Education helps Penn State DuBois graduate's small business to shine

DUBOIS, Pa. — For Penn State DuBois alumna and small business owner Kristy Hanes, a rewarding career is all about the details. That is, the number of cars she details at her business, Kristy's Krystal Klean Kars, in the community of Kersey, in Elk County. An Elk County native, she launched the business while still a student, and after graduating with her bachelor's degree in Business Management and Marketing from Penn State DuBois this spring, dove into her work full-time.

"I’ve been interested in cars all of my life. From an early age, I knew I wanted to do something with them, I just wasn’t sure how," Hanes recalled. "I first started washing cars with my grandpa and my parents, eventually learning a few things that led me to making a little money at it. Neighbors and friends started paying me to clean their cars, but it wasn’t until I started working at Don’s Detailing in St. Marys that I realized how big of a business auto detailing really is. There, I learned so many valuable things that eventually allowed me to start my own business."

Simultaneously, Hanes was learning what it takes to perform the work in an auto detailing business, while learning about running the business operations of a company through her education. In December of 2014, when she came to a crossroads as her employer merged with another company, the experience she had gained up until that point gave her the confidence to take a leap.

"I had a decision to make. I could make the switch, or I could venture out on my own. I decided that the second option was more beneficial for me in both the present and the future. Because I had the interest, knowledge, skill, and was working toward my bachelor’s degree in business management/marketing, I felt that this was something I could make a career out of. Shortly after finishing my sophomore year, I started Kristy’s Krystal Klean Kars."

Hanes seized the opportunity of being a business major to use the resources available to her on campus to help establish her business. One class, in particular, helped her lay the foundation.

"My time at Penn State DuBois was very beneficial for me on both a personal and professional level. I tried my best to coordinate school projects with things I envisioned for my business. The best example I have is from my experience in BA250, Small Business Management. Throughout the semester, we worked through the pieces of creating a business plan for a mock business. Because I already had my business somewhat in mind, I decided to use it. I created Kristy’s Krystal Klean Kars for that class, but never imagined the name would stay. As I completed my assignments, I actually felt excited because I could see how things could really work. I eventually used my business plan to help secure a $50,000 loan for my building in the fall of 2016."

Instructor in Business Administration Annette Muth taught the course in which Hanes built her business plan, and is enormously proud of her former student's success. Muth said, "It's so gratifying to see our students grow and go on to thrive. I feel that's why we are so lucky to be on a small campus. We get involved with and connected to our students. It's almost like raising our children. A success for one of our students is a success for us."

Muth said watching a student like Hanes prosper is a reminder of the impact educators can have, and an inspiration to always keep connecting with students. "Kristy was an exceptional student from day one. Everyone who has met her is touched by her drive," she said.  "Students like her drive us to try even harder to reach every student, because we can see it pays off."

One measure of that payoff is the growth Hanes has enjoyed in her business since the beginning. That new building she took out a loan for was open for business in May, just days after she graduated, allowing her to move the business from her father's garage where she started. She also has one employee working alongside her nearly full-time to help her keep up with the demand for her services.

"We were content with cleaning two cars per day for the past almost two years, but have turned that up to three since May of this year. In 2015, I’d say we did less than 100 cars between May and December. Last year, we did 162. Now, we do roughly 60 per month. We’re currently booked out over a month away," Hanes explained.

The work of a small business owner is usually never done, and with the success, hours become long at times for Hanes. She said, "While I try my best to limit my working hours to Monday through Friday, 8 to 4, I get calls both before and after those times. I’m available through my Facebook page, so I have to respond in a timely manner. Along with that, customers often stop in throughout the day and may ask for things that I need to handle outside of the garage, so those kinds of things are running through my mind long after I leave. While I physically leave at the end of the day, I’m mentally working far beyond a typical job of 40 hours per week. I don’t necessarily have the benefit of clocking out."

Those long hours, however, are worth it. Hanes clarified, "What I like best about having my own business is knowing that I did it for myself. While some people need external motivation, I’ve always been very self-motivated. I’m hard on myself, always pushing to be better. It’s very humbling to sit back and look at what I’ve already accomplished. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I love what I do."

Hanes drew additional inspiration for going into business for herself from her parents, who started their own business, C&A Seamless Gutters, 23 years ago. When her mother passed away in September of 2015, she took over the bookkeeping, invoicing, depositing and other tasks to help her father.

"My parents have always supported me in the things I’ve done and the decisions I’ve made. I’m lucky that my mom was here to help guide me in the first pieces of starting a business. She did a great job in preparing me for so many things, much of which I never realized until I had to take care of things and was able to," Hanes said. "My dad has been a huge help, especially providing me with the comfort of knowing that he’s got my back both financially and as his daughter. He co-signed my loan with me and was there every step of the way as my building was being built. I’m from a great community both in St. Marys and through Penn State, so just about everyone I know pushes me to succeed. It’s exciting that so many people keep up with what I’m doing and want to learn more about it."

In the future, Hanes plans to expand her business, hiring more employees and detailing six to eight cars a day. She may open additional locations, or branch out into other offshoots of the detailing business, such as automatic car washes. She'll reach for those goals, as she reached for what she has already attained, by chasing down her dreams. Which is just what she would tell others to do who hope to achieve their own success in business.

"My best advice would be to follow your dreams," Hanes shared. "You’ll come across people who think your idea is stupid or a waste of time. I had people ask me all the time if I really wanted to 'wash cars for the rest of my life.' Now, guess who cleans their cars? Everything starts somewhere. Every recruiter at every career fair was hired for the job because someone started a business at one time. If we’re all too afraid to start, we’ll never get anywhere. Take the risk, work a little harder, make your dreams a reality, and do whatever it takes to love your career."

During her time as a student at Penn State DuBois, Hanes was active in a wide variety of student activities. She was a multi-sport athlete, playing golf, basketball, and softball. She served as a Lion Ambassador, orientation leader, Student Government Association treasurer and Upper Class Senator, was a member of the Delta Mu Sigma Honors Society, and completed a marketing internship with the Office of Student Engagement.