How I Started a Motorsport
and Car Designs Wall Print Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Spencer Vliegen and I recently launched my new venture, Standing Start Co. I’m super happy to be here on Founder Facts along with so many other motivated entrepreneurs and to share my story. Standing Start offers original race art (motorsport and car designs) on high-quality maple wood or thin metal wall prints. Our focus is minimal race track art with bold colour ways and designs. I have also recently started offering a commission program to have your car illustrated with your favourite race track.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I come from a “solopreneur” background, starting my first business at the end of college in 2008. With a fresh International Business degree, I decided to start my own eCommerce business that sold aftermarket performance car parts.
This was before Shopify and other eCommerce platforms, so it was kind of a large undertaking at the time with no technical background. The business proved to be successful after many long nights building and promoting the web sites and led to an acquisition in 2015. Since then, I’ve been acting as acting manager for the new owners.
I came up with Standing Start Co. as I realised that one of the main parts I enjoyed from my eCommerce business was the graphic side of things – the creative marketing side. I thought, how can I combine a love for graphic design with my life long passion for cars? I wanted a higher end finish so I decided to launch the business with high-quality wood and thin metal prints of my original artwork.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
One of the main hurdles I faced when launching was how to market and advertise the business (and to be honest, I think I’ll forever be challenged with!). I have never had huge success with digital marketing techniques like social media advertising and feel that this route may be the key to success, so I have a lot of learning to do before wasting a ton of money on ads.
Finding a supplier to make our high-end prints was also a bit of a challenge as a majority of manufacturers only deal with posters and canvas prints. I wanted something to differentiate the business so I wanted to make sure our supplier/printer met our expectations for quality.
Who is your target market?
Luckily, I had some experience working with car nerds on my last business, so I know the customer type already. The main difference between my last market demographic and this one would probably be the “maturity” of the customer – one that most likely is a homeowner.
I’m attuned to listening to our customers and researching analytics for figuring out where our products really resonate. It’s one thing to have a target market – the perfect customer – and one thing to have customers that actually dig your product!
The perfect customer for Standing Start would be a 35+ year old male that has loved cars, design, and architecture their whole life that needs some art in their classic car garage. Jay Leno, I’m looking at you! In reality, I see this business being a big gifting business, so perhaps a partner of the car guy would be the ACTUAL perfect customer 😉
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
I’ve been using social media with focus on Instagram so far, but we are looking forward to testing out advertising campaigns on that platform.
Another unconventional method I am looking to test is bringing a booth of our prints to car shows and events. Having been around car culture for decades, an obvious gathering point of car enthusiasts are car shows and race events. If I can capitalise on this, then I think we may have another good channel of marketing.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
The business is still early in its age, but I’m planning on using a few techniques for retaining customers.
Retargeting is an approach that I’ve used with good success, so retarget your customers on social media with ads to keep the conversation going. Organic social media also helps with this approach. A mailing list is also super important to keep active as a little reminder to your customer that you are still around and “hey, here’s something new that you might like!”
A less taken path on customer relationship/retainment that I love is sending out handwritten notes as a thank you. A simple note, 2-3 sentences, with your signature can leave a huge impression to the customer. Bonus points if you include some stickers and/or a coupon for future encouragement to purchase.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Seeing as it’s only me, the only challenge is keeping myself accountable for the goals I set! I’m planning on hiring some freelancers and virtual assistants once the business needs, so that will be great to provide an income for fellow solopreneurs.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
Launching a business in 2020 has never been easier!
I use Shopify to host the Standing Start Co. store. For scheduling social posts, I like to use Buffer. I’m also a big fan of Stripe for taking in-person payments. I’ve also been using an old version of Quickbooks for accounting.
The tool I use most if probably the Adobe Suite of products with Illustrator being the #1 software open on my PC. I actually just built a PC so it’s a dream using modern technology and having everything work so well! I can’t imagine designing hundreds of art pieces on my 2011 Macbook Pro, it would take forever.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
I’ve learned the value of focus and determination is the most important aspect of being successful in your venture. As entrepreneurs, it’s way too easy to be distracted by all the ideas that come to your mind. I’m a victim of this often running too many ideas at once.
Your support group is also critical to your success. I’ve been lucky to have an inspiring and supportive group around me, including my parents and my wife. If you don’t have like-minded entrepreneur mindset friends, then podcasts and online communities can fill this void.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur definitely has its ups and downs, but the satisfaction of seeing someone really see your vision through buying your product is one of the best feelings in life.
I love the forever uphill fight that you start when deciding to start a business. There are incremental wins along the way that are decided by you, the entrepreneur, that feels just so good when you hit those goals. I remember seeing my first sale come through for my first business in 2009 – I think I stared at the email for longer than I should have!
The community of entrepreneurs is amazing and supportive. I really like that you can forge your own path as an entrepreneur and find friends and support from people in your same position. It’s an awesome thing to identify with.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I’ve dealt with the lonely side of it for sure. Bouncing around from a few different co-working spaces has helped that in addition to a good gym/workout routine.
However at the end of the day, you are working by yourself or in a very small team (at the start), and this is something that you should definitely be aware of if you are considering starting your own business.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Richard Branson has been an inspiration to me since a young age, so I read anything he puts out. I really love his story starting a business as a teenager and growing it into the multi-billion dollar business that Virgin is today. I feel that his compassion and ethics of “doing business for good” is something every entrepreneur should identify with.
Another source of inspiration comes from the podcast How I Built This hosted by NPR’s Guy Raz. Hearing stories so candidly spoken by humble founders is very grounding.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
Having a staff, remote or in person, is a huge goal for this business. I’ve always been a lone wolf in business and really want to work with people that share a common map. I’d also love to collaborate with personal favourite motorsports brands of mine to satisfy the car junkie in me.
For revenue goals, I’d obviously love the business to be super successful and – most important – scalable. Having a dedicated warehouse/design workshop would be amazing.
One of my main goals in life is to inspire people by being living proof that being an entrepreneur and living on your own terms can be done. I’ve worked for myself over 10 years with highs and lows, but man, what a journey!