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Graduating out of the Exchange: Shyft Auto

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This article was written for our sponsor, Gig East.

From food delivery to transportation, quick, convenient, Amazon-style service is becoming the norm. The next industry to make the pivot? Automotive repair.

Marcus Aman spent years working in the automotive industry, dealing directly with customers and processing problems at dealerships. Now, he’s used his experience to make the industry more convenient than ever.

“I realized that there needed to be software to fix some problems there were between consumer engagement and processes in the repair shop. We started building software in 2018, and in March of 2020, after we had a model of our product and we had piloted it for a while, I had other dealers call me to use the solution — I figured it was a good time to become an entrepreneur,” said Aman.

Aman started Shyft Auto with the help of a previous client after posting about his idea on Facebook. They applied to RIoT’s Wilson-based RIoT Accelerator Program offered at the Gig East Exchange and left their previous jobs to pursue Shyft Auto full-time.

While Aman and his team already had a model of the product in use, the RAP Wilson program helped him take a step back and refine the platform while also researching the best avenues for future growth.

“It taught me a lot — it’s almost like a master’s program for entrepreneurs. It skips a lot of that fluff, and it just gets right down to the details,” said Aman. “Since then, we’ve been able to connect with other companies that have come through that program and listen to their stories, their challenges, their successes — it helps to be around similar people.”

In the short time since participating in the first RAP Wilson cohort, Shyft Auto has grown from zero paying customers to “something like 5,000% growth,” according to Aman. In fact, the company recently received $15,000 from the North Carolina Idea grant and was named one of the top 10 startups to watch by the N.C. Tech Awards Association

The Shyft Auto platform currently includes a consumer-facing mobile application engagement platform that allows for text messaging, pictures, and videos of recommended repairs, as well as online payment, loaner car management, and scheduling.

“If your car went in for an oil change, and they noticed that the brakes needed to be replaced, the shop would take a picture or video and send you a message so you can approve, or give you the option to pick up the phone and speak to somebody,” said Aman. “We have loaner car management on the dealer or shop side, then the consumers can also see what cars are available based on what services they get. Maybe the dealer says, ‘If a customer schedules over 300 hours with us, I want to show them that they then have the ability to loan a car out.’”

While vehicle maintenance isn’t always the most exciting experience, Aman hopes that Shyft Auto makes the entire process more user-friendly and efficient.

“It’s not supposed to be fun in a way, but it’s like going to the dentist. It’s one of those things that you have to do, even if you dread doing it, and you’re going to have to do it at least a couple of times a year. The pains for the consumer are either having to stay there and wait forever or they’re going to be told that they need a lot more than what they’re going in for,” said Aman. ” When you use technology to do it, it softens the whole process. That way, the repair shop can retain the customer instead of having them go somewhere else next time out of frustration.”

As Shyft Auto grows, the team’s commitment to Wilson remains. The company received special funding through an opportunity zone grant, with the stipulation that their company had to be in a rural, opportunity zone.

Luckily, they already had roots in Wilson with a base at the Exchange. They were able to locate a new building in historic downtown and are currently in the process of renovating the space as their new headquarters.

Moving forward, Aman hopes to see Shyft Auto expand the number of locations it services. In achieving that goal, Wilson is the perfect home base.

“It’s halfway between Greenville and Raleigh, and as Raleigh continues to grow, people start to funnel outside of Raleigh. Wilson has the fastest broadband in North Carolina, a strong entrepreneurial network, and a real drive for revitalization,” said Aman. “Every day I walk outside and can go to a local restaurant or shop, so that drives money right back into the community. There’s just a lot happening, and I’m excited for it all.”

This article was written for our sponsor, Gig East.

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