There is no sure-fire, foolproof path to starting a new business. Eric Wourms knows that. He started up Rides, LLC in June 2013, a one-stop shop for auto accessories. This is his second foray into the auto accessories business after working at Car Tunes and Alarms, another former Grand Rapids-based car accessories company for 14 years.
“I don’t like to sit still,” explained Eric. “We strive to create happy customers since they seem to be the best advertising we can buy.”
Rides, LLC provides a wide range of truck and auto accessories: remote starters; spray-on truck-bed liners; window tinting; running boards and mud flaps; and interlock service installation.
“We are one of the larger service centers in the region for ignition interlock services,” said Eric. “These are devices installed in vehicles driven by people who have a court-mandated reason to monitor their alcohol consumption. We have roughly 70 clients among the various local units of government in northern Minnesota.”
After 14 years at Car Tunes and Alarms, Eric worked in Clusiau’s Chrysler/Dodge’s accessories department in Grand Rapids for three years. When he started his business, he hired two people, including a bookkeeper, and Rides, LLC has since grown to nine people.
“We have a great crew here,” Eric continued. “Two of these fellows have 30 years of experience, and they help us make sure our satisfied customers tell their friends and neighbors about the quality of our work.”
Eric came to Grand Rapids State Bank to help finance the start-up of his business in 2013. He now works with business banker Nate Lloyd. “Grand Rapids State Bank worked with me in refining my business plan for about six months before we closed a financing package,” said Eric. “This process was helpful and prepared me going forward. Thanks to better-than-expected results, I’ve been able to pay down my debt considerably and haven’t had to refinance. Things have been going well.”
Like many other businesses in the area, Eric’s business is affected by the fate of the regional economy. Just as Rides picked up a large number of customers who had worked in the North Dakota oil fields, as the pace of that economy slows somewhat, his business is affected, too. However, Eric’s strategy has been to diversify his services and products to hedge against some of that impact.
“We have funded the remodeling of a storage facility in Cohasset to accommodate our spray-one,” said Eric. “This 40’ x 60’ building on three acres has taken some of the pressure off this location. We love it here on Highway 2, and this is where we began (at the former Rapids Towing location), but we’re limited on space for expansion. “
Eric was born and raised in Cohasset. After graduating from high school in Grand Rapids he attended Itasca Community College for two years. Eric’s wife, Veronica, is a civil engineer employed by Barr Engineering; she and Eric were married last September. She has not been tempted to help manage the business.
“There is nothing like real-life experience to teach you what you didn’t know,” said Eric, “but hopefully I’ll be able to take enough advice along the way to avoid some common management pitfalls that businesses encounter. I’ve appreciated working with Ian Carlstrom at the Northeast Entrepreneur Fund; he’s been a very good resource and has helped with setting business goals.”
Eric has been amazed at the amount of taxes he’s required to pay, but he’s proud that his business has been able to generate enough revenue to pay those taxes and support the jobs his small business created.
Rides, LLC has also benefited from being involved with events like the Quadna Mountain Mud Nationals and Lifted Trucks Minnesota. Owners of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) have gathered in Hill City in June the past three years to demonstrate their prowess over mud. Rides, LLC joins dozens of other vendors from the industry to showcase latest products and share valuable knowledge. This network of suppliers and off-road enthusiasts have helped Rides, LLC grow its reputation.
“There has definitely been a learning curve to this business, but I’ve enjoyed it,” Eric concluded.