NEW YORK --Will Castro is living proof that hard work and dedication can take you to the top. Only 20 years ago, the founder and CEO of Unique Autosports was working as a valet. Today, he's running his car customization company, his online concerns, and, of course, appearing on his popular Speed Channel television show, "Unique Whips."
It was through his job parking Cadillacs, Mercedes-Benzes, and Ferraris at a restaurant in New York City that he noticed the attention and care that people placed on their cars. Mr. Castro decided to build a side detailing business -- washing and waxing those top-of-the-line cars to make some extra money.
About a year into doing this, Mr. Castro put down his hose, tossed out his towels, and jumped into his first full-scale, start-to-finish car customization. It was a 300E Mercedes-Benz owned by recording artist Erick Sermon.
"All the other rappers at that time were rocking the 190E, like Rakim," Mr. Castro told HispanicBusiness.com. "But Erick bought a 300E, the big-body style, and we did a whole Lorenzo ground effect package: rims, tires, rag top, and stereo system out of a one-car garage."
That was the beginning of Unique Autosports, Mr. Castro's auto shop specializing in custom built sound and video systems, bodywork, custom interiors, graphics, and rims and wheels, currently located in Holbrook, New York. Unique has become the go-to place when it comes to customizing people's "rides." The staff prides themselves on not just their quality of work, but the special treatment given to each of their customers.
The business is "more than just watching my guys cut wood," said Mr. Castro, referring to the process of fabricating speaker boxes. "It's about my relationship with my customers that makes us 'Unique.'"
That philosophy, underpinned by the company's hard work, dedication, great craftsmanship, and exceptional customer service, has helped Unique Autosports expand from its humble beginnings into the premier car customization shop for the rich, hip, and famous.
Word-of-Mouth Marketing . . from the Opinion Leaders
In the early 1990s, news of Mr. Castro's talents spread by word-of-mouth and Mr. Castro started working on other celebrities' cars, like rapper, DJ, and comedian Biz Markie.
"I basically branched out of this little one car garage where I was doing detailing and got my first start doing unique jobs and customizations out of a shop in Brentwood, and we wound up doing a lot of ball players and rappers in the early 90s," said Mr. Castro.
Later, he shut down the Brentwood shop and moved to his current location in Holbrook near Nassau County by the Coliseum. That's when he reconnected with Mr. Sermon and eventually was introduced to car enthusiast and rap superstar Busta Rhymes, with whom Mr. Castro says he became "really tight."
Busta Rhymes let Mr. Castro into his circle and introduced him to other star musicians, including Wyclef Jean and Eminem, which helped launch Unique Autosports into its next phase.
"The hip-hop community really accepted me," he recalls. "They basically made Will Castro a celebrity because they were fans of what we do, what I design, what I stand for, and how I hook them up and go over the top to give it that tasteful look," he added. "That's what Unique is all about."
Unique Goes Big with the Small Stuff . . . and the Small Screen
Whether with celebrities or his less famous clients, Castro maintains that it's his customer service that gives Unique its edge.
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