A business born of a broken headlight

    By Adrienne Burke | Small Business

    As a 20-something investment banker in New York City, Hans Angermeier was earning a great income in 2010, but he hadn’t forgotten a business idea he’d conceived years earlier. During college, while struggling to replace the headlights in his pickup truck, he thought there ought to be a website for DIY car repair videos.

    Today, his company CarCareKiosk offers more than 13,000 of them for free. For hundreds of automobile makes and models, he and a three-man crew have produced how-to videos for simple jobs such as changing fluids, fuses, and filters or replacing brake lights, batteries, and wiper blades.

    Neither Angermeier nor his colleagues are mechanics. The repairs are the kind anyone could make in their driveway. “We’re a video version of the maintenance section of your owner’s manual,” he says. “The most difficult thing we show is how to change your oil. We’re not dropping any transmissions.” For jobs that require opening the hood, videos start with how to do that.

    Angermeier launched his business from an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But getting access to cars and the space to work on them there wasn’t so easy. And, in a city where people are more likely to ride the subway than drive a car, investors he met didn’t get his value proposition. “It was hard for people who had lived in and around New York City most of their lives to conceptualize the appeal of this,” he says. With 245 million cars serviced an average of four times per year in the U.S., however, Angermeier was convinced of the potential to serve millions of customers a month.

    So, he and his wife hightailed it back to his hometown, Milwaukee. In Wisconsin, angel investors embraced the idea. He also found accredited interns at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee film school, and developed partnerships with several local car dealers who let them shoot video on their lots. Dealerships not only appreciate the exposure to the site’s tens of thousands of Milwaukee-area users, but, Angermeier points out, “having inbound links on CarCareKiosk gives them a nice bump when it comes to search engine optimization.”

    The business earns commissions selling parts and tools through Amazon, but most revenues come from advertising. “Our average visit duration is over 20 minutes, which is forever in Internet time, so we’ve been able to get a good return on advertising,” he says.

    Another key to Angermeier’s success is a customized database and an algorithm he spent more than a year perfecting before his December 2011 launch. It lets him classify and organize repair descriptions and car types. He explains, “When a user goes to the site, let’s say to find a video to change the air filter on their 2009 Audio A4, what appears is one video. But behind the scenes that’s five or six different clips put together on the fly as one play list for the user.”

    That format makes the creation of product placement campaigns for auto parts companies simple. “We know when a user is watching a video on how to change an air filter, so we can put Fram or Bosch’s display ads around that video to create organic product placement,” Angermeier says. Advertisers pay a premium for the high click-through rate.

    While traffic statistics show that most of the site’s more than 600,000 monthly users are males aged 25-34, Angermeier says he’s received great feedback from women, who comprise about a third of his users. One was delighted to learn how to change her car’s air filter by herself. And a single mom wrote to thank CarCareKiosk for helping her teach her adolescent children how to work on the family car.

    Also surprising to Angermeier has been the popularity of BMW and Mercedes videos. “I thought our users would mostly be people trying to save money by doing stuff themselves,” Angermeier says. In fact, research shows that his users’ average household income is $100,000 - $150,000. That bodes well for his ad sales prospects: there’s no end to the brands trying to reach six-figure-earning, luxury-car-driving, 20-something-year-old men like the guys he used to work with on Wall Street.

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