We recently spent some time with Jessica Zazworsky, ICA Board Operator Director and Owner of Bubble Barn Car Wash in Burnsville, Minnesota. In this interview, Jessica shares with us her thoughts on entrepreneurship and what brought her to the car wash industry.
Q: Tell us about your path into the car wash industry.
A: My path to the carwash industry started almost five years ago, and we’re just celebrating our two-year anniversary at the Bubble Barn. Previously, I was working in corporate America.
I grew up in a family of small business owners and was looking to go out on my own when I was younger, and I thought to myself, having a corporate job is great – the paycheck comes every two weeks, I have company-sponsored health care, and all of that great stuff. But as I got a little bit older, I realized I had that same entrepreneurial spirit as my family, and I wanted to be part of the community in a way only a small business owner can. As I was thinking about what to do, I spoke with a gentleman from my hometown in Ohio who was opening car washes all over Ohio. I went to see his operation and was really sold on the idea of opening a car wash.
I’ve always felt like we didn’t have enough high-quality car washes especially for the weather we have in the Twin Cities. That’s kind of what started my journey, and here I am today.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: Every day is different. I do like to be at the wash frequently, but I’m not there every single day. My belief is that as a business owner, working alongside staff just makes for a more successful business.
I worked at Dairy Queen corporate, and I saw with the franchisees that it didn’t matter how beautiful their store was or whether they had great locations. The most successful Dairy Queens were the ones where owners were flipping burgers at lunch, getting to know their staff and getting to know their customers. That’s really something I’ve taken to heart as I opened my own business – making sure I’m there frequently and engaged in the business. It shows my staff how important it is for me, and hopefully that helps drive more pride for them.
Q: What keeps you coming back every day?
A: Both the people on my team and the community. We opened during a really interesting time – February 2020. We were open for about a month and then we were closed for about a month. Trying to launch a business during the pandemic was really challenging.
I went through a ton of scenario planning when I was getting ready to open the business, and a scenario I didn’t plan for was a global pandemic. The community has been amazing to us, and that is something I’m so grateful for. I love getting out there and meeting people. Seeing them excited about supporting a local business just fills my heart. I feel very lucky. And I do think I have the greatest people working for me.
Q: What can others learn from your experience of starting a business and then being hit with something that basically puts on the brakes?
A: I had a lot of leadership challenges. But it’s your business, and you’re going to see it through. That’s the No. 1 lesson. Also, lean on your resources. The Chamber of Commerce was amazing, and my city council actually helped me reopen when there were issues in Minnesota about whether car washes could be open. ICA provided resources as well.
You have to utilize those resources and talk to other small business owners in your industry and outside of your industry – create that community. I was very new when the pandemic started, so I didn’t really have that, but over the past year, I’ve made a concerted effort to create a community around me.
Q: What do you think car wash professionals need to be watching for and paying attention to right now?
A: There’s so much consolidation happening and a lot of activity with private equity. I have one wash now, and I’m hoping to open another wash next year or so. What does consolidation mean for the mom and pops out there when you have so many bigger players? How do we stay competitive?
Again, I think it goes back to leveraging resources like ICA and making sure we have a strong community of independent operators. We need to stay up to date on the latest trends and market technology so we can make a difference in the way customers are able to enjoy the experience. We need to continue surprising and delighting our customers.
Q: What has been your biggest learning from the car wash industry?
A: The thing that has surprised me most is how generous the carwash community is. People are very willing to talk with you, share experiences and answer your questions. Everyone has been so generous with their time. I don’t know if it’s unique to our industry, but I think it’s fabulous. It’s just been really wonderful.
Q: What do you do for fun? What do you do to refill your tank?
A: It feels like work is consuming a lot of my time lately. I’m not originally from the Twin Cities, but I have a brother who moved here about a year after I did. I love spending time with my friends and family. I have a little pup who keeps me company, and we really enjoy the summers here and enjoying our beautiful lakes.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
A: I really think that car washing is so fun. Someone shows up with a dirty car, and three minutes later, it’s clean and they’re happy. I think it’s a real privilege to bring that little bit of happiness to people, and it’s something that is really fun to experience – to see people’s smiling faces at the end of their car washes.