Cars have always been a passion for Ashton Johnstone. The Durban-based business owner’s office is decorated with vintage car memorabilia from some of his favourite vehicles from yesteryear.
In 2021, Ashton took his love for vehicles to the next level, starting The Car Wash Company to help local drivers take pride in their cars with quality cleaning and valet services.
Since starting the business, it has grown from strength to strength, rallying the support of Umhlanga and Durban residents.
We caught up with Ashton to learn more about his business journey.
What made you start The Car Wash Company?
Cars have always been a passion of mine. And I spent most of my [working] life in the hospitality industry – so I have OCD tendencies over quality control and managing of staff.
So, when the opportunity came along for the space [at Sunningdale Shopping Centre], I thought: “Let’s go for it. Let’s put a twist on the normal industry norm, where we provide better service, better products, and a better experience.”
How much has the business grown in the past year?
It started off quite slow. We’re a bit hidden away here in the centre. We’re based in the back gate, in the dungeon. There’s not much road exposure. The first month was 250-odd cars, [but] we’ve built it up to about 1000 cars now.
A lot of that has been through being active on social media, word of mouth, and referrals from customers.
Currently, we’ve got 9 guys that help out and I’ve got 1 part-time guy that helps out on weekends.
What challenges has your business faced?
This year has been up and down. The floods were quite severe and hectic – they had a great impact on us. There were a few days when we had no water, so we had to ship water in. I had tanks on the back of my bakkie. I was fetching water from friends and whoever had rainwater, borehole water – you name it. But at least we continued trading, could pay the guys, and the guys still had a job.
Who has helped you along the way?
My biggest support comes from my family, my wife, and my parents. I’ve also got a lot of buddies that are always willing to help – Louis, Ding-Dong, and Steve. These guys are always around, drilling holes for me, plumbing, electrical [repairs] – you name it. I’ve got a good bunch of mates, my wife, my family – that’s what it’s all about.
What iKhokha machine do you use?
I’ve got the iK Shaker. It’s brilliant! I’ve got the whole iKhokha [POS] system from the till drawer to the tablet, the stand – you name it – it’s great.
How has iKhokha helped you grow your business?
It’s a nice simple system, I must say. And coming from hospitality, the cost is a fraction. I was involved in a liquor store and just the software was about R60 000. Whereas the iKhokha [app] is a free download. Then, of course, it’s got the analytics. It’s got the recording of your sales, your monthly graphs, all those kinds of things. It’s great and it’s simple – perfect for what I need.
How has partnership & collaboration grown your business?
We have a few supply partners. Meguiars, for instance, is the preferred product that we use on vehicles. And they’ve provided training for a lot of my staff.
A lot of the guys had no [car cleaning] background – we trained them from scratch. We’re teaching them how to polish and how to do the job properly.
We’re on the premium end and the guys are learning along the way. It’s working out for us and working out for them.
Can you describe The Car Wash Company in 3 words?
Friendly, efficient, and quality.
What’s next for The Car Wash Company?
We’re busy growing our offering. A few months ago, we started offering auto valet services. We’ve progressed to doing machine-polishing, so we’ll be able to do cut, polishing, and waxing of vehicles. We offer the full turnkey correct-and-protect [treatment] on your vehicle. So, anything from waxing to polishing, headlight restoration – you name it!
Come pop in and say hi. You’ll be greeted by friendly service, the guys will have a bit of fun, and I can guarantee you that it’ll be a car wash worth remembering and you’ll be back for more!
If you’re in and around the greater Durban area and are looking to pamper your car, visit The Car Wash Company in Sunningdale Shopping Centre (1 Village Way, Corner Umhlanga Rocks Drive, Durban, 4051).