When car enthusiast, Gary Winfield took a leap of faith with a new start-up aged 50, he could not have predicted the journey that would unfold.
Many entrepreneurs begin their journeys at a young age by taking opportunities that come their way and following a passion. This was certainly the case for Gary Winfield who set up his very first business at the age of 22, selling mobile phones and car electronics. His growing interest in cars was well timed, coinciding with the 90’s boom in performance tuning and modifications across the UK. Gary began to diversify the business to meet demand, building up a portfolio of shops around Essex and forging strategic partnerships within the industry.
Several years later Gary was head hunted by a vehicle enhancements operation to work in the U.S.A. He took the decision to wind up and sell his beloved business and he and his wife moved to Florida. The venture didn’t last however, and after several years the couple returned to the UK and their family.
“I’d fallen out of love with the industry and felt I needed a change of career”, Gary says.
“We moved to a new area of the country [Lancashire] where some friends were living and set up our lives again”.
Before long, his passion for cars and restoration had resumed. Gary bought a couple of classic cars to restore in his spare time. This was a turning point in his career and in 2017 Gary decided to once again return to the industry that he loved.
“I was leaving a well-paid job that I enjoyed and was starting again from scratch. It was the hardest decision I’ve even made. I asked myself if I should be doing this at fifty but something spurred me on.”
“I knew I loved cars. I knew I loved talking to people about cars. I knew I loved working on cars and taking a blank canvas; something that needs some real care and attention and turning it back into someone’s dream car.”
Gary found a business premises in Lancashire and set up his new venture, ‘Klassic Toyz’ to offer a professional classic car restoration service. Whilst working on customers cars, Gary came across a gap in the market.
He says, “I noticed a lack of readily available products for cleaning classic vehicles. The products used on modern cars are too abrasive for classics and can easily damage the paintwork. I was finding it difficult to source the right products, so I decided to create my own.
“I spoke to specialist chemical companies, undertook some research and formed a range of specialist cleaning products that would be safe and eco-friendly for both old and new cars. Over the past three years I’ve expanded the range and I now sell 27 unique products under the brand, Klassic Kleen.”
The growth in the business necessitated a move to a larger premises that could house a purpose-designed detailing studio and extra workshop space. After a brief search, Gary came across a new unit at Preesall Over Wyre. In October 2019, he began a full refurbishment and refit of the new premises, with a grand opening planned for March 2020.
“To my complete dismay, the government announced the lockdown one week before our opening. We contacted all our clients, car clubs, industry contacts and the friends that we’d invited, to tell them that the opening event wouldn’t be going ahead. In the end, we held just a small gathering. I took it all personally and spent two weeks wallowing and feeling really down.”
Like many other business owners, when the pandemic struck Gary was left feeling unsettled and unsure about what the future would hold for his business. Then he had a lightbulb moment.
“Suddenly I realised that I was in exactly the same position as all my competitors and that the coronavirus pandemic was going to level the playing field somewhat. Now was the time to elevate the business, introduce new concepts and drive brand awareness. I applied for available government help and received a grant which I could use to update the business branding. I had a clear vision of how I wanted the brand to look and be perceived, but I needed some advice.”
“I’d met Grahame [Grahame Latus of Enterprise Answers] two years previous at a business event and we’d spoken at length about the business. He’d left me his details and offered his help should I need it in the future. I made the call and we set up a meeting. I discussed my ideas with Grahame and he gave me the reassurance and support to progress them.”
After a successful rebrand, Gary began to pursue his other concepts for the business, saying, “I wanted the business to offer something different and unique. I knew that I liked talking to people about cars, and spending time discussing my work with customers. I’d always liked the idea of giving back to the community and I was interested in developing a concept for an educational programme that I could offer to disadvantaged youngsters within the local community.”
“I had an idea of creating a second floor in the studio where customers could comfortably wait whilst their car was worked on or where car enthusiasts could meet up and chat. This would also be the perfect space and facility to hold talks and educational workshops.”
“I knew I would need some investment to achieve my dream, so in November I got back in contact with Enterprise Answers. Having an already-established relationship with Grahame and the team was a huge benefit. We talked through my ideas and the loan application process and then they arranged the loan. The whole process was made easy because they were so approachable, it wasn’t like the corporate transactions that you would have with a bank.”
As an independent, not-for-profit lender, Enterprise Answers are able to offer a different service from banks and traditional lending organisations. Their approach offers appropriate lending alongside a knowledgeable relationship-based service, providing long-term support to businesses in order to create tangible value and a positive impact.
Grahame Latus of Enterprise Answers said, “It has been a pleasure for us engaging with Gary and providing the assistance required to enable him to realise his creativity & unleash his potential.
“We have nurtured him along the way, helping him to pull his business proposition together and the loan we have provided has enabled an amazing transformation of his business unit, which opens the door to so many other opportunities for his business. The future for Klassic Toyz is as bright as the cars he has finished working on!”
“This is a great example of our client engagement where we have listened, understood and delivered.”
Speaking about the project, Gary says “Creating the new first floor coffee lounge facility, which we’ve named The Pit Stop Lounge, has been the single biggest achievement with the business to date; not just because it’s our unique concept but also because it brings together those important elements of the business; community, passion, learning and education.”
To find out more about Klassic Toyz/ Klassic Kleen, visit www.klassictoyz.co.uk