The last time Krissy Sowers took a shot at entrepreneurship, she was a senior in high school and had to shut her business down after getting tangled in red tape.
Seven years later, Sowers is at it again.
The 26-year-old Chesterfield County native two weeks ago launched Krissy’s Cars Park and Sell, the latest local startup based on a used car consignment concept.
“I always had this idea in the back of my head,” said Sowers, who after a stint at a desk job in Ohio recently returned to her hometown.
Run out of a former BB&T branch on Midlothian Turnpike near Westchester Commons, Krissy’s Cars sells used vehicles on consignment for a $250 fee.
Sellers use the lot to park and display their vehicles, and Sowers has the cars cleaned and inspected and handles all the marketing, inquiries and test drives.
She’s competing with local startup CarLotz, which opened on Midlothian Turnpike last year and recently launched a second location in the West End.
The idea behind the concepts is to give owners an alternative to selling their vehicles on their own or trading in.
Krissy’s Cars has been years in the making.
Sowers’s father, Chesterfield developer Mark Sowers, has owned the former bank property for years.
“People would park their cars here, and I’d see how quickly they would sell. So I decided to start charging people,” Krissy Sowers said.
She began charging people $25 to park their cars. The fee didn’t scare people off, and the wheels began to turn.
“My dad suggested I put up a sign,” Sowers said. “So I did, and the next day the Motor Vehicle Dealers Board showed up and said you can’t do that without a license.” (The board regulates dealers of new and used vehicles.)
Sowers temporarily dropped the idea and enrolled at Radford University.
After graduation, she moved to Ohio and then returned to Chesterfield to get her dealer license and give her old business a second try, but she hit another speed bump.
“My dad said, ‘You’ll never believe what I just saw in the paper.’ It was CarLotz,” Sowers said.
Armed with a large capital backing and MBAs, the founders of CarLotz are former investment bankers who have worked quickly to grow their company. CarLotz sells vehicles on consignment for an $800 fee.
“I got a little discouraged,” Sowers said. “Even though consignment is not a new idea by any means, I felt like CarLotz beat me to it.”
Sowers decided nevertheless to give it a go and to undercut the competition.
“I’m doing it. I’m not scared to fail,” she said.
She has a temporary sign hanging out front (although the property’s marquis still bears the name of Centennial Homes, a homebuilding company owned by her father.
“I don’t have much money to start with,” she said. “Eventually I’ll be able to afford to change the sign.”
Customers have found their way to Krissy’s Cars: Sowers sold her first car last week. She has two vehicles on the lot and has two more coming this week.
Her father owns 30 acres surrounding the lot, which she said could be used for expansion.
As more revenue comes in, she’ll look to replace the sign out front, upgrade the company’s website and perhaps do a bit of advertising.
Her dad offered to pay for a sign, but she turned him down, determined to raise the money one car at a time. She is paying her father rent for the space.
Sowers did listen to her dad when trying to decide on a name.
Krissy’s Cars was the name she used for the business’s brief run in high school.
Her dad told her to revive it.
“It just stuck, I guess,” she said.