With a varied workload that consists of painting cars, motorcycles, planes and boats, restoring hot rods and repairing vehicles post-collision, Youngblood Kustomz in Buford, GA, is flourishing and getting the accolades and awards that come with its imaginative and inspired work.
Steven Youngblood, 38, runs a small operation with one body tech who does all of the metal work while Youngblood does all of the painting. At this point, the majority of their work consists of painting motorcycles, but he loves restoring hot rods the most. His dreams to own his own business started eight years ago, and since then he hasn't been able to shake the entrepreneurial spirit.
"Even as a kid, I could see that if you work for someone else, most of the money goes into their pocket, so I decided to start my own bicycle repair business when I was in grade school," he said. "I asked my dad if I could set it up in our garage, and pretty soon I was fixing bikes for my friends and some of the neighbors."
After completing the automotive collision repair program at Lanier Technical School, Youngblood jumped right into the industry by working for two different collision repair/performance shops to learn as much as he could as quickly as possible for seven years, followed by four years at a restoration shop.
"In school, you learn the basics, but nothing can replace actually working in a shop and doing it yourself," he said. "The old-timers helped me out a lot and the owner let me figure it out on my own, which was great. Yes, I did make some mistakes, especially at first. But they were my mistakes, and that's how I learned every aspect of the business."
A decade ago, Youngblood got his first taste of major success when he restored a 1932 Ford Roadster that gained some national attention.
"It won Best in Show at the World of Wheels, and that was a great experience," he said. "It showed me that people like my work, and that's when I began looking for a way to do it myself.”
But before he would be able to pursue that dream, life threw him a curve and his plans changed, at least for the next five years, when he moved to Sweden, he said.
"My wife is Swedish, so we relocated there and I started working at a collision center in a car dealership fixing Saabs, Volvos and Renaults,” he said. “Sweden is like a different planet and nothing like Georgia, that's for sure. When I moved there, I had to get rid of most of my tools, but when I got hired in Sweden, they told me that they would purchase all of my tools for me, including anything I needed for the job. Since English is their second language, it was okay, but after a few winters there, I was ready to come home."
When he arrived back in the USA, Youngblood commenced pursuing his dream by going back to the restoration company where he had previously worked for six months while strategizing his next move.
"While I was still in Sweden, I told a lot of people in Georgia that I was coming home, so I had a ton of side restoration and painting work as soon as I got back," he said. "It grew and grew from there, so I knew the time to go out on my own was here."
So, in 2014, Youngblood opened the doors at Youngblood Kustomz and hasn't looked back. He does a fair share of collision work to pay the bills, but his real love is doing full restorations.
"Fixing a damaged newer vehicle is not as satisfying as taking an old piece of junk and turning it into a piece of art," he said. "When I work on a restoration for several months and then show the customer what we've done, their smiles really inspire me. I want to use my skills, but I also want to bring my creativity to anything I paint, even if it's an aerobatic plane or old antiques, which I do paint from time to time."
With influences such as Master Bike Builder Dave Perewitz and Mike Lavallee at Killer Paint, Youngblood is always looking to bend the rules and go outside the box, he said.
"Perewitz is the king of painting flames and Lavallee's airbrushing work is incredible,” he said. “I would best describe my style as ‘60s and ‘70s, with a lot of metal flakes and candies and vibrant colors."
Recently, Youngblood received word that he will be competing in the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building this year in California.
"If we can do well in California, we will get to go to Germany to go for the international crown," he said. "We have also been invited to be at SEMA for the first time this year, so yes---we are excited about 2018 for many reasons."
Right now, life is good and the future looks bright for Youngblood and his business.