Zack Wirth has some clear motivation.
It dates back to the time he left home at 15 and worked for free to get his feet under him in a trade. He lived in a shed in his friend’s backyard for a few months because he couldn’t afford rent anywhere else.
“I don’t want to go back to that shed,” said Wirth, sitting comfortably — now 17 years later — with a place to call home, his own business and a future worth savoring.
He and his wife, Ricque, own the Greeley Auto Spa, 3620 35th Ave. They recently received the most votes in The Tribune’s 20 Under 40 contest, which recognizes the top business performers younger than 40 in Weld County.
Those nominating the couple laud them for rising high in such a small time, after starting the business just two years ago. Today, they have six employees and two locations.
“I’m excited,” Wirth said. “It’s definitely something that is amazing to be recognized for the short period of time we’ve been here — only two years.
“For people to be saying the things they’re saying, it’s an honor, without a doubt. I’m kind of speechless.”
Both are 33.
The business gene came to Wirth early. He left his mother’s home in Pharr, Texas, when he was 15. He lived in that shed at his friend’s house for a good six months before he could raise enough money to pay rent on some decent living quarters.
It was then that he approached a man who detailed cars and asked to learn the trade.
“I knew nothing at all,” he said, looking back. “I went to him and told him I wanted to learn how to make these cars look proper, and I said I’d work for free.
“I literally worked for free,” he said.
Wirth, who didn’t finish school past the ninth grade, has earned his education in business through the years.
After those humble beginnings, he moved to Nebraska, where he opened a window-tinting business with a friend. That business continues to operate today.
There, he met Ricque, who was selling cars.
In 2014, he and Ricque moved to Colorado, with their three kids and with dreams of starting another business.
“I’m one of those who firmly believes if you want something, you figure out how you’re going to get it,” Wirth said. “You make a plan and set goals.”
The couple started the Greeley Auto Spa in a 1,400-square-foot shop; within months, they doubled their size. That first year, the company did roughly $37,000 in sales; by year two, they were up to $218,000, Wirth said.
“I want to hit a half a million by next year,” he said.
He wants to open a third location, as well, but he estimates he’ll have to gross $5 million before that happens.
Having only spent two years in Greeley, without gaining work from auto dealerships to boost customer volumes, the Wirths have had to work hard to sell their detailing, tinting and glossing services.
They enter their own cars in car shows, and let the interest come to them. The shine off their cars brings in the curious. It’s not wax that makes the cars so shiny. It’s a coating — Ceramic Pro — that only Greeley Auto Spa has the rights to sell in northern Colorado. The coating, which he equates to putting a layer of glass on top of a car, is impervious to bugs, tars, tree saps or bird droppings. Frankly, he said, the Ceramic Pro is a selling point, as it eliminates the need to wax.
When people at car shows ask about his corvette, he gladly tells him the secret to the shine.
Then the money rolls into his Greeley and now Loveland shops. He routinely works on high-dollar sports cars, such as Lamborghinis and Porsches.
He’s done it all by the sweat of his brow. His drive keeps him working six days a week, most days from 7 a.m. until midnight — the body shop by day, the computer and marketing stuff by night.
“People tell me I’m crazy all the time,” Wirth said. “But just watch. I’ll show you. The biggest thing is when people doubt me. I’m like, ‘You want to doubt me now? I’m going to come back 10 times harder.’ I don’t like to be told, ‘You can’t do that, there’s no way.’
“I’ll find a way. I have to,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m trying to prove. But that’s my fuel.”
He and Ricque are raising three kids and will delight in the day their son runs the business and feeds them their pills (presumably to deal with old age).
Wirth taught Ricque the ropes, and she works right alongside him.
They are working on ways to donate and help others, and create a charity for veterans.
While he wants to grow, and grow big, he says he’ll never lose that family atmosphere.
“I hate corporations. I will never work for a corporation, and I will never become corporate. No matter how big I grow,” Wirth said, “I will stay small, family-oriented. In a corporation, you’re just a number. My people are not just numbers.”
We would like to thank The Tribune for reprint permission.