There are numerous interesting and young entrepreneurs in Oxford County, but not many can say they have opened their own garage at the age of 28.
Derek Webb has been working on engines since he was just 14 years old and has turned that passion into Webb Motors, a powersports, automotive, and small engine repair shop located in the village of Drumbo, a small town in Blandford-Blenheim Township.
Derek says he knew a career change was in the cards. “I’d been working on highway tractors for about seven years as a licensed diesel mechanic, and it was just time. I always knew in the back of my mind I wanted to branch out, go out on my own, and start my own shop. I think a lot of people think that in the back of their minds, but it’s not easy to do. To be able to pull it off is very exciting.”
Opening a garage requires a great deal of tools and equipment, which in turn means a sizeable monetary investment, which Derek says can deter a lot of people. “Being a mechanic in the industry for a certain number of years means that you do get the tools you need. You could spend 30 to 50 thousand dollars so at least I had that. But to invest in a property and renovate a shop is another great expense and you still need to pay the bills at home.”
Derek is a one-man show for now, but he does have bigger plans down the road. “I want to tread carefully, and I want to build a customer base and become comfortable with that. The goal is to expand, get a large commercial property with multiple bays and see where it goes.” He adds the market right now is aggressive and makes it difficult to take that next step. “Right now, I’m bursting at the seams, and I’m working with what I’ve got to keep my feet on the ground. I am hoping this market calms down so I can afford the commercial property that I need to keep growing.”
For most people, finding a reliable garage can be a difficult undertaking. Derek understands what people are looking for. “People want an open, honest, good mechanic. There are so many things that need to be fixed and one of the guarantees in life is that things are going to break so it is job security for me.”
Derek specializes in automotive, powersports, small engine repair, service, and seasonal maintenance and he says there is one area of his business that he relies heavily on. “I would say the busiest part of my business is the powersports section which is a step above the small engine repairs. Very few small engine mechanics work on dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, and snowmobiles. That’s probably 90 percent of my business.”
The repair business does need to change and pivot as new technologies are used in vehicles. Derek says the equipment is costly and there is no guarantee how long it will last. “I’ve managed to purchase a scan tool that does everything I need it to now but give it five years and that expensive tool is probably going to be obsolete. Maybe not even that long.”
The federal and provincial governments are currently investing big dollars into the manufacturing of electric vehicles. Derek says that while he hasn’t worked on an electric vehicle yet, he can foresee expanding his business to include them. “In terms of the mechanics, an electric car is a giant computer with a battery and some motors, but the suspension and steering components would be relatively the same as gas or diesel-powered vehicle. I think it will be a while before electric cars dominate the industry, but eventually we’ll see the impact on both the economy and the planet. Regardless, things are going to break no matter what they are, and I’m going to be there to fix them.”
For more information, visit Webb Motors at https://webbmotors.ca/.