Brothers Will and Jeremy Whipple have been mixing family and business for half their lives.
As young teens, the pair earned spending money at a local car wash.
“We came from a working-class family,” Will Whipple said. “If we wanted a car, we had to work.”
Fifteen years later, Will, 31, and Jeremy, 29, are partners in The Car Wash Lodge in Cary, which offers a variety of car wash options and packages. Phil Styers, their business partner, is the majority owner.
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“We are still best friends,” Will Whipple said. “Our wives are best friends. We spend a whole lot of time together.”
The opportunity for The Car Wash Lodge came after the brothers had earned their chops in the business, both working for other companies and in opening a mobile detailing business. Will spotted an empty car wash while running errands on a summer day. He did some investigating and learned it was in bankruptcy. A business plan was formulated, and Styers was brought in.
Jeremy acknowledges there have been times when the togetherness was too much.
“We were working together, living together, had the same friends,” he said.
He grins and adds, “We also used to be immature.”
These days, each brother has a defined role in the business, with Will managing operations and Jeremy focusing on marketing.
“He trusts me that I’m going to make the best call for the company,” Will said. “At the end of the day, I know his strong suits and I trust him to make those decisions.”
Adds Jeremy: “We communicate. There are times when we do step on each other’s toes because we are so passionate about it.”
Two years later, The Car Wash Lodge is on the verge of expanding. A second location in Morrisville is scheduled to open by June 1.
“My vision is to have 10 stores and then begin franchising,” Jeremy said.
Both say they are not “office owners” and spend time washing cars alongside their staff.
“We are right there with the guys,” Will said. “We do office work when the car wash is not open.”
The Whipples place great importance on their relationship with their employees.
“We remember what that was like,” Will said. “We are now blessed and able to be owners and be able to provide an opportunity for the young guys. We want them to know they don’t have to be making $8 an hour for the rest of their lives.”
Both men would like to see their own employees eventually become owners.
And that’s why being mentors is at the forefront of what the Whipples do. The brothers rattle off the names of men who served as their role models. They have a deep desire to return what they were given by mentoring their young employees.
“I love helping people, taking this employee who didn’t have a lot of guidance growing up,” he said. “I like making money, but I love seeing people succeed. I see others who are less fortunate and I know that could have been us.”
When it comes down to it, hard work is in their blood.
“We grinded and worked hard six days a week,” Jeremy said. “When you work hard, you make opportunities for yourself.”
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