Going mobile — Silverdale mechanic starts mobile service and becomes personal mechanice to many

Colin Shaughnessy works in a driveway to replace head gaskets on a Toyota SUV for a client of his mobile auto repair service.  - Greg Skinner/staff photo
Colin Shaughnessy works in a driveway to replace head gaskets on a Toyota SUV for a client of his mobile auto repair service.
— image credit: Greg Skinner/staff photo

Two years ago Silverdale resident Colin Shaughnessy conducted a little business experiment to see if he could start and run a mobile auto repair service as a successful small business.

Today, On Demand Auto Repair is a mobile 24/7 auto repair shop booked weeks in advance and on the verge of expanding into a second rolling repair shop and hiring a mechanic to operate it.

One year into the bad economy, the shrinking amount of work coming into Shaughnessy’s employer’s shop got him thinking about other approaches to his working life and how he might better support his family. Being a mechanic is what Shaughnessy does. Leaving the industry he loves wasn’t part of the process.

“It’s his gift,” said Jennifer  Shaughnessy, Colin’s wife.

The idea to take the full services of a garage to the customer’s house in the way that doctors used to make house calls was not Colin Shaughnessy’s originally. The first time he’d heard of such a thing was when one pulled up to his childhood home to fix a clutch in the family Ford. He was 15.

“I never though about it again until two years ago,” he said.

Jennifer Shaughnessy said her husband came home from his job at the auto shop he was working for and pitched her the idea.

“I’ve always worked on the side,” said Colin Shaughnessy. After a few months of working evenings and weekends he built up a client list, including more than 10 fleet maintenance customers, and decided it was worth the leap to take On Demand Auto Repair into a full-time occupation.

Jennifer Shaughnessy, who handles much of the administration and sees to the books of the company, used and Facebook as marketing tools that served along side the growing word of mouth from happy customers. Most of the work comes from repeat customers at this point, said Colin Shaughnessy.

Part of his plan included the bet that in the down economy people would hang on to their cars longer and good maintenance and repairs would be needed. The other part of the bet was that customers would prefer the mobile service to the shop experience.

He says he is “100 percent” happy with the decision to go out on his own with a business. “There are stressful days,” Colin Shaughnessy admitted.

Shaughnessy said his customers do like the mobile service provided from the Grumman box truck that he’s converted in to a rolling garage and the one on one experience they get with the owner – him. He said he’s in effect become a personal mechanic to a lot of folks in Kitsap County.

Executive director of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce, Kathleen Knuckey, said there have been others in Silverdale to start up mobile small businesses in the down economy.

Once a customer of Shaughnessy’s herself,  Knuckey said the service he provides to those whose cars are broken and stranded is very useful.

Also in Kitsap County are a mobile dental hygienist and a mobile bread bakery.

Part of the business model of a mobile company can be a necessity with small businesses she said. For example, she mentioned Kitsap Errand Runner, which was started by an unemployed man who got the idea while running errands for his mother. Mobile businesses can have a lower overhead cost, she said.

“[It’s] being creative in this economy,” Knuckey said.

The only thing On Demand is missing in a lift, but Shaughnessy said there is little that can’t be done on jack stands. He fixes everything from a mid-century farm tractor just outside of Kingston to fleet cars, and like brick-and-motor auto shops, On Demand offers a 12,000 mile warranty on his work. A trained licensed and certified mechanic,  Shaughnessy said 99 percent of his jobs are complete in a single day.

A recent client of  Shaughnessy’s faced an $800 dollar repair bill to fix the heater core buried deep behind the dashboard of her Toyota T-100 pickup. She decided the repair was smarter than buying a new truck right now, Shaughnessy said.

Maintaining vehicles well makes a lot of sense if you’re going to keep them around, he said.

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