Where Jeep, Mustang and truck owners turn for jazzed-up rides

Andrew (left) and Steve Voudouris, founders of Turn5, an automotive e-commerce business, at company headquarters in Malvern.

Forget great attendance and stellar customer service. Those are highly valued at Turn5, but what gets employees prime parking is driving to work in a Jeep Wrangler, a Ford Mustang, or a few types of personal trucks.

Judging from the lineup in front of Turn5’s headquarters in Malvern on a recent afternoon, it’s a popular perk, enhanced by the $2,000 the company gives employees to buy such wheels, plus $500 for parts.

The notion behind all that cash and pampering? That a company in business to serve auto enthusiasts should have employees in tune with that passion.

“Whoever knows about cars, we hire, specifically the cars we sell [parts] for,” said Andrew Voudouris, 30, who with his older brother, Steve, 32, started Turn5 in 2003 in the basement of their parents’ four-bedroom Colonial in Newtown Square, where the boys grew up.

They’ve evolved considerably since then.

The company, which provides aftermarket parts primarily for Mustang, Wrangler, and Ford F-150 vehicle models through three e-commerce sites, is now based in a 45,000-square-foot facility. But not for long. The sales niche is thriving so much that Turn5 — a take on racetrack terminology — will be moving this fall to premises twice as big in Tredyffrin Township. Its workforce is expected to grow from 425 to 1,000 in the next three years.

In the world of taillight tint inserts, axle-back exhausts, and an indulgence called a Jammock — a heavy-duty hammock designed for lounging when the top of a Jeep is removed — consumer passion for souping up vehicles is hot, and expected to get hotter.

“I just don’t see an end in sight,” said Andrew Voudouris. He added that Turn5 has been profitable from the start with “double-digit” growth year over year, but declined to provide specific revenues. “People are so excited to buy. We’re helping people with a hobby, not a commodity.”

A study released earlier this year by San Francisco-based Grand View Research Inc. valued the global automotive aftermarket at $318.02 billion in 2015, projected to hit $486.36 billion by 2025. Hedges & Co., an Ohio market-research company serving the automotive aftermarket and motor-sports industries, has forecast online parts sales reaching $8.9 billion in 2017, up 16 percent from 2016.

Not that the Voudouris brothers were that prescient when, as students at Marple Newtown High School with an early appreciation for internet buying and selling, they used $2,000 in savings to start selling computer accessories online. (The savings came from earlier sales of CDs, rubber-band guns, candy, gum, and PlayStation accessories.)

Their product line veered to car parts in 2004. Steve Voudouris had a 2001 Mustang and recognized that the aftermarket-parts field “was still very old school. People were still ordering out of catalogs, sending in cashier’s checks,” with delivery taking four to six weeks. He and Andrew “thought we could do this better.”

They took their lead from online message boards, where aftermarket aficionados lamented not being able to see what a particular part looked like on a vehicle. Most catalogs showed them floating on a page.

The Voudouris brothers thought, “Let’s solve that by using the car as `the model,’ ” Andrew said. “It quickly evolved. If we can show people video and photography, it opens it up to more people.”

Customer service is where the brothers think they can outdo their most formidable competitor, Amazon, believed to be the auto aftermarket’s largest single online retailer.

“We’re super-focused on how we create a better experience for our customers,” Steve Voudouris said. “At the end of the day, that isn’t something Amazon will be able to do.”

George Gurch, supervisor of Turn5’s contact, or call, center in Malvern, where the company aims to outdo competitors with knowledgeable customer service. (MARGO REED / Staff Photographer)

Both brothers ended their college careers after just one semester.

“I don’t think either of us are anti-education,” Steve said. “We’re just very hands-on. We learned from doing.”

And by networking with CEOs, who taught them about hiring and firing and other human-resources issues.

Successful in the Mustang aftermarket through americanmuscle.com, they sought bank financing, only to be rejected despite “sales graphs going straight up,” Steve said. “We’ve always bootstrapped the business. … It created really good discipline.”

They ran the company from their parents’ basement — expanding to four 20-by-20 tents and “a lot of tarps” in the yard to accommodate inventory — until 2007, when they moved into a warehouse. No more free rent.

“Once we moved there, we had to make money,” Steve said.

The company started spending money on marketing, and focused on Mustangs exclusively until 2013, selling car parts and producing a library of more than 2,000 videos demonstrating installation as well as the difference those parts make. Consider how bad-ass a car sounds after installation of an exhaust kit (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0LfWus3Nl0#action=share ).

“Showing video for exhaust is huge, because what people care about is what it sounds like,” Andrew said, leading a tour of Turn5’s three recording studios, part of a complex that includes the headquarters and a 180,000-square-foot warehouse/call center. In March, Turn5 added a 40,000-square-foot distribution center in Las Vegas for faster satisfaction of orders from the West and Southwest. Last year, a 5,000-square-foot call center was added in Pottstown.

A Mustang sits in a video studio, where Stephanie Wood hosts an AmericanMuscle YouTube video. AmericanMuscle.com is one of Turn5’s e-commerce sites. (MARGO REED / Staff Photographer)

To meet the needs of Jeep Wrangler owners, Turn5 added extremeterrain.com in 2013. “They’re just as enthusiastic as Mustang owners,” Andrew said. “Those guys want to build their Jeeps in their own way, and community is really tight.” They even share pictures of their work on the website.

Three years later, Turn5 added truck parts and accessories to its offerings through americantrucks.com and americanmuscle.com.

In the region’s rapidly growing technology start-up sector, Turn5 is a standout, attracting the attention of Gov. Wolf earlier this year, when he announced the company’s $7.9 million expansion plans for Cedar Hollow Road in Paoli, along with as much as $611,000 in training and job-creation support from the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development. In a statement, Wolf called Turn5’s growth “a true testament to Pennsylvania’s business climate.”

MaryFrances McGarrity, senior vice president, business development, for the Chester County Economic Development Council, said the IT sector “is expected to remain one of the largest employers in the county,” with Turn5 a welcome contributor.

“We are delighted that the company has made the decision to continue its growth trajectory in Chester County,” she said.

Its new headquarters, fashioned from an old warehouse, is intended to be “a great place for technology people,” Steve Voudouris said, with an open floor plan, a bowling alley, and outdoor communal spaces made more fun with televisions and a bar.

In June, Turn5 was named a regional finalist for the 2017 EY (Ernst & Young) Entrepreneur of the Year Award, one of 11 winners from the Philadelphia area who will compete in a national contest in November in Palm Springs, Calif. Corinne Good, partner and codirector of EY Entrepreneur of the Year Philadelphia, cited a “very heavy” technology sector presence among nearly 75 applicants. The contest, which has a global phase in Monaco next summer, often spawns partnerships and sometimes acquisitions, Good said.

For now, Turn5’s bachelor founders — Steve Voudouris lives in Media; Andrew Voudouris, in Philadelphia — are eschewing investors.

“They call us a lot. We are not looking to take on any outside money,” said Steve.

Part of that is motivated by protecting the culture the brothers have carefully coaxed, Andrew suggested.

“Nothing in life is free,” he said.

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