Startup in Blue

Startup in Blue

10ft Tall & Bullet Proof

Anxious. Passionate. Ambitious. Oh yeah, and 10ft tall and bullet proof.

All college graduates leave their respective college towns with at least one, if not all of the above traits. In 2016, I left the beloved town of Chapel Hill to work as an Entrepreneur Apprentice in Charlotte, NC.

You see, I’ve been an “Entrepredoer” all my life (since age 7) – I call it that because an ‘entrepreneur’ usually takes some financial risk, and I’ve never had any money. Heck, you don’t need any money to save your Halloween candy and sell it out of a shoebox at your sister’s basketball games. Or cut down a tree limb or two in your backyard, hire some of your neighborhood pals, and make bows and arrows. However, call it what you want, entrepreneurship or ‘entrepredoership,’ it lives inside of me and is the reason why I do what I do.

My most successful startup to-date, which financially, wasn’t that successful, but was in so many other ways, was Waterless Buddy’s (WB). WB was initially a wash-while-you-shop waterless car wash business that eventually turned into an on-demand, “Uber for car washing” company. Our team learned a tremendous amount about how to launch, manage, and sell our startup. However, we were full time students, so never had the opportunity to go all-in and when we graduated, I had $1000 bucks to my name, with no funding. Unfortunately, Waterless Buddy’s shutdown in 2016. Even though the business shutdown, the experience and the connections it allowed us to make created more value than I could’ve ever imagined.

WB introduced me to Mike Griffin (a diversified, blue-collar entrepreneur), which landed me in Charlotte as the company’s Entrepreneur Apprentice. The title could mean a million different things, and as I found out during my first six months, it did.

ZoomUp – Zooming Businesses into the next generation

During my first two years at Griffin Brothers Companies (GBC) I became the custodian, driver, analyst, networker, deal maker, idea generator, event planner, the ‘you name it, I did it.’ Joining GBC team after college, wasn’t just a job for me, it has been the perfect job. A place where I have been taken serious 100% of the time, where I have been able to fail, learn and fail again, and a place where I have been able to start something. Something a bit different to what I thought I’d be doing with my career at age 24. However, something that goes back to how my entrepreneurial career started, hard work and taking care of customers.

In August of 2017, Mike and I started ZoomUp, an investment arm (a reverse search fund) of their company that acquires, invests, or starts blue collar businesses. Businesses like HVAC, Roofing, Grease Trap Pumping & Compost, and much more. Currently, in today’s economy, these industries have tremendous opportunity, and I’d argue they have the biggest opportunity for someone who is hungry to be an entrepreneur and be financially independent. Although, if you’re not ready to work hard in a business that’s not sexy, smells (sometimes really, really bad), or causes you to work on holidays, then this might not be the entrepreneurship leap for you. If you give me a second to explain myself, I’ll show you that if you’ve got a hard working attitude in your DNA, then you might be more blue collarthan you realized.

Every single day 10,000 people turn 65 years old (in the US) – that’s going to happen every day until 2030. That stat is significant because these 65 year old Americans who own businesses, mainly have blue collar companies. These business owners typically have children who have gone off to become doctors, lawyers, bankers, or who just don’t want to have any involvement in the company. Thus, leaving a 65 year old with two options – sell their business or shut it down. HUGE opportunity for young, ambitious entrepreneurs who aren’t sacred to work hard and get ‘dirty.’

Since launching ZoomUp in Charlotte in August of 2017, I’ve had the opportunity to meet over 40 business owners and their families. Hearing their entrepreneurial stories has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my young, entrepreneurial career. They all have this one secret sauce, “We just work hard and take care of our customers,” they all tell us when we meet them. Typically, they will share with us that they ‘wish they could’ve grown the business,’ ‘but we never spent enough energy hiring the right people to grow.’

After doing more research, this is an issue that’s very well known (just do a quick Google search), and many are voicing their concerns. The Chicago Tribunestated in 2018 that high school graduates just aren’t as interested in blue collar work anymore. Also, these labor shortages are making it harder and harder to find qualified contractors who will work at reasonable price and timeline.

The Startup in Blue – ‘ProntoJay’

A question I’ve asked myself for the past year, ‘what’s next?’ How can I innovate this space, how can I increase efficiency amongst blue collar workers, create more value for companies, all while giving the end customer (homeowners) the trust and service they deserve?

Over the next few weeks, Pete Mangum and myself will be testinga new startup in the Greater Charlotte area. ProntoJay (code name for now), will be the 1stpersonal property management company for homeowners. We’ll help diagnose & fix home related issues via pictures, video, and video chat. If homeowners don’t feel comfortable fixing it themselves, or if the issue is more complex, we’ll send one of our partner companies to their home. The goal of ProntoJay is to increase efficiency amongst blue collar companies, while allowing homeowners (especially millennial homeowners) to better understand the issues that are arising in their homes. Thus, creating a trust that will totally transform the blue collar, home services industry.

Most people tell you that “if you follow your passion, you’ll be successful.” Heck, I’ve probably said that before. However, it wasn’t until recently, did my perspective take a shift. Mike Rowe, who is infamous for his stardom on Dirty Jobs states, “Bring your passion with you in all that you do. ” Meaning, you don’t have to be passionate about the work you’re doing, just a passionate person. Work hard, and take care of customers. It’s that simple.

Not so tall & bulletproof

My two years following college graduation have been difficult at times, rewarding, and eye opening. I quickly learned that I’m not 10ft tall and bulletproof (which is perfectly ok) and the blue collar industry has huge potential for a kid like me. As we test this new startup venture, I’d love your input, feedback, and if you have an issue, use our platform --

It’s funny how we get back to our roots. Mine just happen to be blue.

Just a kid,

Austin Helms

Ps. If you have 5 minutes, feel out the questionnaire regarding the business plan!

For more information about the startup, click here -- ProntoJay or contact me!

Email –

Ph – 828.448.5521

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