A New Venture

Auto service center concept gets startup help from Indiana community bank

By William Atkinson

Bill Floyd has been an avid “car guy” his whole life. And he and his wife, Brenda, have always talked about going into business together.

So when Floyd heard five years ago that the nearby Indianapolis Colts’ stadium would be named Lucas Oil Stadium, an idea started flashing in his head. The idea merged his personal and professional passions.

The Floyds believed that “do it for you” retail service trends were on the rise with busy consumers. So the couple wanted to apply the business model for on-the-go people to an automotive center in Evansville, Ind. Their multipurpose facility would offer oil changes and auto repair, car washing and auto accessories. Gourmet coffee would be on hand for those lingering for a quick auto service.

But the key to the boosting the profile of the new venture, Bill Floyd figured, was having the backing of the Lucas Oil brand—a global company closely affiliated with the racing industry. So he pursued the idea and eventually discussed it with Forrest Lucas himself, the company’s founder.

“He agreed, and we completed our license agreement in 2008,” Floyd recalls.

A new business concept was born—almost. Facing the peak of the economic recession at the time, the Floyds couldn’t find their share of startup financing for the venture at any of the big banks. “No one was lending money,” Floyd says. “They also didn’t like the idea of lending money to first-time operators or a startup business with an unproven brand.”

Then the Floyds happened to meet Kirby W. King, executive vice president and chief operating officer for First Federal Savings Bank in Evansville, at a local restaurant. Floyd and King started talking, and the auto service center idea casually came up.

Soon afterward, King and other First Federal Savings executives formally reviewed the Floyds’ business plan and arrangements. Impressed with the idea, the couple’s commitment and the participation of Lucas Oil, the community bank quickly provided the necessary $1.7 million in additional funding.

“This [business concept] is something larger national banks didn’t see the power in,” Floyd says. “Kirby King and First Federal Savings Bank were willing to step up to the plate and figure out how to get us a loan and put us in business.”

Fast-forward to today, Lucas Oil Center employs almost 25 full- and part-time employees and grosses close to $1.75 million a year in sales. The company does about 60 oil changes a day using two auto service bays, and is planning to open a third service bay soon.

First Federal Savings Bank continues to help the Floyds with operational financing—and a second similar center planned for next year that will create about 25 new jobs. “We would first expand in Indiana, and then maybe think about going national,” Floyd says.

However, without the initial backing of First Federal Savings Bank, the entrepreneurial dream would have remained a mere idea flashing inside Floyd’s head. “What a feeling of pride: Together, right here in Evansville, we created the start of something great that our community enjoys and supports,” he says.

William Atkinson is a writer in Cartersville, Ill.