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One Man’s Journey: From Ho-Hum Day Job to Professional Hot Rod Builder

Posted by on September 7, 2011 with 4 Comments

Note from Robert Kibbe:

For those of you who are regular readers, this article was written by Chris Holstrom of Chris Holstrom Concepts, now a regular monthly contributor. He recently made the leap from his regular day job to ownership of his own hot rod building business!

This week’s post is an introduction from Chris. Look for more great stuff here from him in the future!

=================

My first build – a ’68 Camaro dream car!

“Success is not a destination it is the journey.” Frosty Westering

Rob asked me a simple question for my first article for The Muscle Car Place…”Who is Chris Holstrom?” Wow, thanks Rob, but how do you answer that one? There are several Chris Holstrom’s I suppose, and I’m not referring to any weird schizophrenic voices inside my head, but instead to the fact that like many of you I wear many hats. There’s the Chris who has been happily married to his best friend Alyssa for over 10 years, father of an amazing 2 year old boy, worshiper of Jesus and fortunately a friend to many great people. There is the Chris who grew up in the car scene in the rainy Pacific Northwest. There is also the Chris who has owned over a hundred cool cars, but can count only a hand-full of the ones that ever turned a profit. He has a heart for orphaned cars and can burn up hours on a road-trip dreaming about what he could do with that old car he spotted sitting in a field at the last rest-stop.

I assume the Chris Holstrom you want to hear about it is the guy who is seemingly unknown in the hot rod community but is making a living at his passion. I was told more than once that, “the best way to ruin a hobby is to make it a living.” Really? So I am supposed to spend 40+ hours doing something I don’t enjoy so I can muster up the energy to have a fun hobby? I don’t buy that. For me it all started with a dream in 2007 to build cool cars and actually get paid for it. The plan was simple; throw a bunch of time and money at a Pro-Touring ’68 Camaro I was building, get it in front of the right people, and assume that everyone would then be beating down my door wanting a car built just like it, right? Well sort of.  After investing a year of my life and $40,000 on credit, the car was a week away from being debuted at SEMA. Do you remember what happened a week before SEMA 2008? Stock markets crashed around the world, and it seemed like overnight I had lost $100,000 equity in my house. But, common sense didn’t prevail (thankfully) and after an all-night thrash to get the car done, I was off to Vegas. The kind folks at the Convention Center placed my car right in front of the main door for SEMA 2008! This was truly a high point in my life.

The starting point of the ’68.

After the show I brought the car home and put it on Ebay to finance the shop. Having a high-dollar car selling on an online auction is a rush unto it’s self. I had three bidders going. One from across a very large pond in Dubai, a local kid with a tricked out V8 M3, and some guy in Nebraska who wanted to part trade me another car. Well, I went with the guy in Nebraska who just happens to have one of the most amazing muscle car collections in the United States. This turned out to be the right choice. He is now my main customer and all-around great guy.

So I sold the car and walked away with $20,000 to start a business, but again things did not turn out as planned. It seemed my home was in need of a septic system and roof. The business would have to wait. One of the greatest traits of an entrepreneur is perseverance. I was without a cool car and money, but I still had a dream and a supportive wife. Before this starts sounding like a bad country song, I will tell you there was light at the end of the tunnel. My new best friend from Nebraska just commissioned me to do my first 6 figure build. I kept my day job, moved the shop into a small 2.5 car garage and begin Chris Holstrom Concepts. I continued to make connections in the automotive community and sacrificed a lot of hours away from family, knowing it was only temporary. I am thankful for those humble times working in that shop. Those are the moments where character is forged. Picture this; you’ve worked all day at your job, it’s cold, dark, and raining outside, there is a nice fire in the fireplace and the rest of the world gets to relax and stare at the TV….but you don’t. Why? Because you’re different. You have a dream that you want to chase, but right now the cost to do so is high. You really have to ask yourself, “How bad do I want it?”

The latest project to roll out of the shop – a ’66 Chevelle.

After a few years of burning the candle late into many nights, our moment finally came. April 1, 2011 we moved into a beautiful facility and I walked away from a steady paycheck. Today we celebrate 6 months of full-time hot rod building and repair, but it didn’t happen overnight. It took careful study of small business management and getting the right advice from the right people. At the top of the list would be Dan Miller from 48days.com. He is the author of “No More Mondays”. If you desire to have your own gig, get on Amazon and order it now. Dan taught me how to create a transition plan from a full-time job to a full-time business without a bunch of money. If you have any questions or want to learn from my mistakes, er, I mean “education,” feel free to email me, Chris@Hotrod-repair.com.

Chris Holstrom

Chris Holstrom Concepts

chris@hotrod-repair.com


  • Carol Imler

    Fantastic and inspiring story! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jesse

    Great read! Thanks for the honest perspective.

  • http://www.find-your-muscle-car.com GoldenGirl

    Thanks for sharing some encouragement, Chris! You are truly blessed.

    Look forward to reading some great blogs about the work your shop is doing.

  • Vic

    Chris-great read. God is blessing you because you keep your eye on the bigger picture which is living for him. Thank you for being out there living your dream, inspiring to say the least. I talk about you every chance I get when I am around the car guys. This year is going to be a break out year for you.