This story was corrected at 10 a.m. July 7. The explanation follows the story.
When Joe Gregory, 38, wanted his first car as a teen, his father made him a deal.
“He told me he would buy me a car with the caveat that I would learn to do any repairs myself and never take it to a shop,” he said. “I agreed and he got me a 1986 Nissan 300ZX. Wouldn’t you know, the clutch went out on it right after I got it.”
Growing up in Stuart, Va., Gregory said that under his father’s tutelage he soon learned how to fix just about any automotive issue. “It’s pretty common in southern Virginia for people to learn how to fix their own cars,” he said.
Years later, after Gregory finished college and moved up to Fairfax, he found that wasn’t really the case in Northern Virginia.
“I have a degree in marketing from Virginia Tech and I moved up here to work as a recruiter in the government IT field,” he said. “But I was on the ground floor as an entry-level recruiter and needed to do something else to make ends meet.” One day Gregory said he overheard a co-worker talking about getting her brakes fixed at a local shop. “I overheard her say she would be charged $850,” he said. “I offered to fix them for considerably less and she agreed. I fixed them and she handed me a check.”
After that, Gregory said he realized that as an ASE certified brake technician, he could potentially make good money doing the same thing for others in Northern Virginia.
“Up here, many people are busy and can’t fix their own cars and they don’t really have time to sit in a mechanic’s garage for hours to get brake repair services done. Many also don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of dropping off a car, arranging rides and being without a vehicle for a day or more to get their car fixed or serviced. Because of that, many people put off brake repair until their car has serious brake problems. I figured I could go to them, wherever they were, and fix their brakes for them on the spot.”
Gregory began advertising his services on Craigslist, initially saying he would work for tips.
“I still worked as a recruiter, coming to work in a suit and tie, but I brought a gym bag with me that had my brake repair uniform inside. At lunchtime and any other time I could, I would go out and fix brakes.”
Gregory said he worked out of the trunk of his car, and after a while through word of mouth, business really picked up. “I realized at some point that I was bringing in almost $1,200 per month in cash from brake repairs,” he said.
In April, 2012, Gregory took a leap of faith and started fixing brakes full time, starting up his mobile brake-repair company, The Brake Squad.
“I now have a professional van with custom equipment and can service brake issues where people work, at their home, wherever they are,” he said. “Without the overhead of having to maintain a garage I can offer competitive rates often 40 to 50 percent less than dealerships, and if they want, they can watch me make the repair.”
Last month, Gregory’s wife Lisa quit her job in IT leadership training to help her husband run the business. “Last year our revenues doubled and this year they are set to double again,” she said.
“Business is so good; we are looking to hire another ASE certified brake technician fulltime.”
Gregory said his father is very proud of him.
“I just spoke to him the other day and he was telling me that I have come a long way from the old days as a kid when I would hand him tools under his car while he fixed it,” he said.
Correction: Before going full-time, Joe Gregory was making about $1,200 per month fixing brakes.