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Against the odds

The forward-thinking entrepreneurs behind Pop’s Auto Shop reveal what it takes to open a successful business in the middle of a pandemic.

It takes an enormous amount of courage to start a business during the Covid-19 pandemic – but that’s precisely what self-proclaimed petrol heads Graeme Reid and Paul De Vantier did. And they couldn’t be happier!

March sees their audacious venture, Pop’s Auto Shop, celebrating its first anniversary. During its first year of operations, the Walmer, PE-based workshop has become a cornerstone of its community employing six people – thanks to the fact that its offering goes well beyond repair and maintenance services. For example, Pop’s Auto Shop is home to Auto Coffee and Classics Day, as well as one of the starting points for the local MG Car Club runs. Graeme explains that these additions are a logical extension of the brand identity.

Graeme says that he and Paul had both been involved in the motor industry for many years, but it was when the pandemic first hit that they decided to make a departure from their area of expertise –motor industry research and consulting – to follow their passion. “The introduction of Right2Repair has opened up new opportunities, and we expect big shifts in the marketplace. The car owner is no longer held hostage to servicing at OEM dealerships and is free to choose where they want to have their vehicle repaired and serviced. Offering convenience, superior service experience, and better value is the way to go. Pop’s Auto Shops will redefine the paradigm of an auto workshop.”

Their instincts were spot-on: Pop’s Auto Shop’s team has become known for their outstanding service and commitment to customer service, while the workshop itself offers an experience quite unlike anything else: think free Wi-Fi, great music, and coffee served up in a spacious, comfortable customer area. 

Graeme reveals that the team will be toasting their first year in business with a small social function to thank associates, suppliers and customers, while a birthday month promotion will be offered throughout March.

Paul and Graeme believe that the Pop’s Auto Shop business model’s success can easily be emulated by other forward-thinking entrepreneurs: “The industry is ripe for innovation,” they say. “The Pops Auto Shop in Walmer is our pilot shop and, after a year of fine-tuning, phase 2 will be the rollout of additional branches or franchise operations.”  Those who wish to take the plunge into business would do well to keep a careful eye on cash flow management and cultivate a deep appreciation of the customer experience. Graeme advises: “You need to be able to redefine requirements and expectations, and you need the agility to keep pace with our changing world. You also need to keep measuring and testing your stated strategic and operational goals.”