A plethora of business students have been required to conjure up a business plan of some sort in their academic careers. While many chalk it up as just another assignment, Tim Swiontkowski, a business administration degree alumnus of Minnesota School of Business-Plymouth (MSB), used his as the basis for a new business venture.
Swiontkowski, a March 2008 graduate of MSB, tweaked, reworked and revised that plan throughout his academic career. His finished product now stands in the form of Stellar Autoworks, which sits on 13th Avenue North in Plymouth, just a stone’s throw from Medicine Lake.
The dream didn’t materialize for Swiontkowski immediately. His academic career started in aviation. As it turned out, the field took a seemingly 180-degree turn in a matter of hours.
“I had Aviation 101 on the morning of 9/11,” he recalled. “Immediately, [the professors] said the industry would be changing. I stuck with it for a year, but it ended up not being for me. I then focused on my back-up plan of working on cars.”
The automobile industry had been an interest of Swiontkowski’s since he received his driver’s license. While it was a back-up plan at the time, it turned out to be a larger part of his future then he could have anticipated.
“Vision is a funny thing; you don’t really know where you are going to end up,” he said. “It was the drive to get out on my own and quit working for somebody else and work for myself.”
That early form of his business plan started in his Entrepreneurship class, and started small out of the classroom, with Swiontkowski being a one-man shop.
“I started out working out of the garage of my townhome with a loaner car, going to pick up clients’ cars, leaving them the loaner car, and then working on it in my garage,” he said. “The whole idea behind the business was that it would be convenient to customers.”
The vision became reality when Swiontkowski and business partner Justin Dailey opened the doors to Stellar Autoworks in May 2010. The original incarnation consisted of 3,000 square feet of space, two lifts, an alignment rack and no employees. Since that time, they have doubled the shop’s footprint, tripled the number of lifts, added three loaner cars and hired four employees.
The central concept for the business (which specializes in work on Audi makes and models) continues to center around convenience for car owners throughout the Twin Cities.
“The whole idea behind [the business] was [answering the question] ‘what’s the big hassle about getting your car worked on?’” he said. “It’s not necessarily the cost. It’s the fact you have to take time out of your day to drop your car off, wait for it and possibly find a ride. We make it as convenient as possible so that people don’t have any problems.”
Business is just now plateauing after three years of constant growth, according to Swiontkowski. As for his academic stay at MSB, flexibility, convenience and adaptability allowed him to pursue his vision.
“MSB catered to everyone,” Swiontkowski said. “[MSB] made it convenient with online options, class times and working around work schedules. You can’t say that about a lot of large universities.”