Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in general services but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Manolo Alvarez, Owner of Cassette Deck Automotive, located in Dallas, TX, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Cassette Deck Automotive was formed from a passion. A passion for simpler times, simpler cars, and simpler services. What began as a personal hobby, working on and restoring old 80s Volkswagen, Ford, and Volvo cars, burgeoned into a desire to help others with similar-aged cars keep them on the road.

Tell us about yourself

I've been working on 80s-era cars (and newer cars as well) for over a decade. It started as a hobby that I found myself getting engulfed in, then eventually became completely immersed in the older German car community. As I began to work on more and different cars, friends took notice that I was a resource to them for advice or actual car work. In between my undergraduate and graduate studies, I didn't think small business was possible, but after taking an entrepreneurship course for my MBA, I figured, "Why not take the leap?"

What truly motivates me is twofold. The first is the joy of helping older cars continue to run. Though styling and design are still done today by passionate people, it feels like many cars are now cookie-cutter copy-cats of each other. In older times, cars were designed more so in a one-off fashion to push the envelope and experiment with consumer tastes. More things were done by hand and with greater care. There was a human element to it all. Those are the cars I wish to save. The second motivator is helping my clients save money and gain quality in service as compared to volume shop mechanics that are more concerned with finishing quickly to increase revenues as opposed to finishing well to ensure longevity.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Getting started was by far my biggest accomplishment! Cassette Deck has been an idea for years in the making, and to see it finally come to life is fantastic. Second to that, I think when I got my first referral client, who was not someone I directly knew but was a friend of a previous client, it was another great accomplishment. It meant this could truly be a viable model if done correctly. In other words, I was in business; this was no longer an idea!

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Deciding your personal line and long-term goal is what I believe to be one of the hardest things about starting your own business. Starting out with an idea of what exactly you want to do and how far you want to take it is crucial. Having two other great jobs (a full-time position and a part-time position), I founded Cassette Deck Automotive to essentially do something I had thought about doing for a while. I didn't want to wake up one day 30 years from now and not have at least tried. With that in mind, I also founded CDA knowing that the goal was not to scale it and become a national brand with tons of employees. I love what I do. It's something I get hired to do every once in a while, I help out clients (who are at this point just friends or friends of friends), save money and get great quality maintenance service, and I'm following through with an idea I've always had. I'm happy with this scale. I'd be happy if it stays this small forever, and I'll still be happy if I have to close it tomorrow. Being comfortable with a decision of where you want to take the business is key.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Getting smart about all facets of business is the #1 tip! I was lucky that I founded my business right after my MBA, so tenants of finance, accounting, operations, and marketing were all fresh in my mind. One of the craziest things you'll realize when starting, running, and growing a business is that you have to do ALL of the things. You'll have to be the salesperson and the accountant, the investor, the social media manager, and the person actually doing the work. It's a crash course MBA in practice.
  2. The next tip is related to my previous point about deciding early on what you're doing, who you're doing it for, and where you want to take the business. It takes mental pressure off you if you've already brainstormed these ideas, as you won't be taken for a ride or allowed to spiral into places you didn't originally plan on.
  3. Third, have fun with it. Starting a business is a proud accomplishment that many aspire to but never do. Take pride in the fact that you're one of the few who actually took the leap, whether part-time or full-time.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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