Urban Reifen - Kenny & Twinson
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.
K: Born and raised in Ottawa, a recent graduate from Algonquin College in e-Supply Chain Management. While studying there, I worked at a company called GasTOPS. At some point, nearing graduation, my now business partner Twinson told me he wanted to start his own tire shop and asked if I was in. I thought about it, looked at what future I might have at this company, I packed up and jumped onboard. By March, we were brainstorming ideas and looking for the ideal property and by May, we signed a lease on a property and started drawing our own floor plans on how to renovate and design the space. June, we took the keys to the building, did extensive renovations and by the end of August, we opened our doors to the public.
T: Hi, my name is Twinson, the name came from an old game called “Little Big Adventure”. Yes, I am a little bit of a nerd. I grew up around cars in Hong Kong and came to Canada when I was 14. Ever since I got my first car, I actively worked on fixing it and making it look better, kind of like some people with their shoes, right? I simply love a pair of good looking shoes for my car. I got started all because of my passion for cars and I have extensive knowledge on tires and wheels, so why not go ahead?
Did you always know you wanted to open your own business one day?
K: Yes, I always knew I wanted to open my own business one day. The day came sooner than expected and my girlfriend as well as my family has been very supportive with my decision since.
T: Honestly, not really. I wanted to live a simple lifestyle with a tiny little house in the middle of nowhere where no one is around me. But it’s kind of the same now that I live in Ottawa, there’s no one around me after 6pm.
What is something you’ve learned since beginning the process of opening your shop?
K: It’s tough, it’s exhausting, and most of the time, it’s extremely stressful. But that aside, when the customer walks away happy or when the shop is busy, I feel slightly at ease. But that comfortable feeling is short-lived until I can stabilize the business and keep a constant flow of traffic coming in and out everyday. Overhead, if not carefully monitored, will eat the business, that we learned and since noticing that, we’ve been working to reduce overhead to ensure the survival of our business.
T: How much work you put in it is how much results you will get. Sometimes you have to put in more time to make things happen. Always set a deadline. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Also, be nice to everyone. :)
Do you have any advice for new entrepreneurs just getting started?
K: Don’t be naive and consider all the advice/suggestions you can get from people in the same industry before jumping in. Do not only consider the positive side of the business, consider the negative side as well.
T: It may sound a bit cliché, “yolo” if you think you have a great idea, make it happen. We don’t know what tomorrow brings us, so don’t make excuses to stop yourself. And learn to take criticism and make good use of it.
Your tagline is ‘Drinks - Tires - Wheels’ - tell us a bit about your brand.
K: The idea was to offer traditional beverages akin to the origins of our ethnic culture (Hong Kong). While customers get their vehicle serviced, they can enjoy a serene café-like atmosphere with a beverage of their choice while they wait.
T: Drinks, tires & wheels. The concept started off from working at many dirty garages in my past and I worked my way up to luxury car dealerships. The biggest complaint I’ve received was “your place is very dirty.” Over time, I try to come up with ideas on how people can enjoy their visit at a garage and be happy to get their car serviced. Then BAM! The idea came to make a café-like atmosphere shop where people don’t realize they are in a garage.
What makes your shop different than a dealership or garage?
K: Our shop is enjoyable to sit in. Not only is it clean, it is also brightly lit and welcoming. We always try to go the extra mile in finding what the customer wants or to meet their set budgets.
T: I’ve worked at many dealerships in the past such as Porsche, Jaguar, Subaru, and Honda. Coming from a dealership technician background, our service is just as professional as the dealership. But what you get is the personalized customer service. I treat all my customers like a friend of mine and share my passion on cars and my love for food. I don’t think most shops will tell you where to get the best Pho in Ottawa ;)
What’s it like being a part of the Ottawa small business network?
K: It’s nice to connect with business owners to learn how they got to where they are today and what made them get into it in the first place.
T: Ottawa is a small city compared to where I came from, Calgary. A lot of businesses are happy to help each other. I really do hope people give small businesses more chances to help the Ottawa businesses grow.
When you’re not working in the shop, what is your favourite Ottawa spot to go relax and unwind?
K: My Home. But only on the days when I can truly unwind, oftentimes, work comes home with me. When the opportunity arises to enjoy a few hours work-free, accompanied with my amazing partner, Ollie and eat a good meal, is all I need.
T: I love playing drums and I am constantly seeking musicians in Ottawa to collaborate with or I look for live music/bands on the weekend to checkout. Outside of work, I try to live like a Rockstar one day at a time.
Pineapple on pizza: yay or nay?
K: Yay, fruits on pizza is perfectly fine, I’ve had weirder and Pineapple is pretty normal in my books.
T: Pineapple on pizza?? @#$% yes, but I prefer putting ham, tomato sauce and pizza dough on my pineapple.