College Senior In Cleaning Up with Lucrative Car Detailing Side Hustle

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Blame it on the Dawgs.

University of Georgia senior Jack TerHaar is a massive Bulldogs fan. But when working at bars in Athens, Georgia, started cutting into his game-watching time, he knew he was ready for something else. The late nights didn’t help either.

“I didn’t want to be working until four in the morning,” he said. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset where I felt I could do more with my time.”

TerHaar, a Louisiana native, started researching other options. Car detailing (i.e., thoroughly washing and cleaning cars) struck him as a potentially lucrative and flexible side hustle with little overhead. His instincts were spot-on—or spot-free.

After a few initial missteps and some help from the entrepreneurial mentorship program at his school, TerHaar built Detail Dawgs into a $ 7,000-a-month business, donating some of this revenue to charity. He hopes to expand into other college towns after he graduates.

Here’s how he did it.

Related: She Started Her Side Hustle to Solve a Serious Problem With Outdoor Furniture. It Blew Past Her Full-Time Job’s Income — to $66,000 a Month.

Getting help from mentors

After TerHaar set his sights on car detailing, he gathered information by talking to a guy in his hometown who had a successful detailing business and watching a ton of YouTube videos to figure out what materials he needed.

He detailed some of his friends’ cars and posted his work on Instagram. Business was good, but it wasn’t enough to pay off his tuition. Coming from a strong family tradition in entrepreneurship (both his mom and dad started their businesses), TerHaar enrolled in a 4-week entrepreneurial accelerator program at UGA.

“My professors really pushed me,” he recalls. “They were like, ‘We wanna see you reach out to X number of people, and we wanna see you get X number of jobs this week.’ I went from doing five or six jobs a month to doing 12 jobs in that last week. “

Breaking out of his comfort zone

His professors encouraged him to shoot for a 2% conversion rate, ideally contacting 1000 potential clients weekly. That meant he needed to reach beyond his friend zone and the greater UGA campus.

“How many college kids can pay $180 to wash their car? So, I went to grocery stores and parking lots and handed out business cards. I also went to real estate and law offices,” TerHaar says.

At first, he was hesitant to approach “random strangers.” But he realized that “to find out who your customer is, you have to become uncomfortable talking to people about your business,” he says.

With coaching from his professors, he also tested out Google Ads, pushing potential customers to his website. Eventually, he ranked number one in his area for car detailing.

Business began to boom to around 15 jobs a week, requiring him to hire an additional three other guys. He charges $180 for sedans and $210 for SUVs and trucks, earning around $7,000 monthly.

TerHaar admits his team could be detailing more cars, but they still must balance their school work. This is a side hustle, after all.

Photo by Detail Dawgs

Giving back

Not all of their profits are going into their pockets. In September, TerHaar donated a portion of Detail Dawgs’ revenue to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. TerHaar’s older sister Abby has Alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

“My sister’s my only sibling, and she’s somebody who I look up to a lot. I felt that a super positive way to support her was to donate some money to help raise awareness.”

Again, this was a lesson TerHaar learned from his parents. When he was a kid, they ran a golf tournament and a 5K race for five years, raising more than $250,000 for the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Photo courtesy of Jack TerHaar.

Learning on the job

TerHaar began his business by driving cars to the nearby coin-operated carwash, but he went mobile when that didn’t scale. Now, he and his crew show up in his 4-Runner with a hose, Shop-Vacs, and whole lot of chemicals, including tire cleaners, interior cleaners, leather conditioners, and stain removers. He learned early on that a drill brush is indispensable for quick cleaning.

He also learned that car detailing can be dirty business.

“This one guy had any type of McDonald’s food you could think of in his car,” TerHaar says. “He had Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets in there. That was when we invited in gloves.”

The future of the business

TerHaar hopes Detail Dawgs gets so big that he can focus less of his time on the detailing and more on the scaling details.

“Hopefully, I won’t have to be on cars anymore, and I can run the business from my office, managing it and acquiring customers.”

He is considering expanding the business after college. “If I decide to pursue it full-time and scale it to other college towns, I think it’ll be a six-figure business.”

But for now, TerHarr’s happy just being in control of his financial destiny and not having to miss any more Bulldogs games.





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