Elevator Pitch: Fit My Car

Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we're talking with James Tinsley, director of Fit My Car.

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In 128 words or less, explain your business idea.

Fit My Car is here to help you Protect, Enhance and Drive your car. As an online retailer of aftermarket automotive accessories, we specialise in vehicle specific fitment products. We provide a fitment guarantee that our products are designed especially to fit your particular car.

As an alternative to dealer supplied products, we provide better value for money and often a better quality product. Not just a supplier of car mats, although we do have over 1000 patterns on hand and can supply over 95% off all vehicles on the road today. Customers can even customise their carpet floor mats, selecting carpet types, trims, colours and embroidery. We also currently supply boot liners, dash mats, plastics and an ever-expanding range of accessories.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?

We are currently focusing on two things, increasing our product offering and gearing up to launch into the US market. Increasing our product range with more options to customise products ordered online is opening us up to new demographics as well as providing customers another reason to become repeat customers. As well as manufacturing our own products in house we are also bringing on new suppliers of relevant product ranges.

The US market is 15 times greater than Australia and New Zealand where we already trade. We are currently streamlining processes and back end systems as well as gearing up to have a solid offering when we launch in the US later this year. We want to have a solid offering, but will target key physically locations in the US and expand as we learn the differences in their market.

We have always been cash flow positive and profitable, however recently we took on some outside investment to help speed up the growth and be able to upgrade our manufacturing capability here in Australia.

What's the biggest challenge facing your business?

At the moment our biggest challenge is technology. Making sure all our system work together and can scale with the business. We manufacture, sell wholesale, sell retail and online as well as export. This creates some extra challenges in making sure all our channels and systems are aligned. Once we overcome this we our next challenge will be acquiring reducing the acquisition cost of new customers.

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?

Traditionally players this category have been competing purely on volume, it was about how large and complex your catalogue was, then replicating this into a website. This has meant a lot of players in the Automotive Accessory niche didn’t have a great user experience online. We are focusing from the outside in, making sure when an order comes through all our systems are automated and we deliver customer experience of that of other online industries. We are still spending a lot of time refining our front end user experience right now, simplifying the search and presentation of products online. This is where we are building a point of difference, so watch this space.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

A few years ago we switched to Xero and I think it was one of the best things I have ever done. It significantly reduced our bookkeeping and accounting costs and gave us so much more control over our financial data. Since then we have continued to integrate our systems around Xero. Having up to date real time data on where you sit financially is a huge advantage to running blind.

What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

Focus is the key to business success. I was given this piece of advice not long after I had already proven it without even realising.

I was running an online accessories business on the side whilst working full time as an engineer, later I was running a retail franchise still while running multiple online retail sites on the side. I decided one day to focus all my attention back on the one project that was already working without my full attention and within 3 months I had doubled revenue without increasing any costs, and we have continued to grow rapidly ever since.

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