Pee Dee Entrepreneur Starts Mobile Oil Change, Tire Service

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Last spring, Tom Fluharty and his wife, Leighan, were pondering career changes.

With two young children, they sought a more flexible schedule so that one or both of them could spend more time with the kids. They looked at maybe moving to Charlotte or Myrtle Beach for different opportunities, but nothing really jumped out.

“Unfortunately, drinking beer on the beach is not in the classifieds much,” he joked.

He wanted to do something he enjoyed and always felt working on cars and spending time with friends was time well spent. Although he felt like “the wheels kept spinning,” months of research helped him come up with a business plan, he said.

And he realized that spinning wheels were literally part of the solution.

As the proprietor of Pee Dee Mobile Oil, Fluharty wants to bring what can be a time-consuming endeavor right to your home or job. From oil changes to tire rotations, air filter or battery replacements and general basic car maintenance, the business puts an emphasis on convenience.

“My big thing is -- I’m selling you convenience and getting you your time back,” he said.

Taking the leap

Fluharty was born and raised in North Carolina and earned degrees from North Carolina State in wood products and business management. After school, he entered the woodworking industry and made kitchen cabinets for Marsh Furniture in High Point, N.C.

He was influenced to get into the industry because his stepmother, Denise, earned a wood products degree from N.C. State and his father, Mike, worked in maintenance for Georgia Pacific while also operating a “porches and decks home-repair-type business on the side and I always helped him with that,” he said.

“I like to see a finished product,” he said, and he likes working with his hands.

About seven years ago, the Fluhartys transferred to the Pee Dee to work for Marsh Lumber in Pamplico, where solid wood parts are made before being shipped to High Point for staining and assembly and final sale to the customer.

Working as a process engineer for Marsh was rewarding, he said, but as he shifted more to a managerial role, he found it “wasn’t bad, but wasn’t what I loved to do.”

So he and his wife -- who is a senior process engineer at Mohawk in Bennettsville – started researching different small businesses to see what was out there and where there might be a need. And they wanted to balance that with being able to spend time with daughter Kara, 7, and son Chase, 9.

“I wanted something where I could control my schedule because they’re playing sports and I coach their teams. They play basketball, baseball and I’m involved with that. I’m my daughter’s ‘homeroom mom’ and having the flexible schedule allows me to be with them during the day, because they’re only young once,” he said.

A possible career change wasn’t in the cards, he said, so his line of thinking became “what can I do that I really enjoy and get paid for?” Though he’s worked on cars, the likely overhead costs steered him elsewhere and he realized a mobile car care service might be the ticket. They didn’t see one in the area.

“Then we took the leap,” he said.

Busier and busier

Insurance, compliance with Department of Health and Environmental Control regulations and ensuring his business would be cost-effective were initial concerns that were soon allayed, but he also wanted feedback.

“Would this be a business that would be accepted and would do well?,” he said. “Just getting people’s opinions on it.”

Like most new businesses, he started out slow while getting his name out. Social media have spread the word, and it brings a smile to his face when people post photos on Facebook to explain the ease of an oil change.

“We’re slowing building our clientele and getting busier and busier and busier,” he said.

A customized and enclosed trailer is outfitted with an extensive array of supplies, and Fluharty continues to refine his technique and improve efficiency. A routine oil change typically takes about 40 minutes, he said, and pricing is based upon what type of oil and how many quarts are needed.

So far, no regrets.

“Never thought I was the one that was brave enough to take that leap,” he said, chuckling. “It’s a leap of faith. It was scary but it’s been well worth it. It was definitely worth taking a shot at.”

Launching a business requires an active approach, he said, and he’s now looking to tap into servicing commercial fleets as the business is getting buzz.

“You can’t be passive. You’ve got to get out there and go talk to people,” he said.

For more information, call Fluharty at 843-250-9291 or check out www.peedeemobileoil.com.

This article originally appeared on scnow.com

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