, which now has tens of thousands of units worldwide,” said Jeff. “Twenty-five-plus years later, I do have the skills necessary as well as an experienced franchising executive management team. I believe Team Blue has ‘SUBWAY-like’ market penetration and expansion opportunities.”
Jason said from day one, Team Blue was designed for franchising. “We did not want to develop just one unit,” Jason said. “We had the bigger picture in mind from the start. Each part of the Team Blue concept, from marketing materials to uniforms, has been designed and created to be universal to franchisees.” And his hopes are to open up centers all over the United States, and revolutionize the carwash business. By 2012, they want to have 35 franchises in operation.
Jeff said, “Our plan is to make Team Blue Hand Car Wash the first and largest national brand in the carwash industry. Team Blue is the most exciting business opportunity I have been involved with in my 30 years of being an entrepreneur.”
Jason remarked, “When we opened Team Blue, we hit the ground running and have never looked back. We continue to grow in sales revenue and profits, and look forward to the future.”
And, similar to the way Jeff was there with Jason when he was cut from the basketball team and helped him to go on to win big in college, he’s once again rooting for his son, hoping and working hard to help him succeed. “Returning from Stanford to work with my father,” said Jason, “will always be a decision I am proud of.”
Added Jeff, “He and I have always had a strong positive relationship. In business, we definitely compliment each other very well. He is a very bright and entrepreneurial young man. And let’s just say, I am a very proud father.”