Larne car enthusiast Darren turns hobby into a thriving auto detailing business

An entrepreneur has turned his childhood passion for cars into a successful auto detailing business thanks to help from the Go For It Programme in association with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

The Go For It Programme is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.

Darren Black, a 36-year-old from Larne, launched Blacky’s Detailing Garage at Ledcom Industrial Estate in September 2021 after starting out cleaning, restoring, and finishing his own car as a hobby and then moving on to transform cars of friends and family’s to new like condition.

The car enthusiast soon built a reputation across the borough for his attention to detail and developed an extensive portfolio of customers seeking the interior and exterior of their vehicles restored to a factory finish. This rapidly expanding part-time venture allowed the senior die maintenance technician at an aluminium casting manufacturer to leave long-term employment and chase his dream of running his own full-time professional auto detailing business.

Darren Black (centre) with the Mayor of Mid an East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey and Catherine Henderson, business and marketing executive at Ledcom.

Darren explains: “The business started as a hobby as I always had a passion for cars and liked to keep my own in pristine condition and then family and friends wanted me to restore the interior and exterior of their cars. The business really blew up quite quickly and I started working for clients in the evenings and weekends offering a professional mobile detailing service, with more than 100 regular customers getting their vehicles refreshed to the highest possible standard.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to leave the security of full-time employment, but I would have regretted not taking the decision to follow my dream and launching the business full-time. I now have a dedicated, high specification unit in Ledcom Industrial Estate that has allowed me to take the business to the next level and offer clients the best possible vehicle detailing experience from start to finish.

“Our accredited packages include pre-wash, wash and hand-drying, as well as a paint decontamination, correction and protection, and a multiple stage machine wax and polish.”

The Go For It Programme is delivered free of charge by a team of experienced business mentors through Northern Ireland’s wide network of enterprise agencies. It provides expert advice and support to develop a business plan that helps entrepreneurs turn their ideas into commercial businesses.

Darren said: “Whenever I was trying to take it from a part-time venture to a full-time business, I really wasn’t sure how to go about it or how to develop a business plan. I got in touch with the Go For It Programme and sat down with my business advisor and they helped me to put together my business plan. We looked at everything from market research, location of premises to financial forecasting. It really opened my eyes to what was involved and needed to run a professional business. The business plan was fantastic and really helped me to learn and grow as a business owner.”

The Mayor, Councillor William McCaughey, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to see new business ventures like Blacky’s Detailing Garage seeking the support of the Go For It programme and launching in our borough. Entrepreneurs like Darren are going to drive the economic growth of the borough for years to come, especially as we move through this pandemic, and I wish him every success in developing growing his business.”

Catherine Henderson, business and marketing executive at Ledcom, said: “Darren’s car detailing business was already a hugely successful part-time venture and knew exactly what he needed to do and the equipment he needed to make it a full-time success. We mentored Darren in the process of preparing a business plan, focusing on areas such as market research, financial planning, marketing and goal setting.”

If you are thinking about starting a business, the Go For It Programme can be contacted on: 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com

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