For Javier Vargas, working on cars is second nature. “I actually grew up in a family-owned body shop,” Vargas said. “All of my family is in this business, and they all own collision centers. I’ve been running around them since I was a kid.”
Born and raised in San Diego, California, Vargas spent childhood summers working with his father and uncles learning the ins and outs of the trade. As he grew older, Vargas used these skills to pursue a career in automotive repair. And after more than 25 years of working in the industry, he can now say he is the proud owner of his own small business: ProColor Collision Escondido.
Driven toward a goal
During his career, Vargas has worked for both independent- and corporate-owned shops, which has given him a unique perspective on the industry. And it was his experience working for one small business in particular that helped prepare him for his current venture.
In five years at the business working as a general manager, Vargas helped the owner expand from two locations to six. Along the way, he learned about obtaining permits, scouting new locations, staffing, and more.
In 2020, Vargas was ready for something new and began working for ProColor Collision – a network of body shops and collision repairers with about 20 locations in the U.S.
ProColor Collision provides franchise opportunities, and Vargas oversees the opening of new locations and works with owners to ensure operations are running efficiently and to help navigate challenges.
With the combination of technical skills and experience helping small business owners open new locations, it seemed the stars had aligned for Vargas to fulfill the dream of owning his own repair shop. And after years of searching for the right location, Vargas and his business partners eventually found the perfect fit in Escondido, a city about 30 miles northeast of San Diego.
Staying the course to secure a small business loan
Vargas had the location and the franchise support to open his own ProColor Collison shop, but he still needed the capital to get started.
“We went to three or four banks that said no,” Vargas said.
“After a while you just keep hearing no, no, no, and you’re like, ‘should I give up?’ But something told me to just keep going, stay the course and eventually something will fall through.”
After trying to obtain financing from traditional lenders, Vargas was referred to CRF. In working with CRF, Vargas received an SBA 7(a) loan used to purchase equipment, make improvements to the building, and for working capital.
“I had never applied for a business loan before, so this was a whole new territory for me,” said Vargas. “CRF was there to guide and help me through it – they were wonderful through the whole process.”
Following the family footsteps
Once he had the capital, Vargas wasted no time getting to work and successfully opened ProColor Collision Escondido in May of 2023, which helped to create 10 new jobs in the community. Vargas hopes this will be the first step of a larger journey and has a goal to open more shops across San Diego County.
After learning the family business and mastering his trade, Vargas now understands what it takes to become an entrepreneur, like his relatives before him.
And when it comes to the challenges of finding financing, Vargas has a few words of encouragement for aspiring small business owners.
“It’s definitely going to teach you patience,” Vargas said. “But at the end of the day, to own your own business and say, ‘you know what, I’m a small business owner’ – that makes it all worth it.”