Vancouver stuntmen create eco-friendly car wash

MobiGlow co-founders Hugo Steele, Rorelee Tio and Chad Bellamy are using steam power to change the way we wash our cars

An industrial revolution was once launched by the power of steam. Today, Vancouver-based MobiGlow is hoping to harness the power of steam to revolutionize the carwash industry.  

MobiGlow's co-founders Rorelee Tio, Chad Bellamy and Hugo Steele -- all former stunt performers in Vancouver's film industry -- believe they have the right technology and the right attitude to change the way people wash their cars. 

“We got so tired of trying to find car washes downtown that were decent, good quality and good for the environment. There were really none. Everyone was pouring chemicals down the drain. We decided we wanted to create a car wash that you didn’t have to search for, or waste time driving to the outskirts of downtown,” said Steele, MobiGlow’s Operations Manager.

Innovating an eco-friendly car wash

The result of nearly two years of research and planning led MobiGlow to roll out a very unique solution that employs steam technology to efficiently clean vehicles. “We’re the very first service of our kind in Canada,” explained Marketing Manager Chad Bellamy. The first of their two locations opened in the Hyatt hotel parkade in July, 2010.

“Whereas regular wand washes can use up to 200L of water, our process takes maybe 3L to 5L of water, and there’s no runoff,” said Bellamy.

With the majority of the water in MobiGlow’s cleaning process vaporized, the elimination of runoff has given the company some advantages.

"You can't run operations in a lot of buildings because of the runoff. This way we’re not tied to a certain location, which makes us completely portable,” Bellamy added.

The challenges of changing convention

Convincing customers that their business is more than just another stunt, however, will take some work. According to business consultant Dave Schulte of Dave Schulte Business Solutions, some of the biggest challenges facing a company like MobiGlow would be getting people to buy-in to the green value of the business and to change their current patterns when it comes to an activity like washing a car.

Even if MobiGlow is able convince customers to switch to their service, scalability could also be a concern.

“It has to do with the market acceptance of the idea,” noted Schulte. “Given the option is this something that people would do? They might do it once, but would they do it regularly? Is this a repeatable thing that people will do over and over?” 

So far, people in the car wash business don't seem to be too concerned about competition from MobiGlow. 

“I don’t see them as a threat,” said Supervising Manager Remo Virginillo, whose oversees staff at the recently opened Coquitlam branch of Detailz Autospa, a conventional car wash and detailing shop. He said his business has an advantage because it offers car maintenance services in addition to car washing. 

“We handle not only the wash aspect, but also the detailing aspect and fluids like oil and transmission fluid,” he said. 

Despite their eco-friendly edge over conventional carwashes, MobiGlow's limited services at this stage in their growth may make it challenging to draw customers. 

Virginillo also drew attention to MobiGlow’s lack of visibility, contrasting it to Detailz’s location. “We’re in an area that is quite visible from the road. We’re actually right on an intersection and we’re getting traffic from three different directions,” he said.

A high tolerance for risk 

 While operating a start-up business always comes with its fair share of risks, MobiGlow's founders -- with their history as stunt performers and stunt drivers -- are comfortable with taking chances. 

“Business is a risk, but we’re used to risks,” said MobiGlow’s administrative manager Rorelee Tio.

Asked whether performing stunts or running a business was riskier, Bellamy laughed. “It’s a close tie. They both have their highs and lows.”

 

They also hope that potential customers will take what might be perceived as a risk and trust the power of steam. “One of our most-asked questions is whether (the steam) will damage paint,” said Tio. “It will not damage their paint or their car.”

MobiGlow’s founders will aim to continue building upon early inroads with high-end modified car enthusiasts and luxury vehicle owners. “We’re starting to get a lot of loyal customers and referrals from our customers,” said Tio.

“It’s really about convenience and quality,” said Steele. “We wanted something that’s cutting-edge ... and that will have a good impact on our society for the long term.”

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