Volume 10, Issue 2
How Window Film Has
Helped Tony Arteaga Live the American Dream
by Brigid O'Leary
By just about any standard, Tony Arteaga, owner of E&T Car Alarms in Corpus Christi, Texas, has become successful … and it was the window film industry that helped make him so.
Moving Out (of His Homeland)
Twenty-seven-year-old Arteaga grew up in El Salvador. A few years after his parents divorced, his mother moved to California. Arteaga followed her to Los Angeles and attended high school there.
“I didn’t finish. I went through 11th grade then started working hard here and there, trying to survive,” Arteaga says. He took some courses in electronics at UCLA and in 1997 decided to move to Corpus Christi, Texas.
Moving On (to Greener Pastures)
In Corpus Christi, Arteaga found work at a local auto detailing shop. He learned to install window film and car alarms and eventually learned about everything the shop had to offer.
To Arteaga, the work is enjoyable and rewarding, especially working with window film.
“It’s a really good industry and it got my attention. You can make cars look better—window film is a quality material—it’s amazing all the different shades, colors and other [film products] on the market. I just love it,” he says.
Despite enjoying the work, Arteaga was still toiling for someone else and desired more.
“I felt like everyone treated me like a nobody, so I decided to start my own business,” he says, and he did just that, opening E&T Car Alarms in 2000.
“That’s when I met Kenny and he really helped me out,” Arteaga says.
Kenny is Kenny Horowitz of Sunbelt Films, with whom Arteaga has worked over the last six years to build his business.
Sunbelt helps Arteaga with advertising and marketing material and does what it can to help refer business to E&T.
“I remember I went with Kenny and talked to other [distributors] and he told me there 100 shops offering the same products, but [success] all depends on how you treat the customers and the kind of work you do,” Arteaga says.
It’s advice that Arteaga has taken to heart and has used to his full advantage.
“My challenge is always going to be to work to be the best, serve the people the best I can and treat everyone equally,”
he continues. “Ninety-five of my customers are repeat customers.”
“My challenge is always going to be to work to be
the best, serve the people the best I can and treat
everyone equally,” he continues. “Ninety-five
of my customers are repeat customers.”
Moving Up (the Success Ladder)
Business—repeat or otherwise—is going well for E&T Car Alarms, too. He brings in roughly $360,000 a year and the 1600-square-foot shop proved profitable enough that Arteaga opened his second shop, a 2000-square-foot diamond elite dealer for Sunbelt, in January. If things continue to go according plan, he foresees opening a third shop in the next five years. Ironically, the new shop Arteaga just opened happens to be the site of his former employer; the business where he learned to install window film and car alarms went out of business in 2005.
The new shops have proven to be worth the investment.
“More revenue is brought in by my larger, second shop. It has a better drive-by location. So far, the new shop has been profitable and by summer, it should really take off,” Arteaga says.
Don’t let the name fool you, either. The business is well diversified already and its owner has was schooled on the installation of several different car accessory lines from the beginning. That said, Arteaga readily admits that window film is the lifeblood of the company.
“Tint is the biggest moneymaker, though [we also] offer car alarms, stereo systems and some other accessories,” he says. “My main work is window tint, followed by alarms.”
Window film may be the lifeblood of his shop, with car alarms a close second, but E&T also offers mobile TV, stereo systems and spray-in bedliners. He gets the E&T name out by working a marketing plan as diverse as his product line.
He has color ads in the yellow pages and the local magazine; he utilizes radio advertising and networking opportunities with other businesses, including glass and insurance companies, and he has a new billboard on the freeway, measuring 18½-feet by 7½-feet.
Arteaga is also active in the community. E&T sponsors a junior league baseball team, which helps get his name—and his company name—circulating among local residents.
It’s never easy to be an entrepreneur in any industry, and Arteaga faces the same challenges that everyone else does: finding the right employees. There’s no sure-fire way to find a good employee, but Arteaga relies mostly on
word-of-mouth to do so.
“Advertising has never helped me find employees,” he says.
Part of that is because Arteaga has high standards for his employees. He expects them to help him overcome the other challenges he faces as a business owner: serving customers that will remain loyal and keep coming back.
“Often times, to do that—to get to that level it means doing more than the customer expects from us,” he says.
Doing more for the customer means doing more at work and Arteaga recognizes the sacrifices he has to make to keep his business going. With seven employees and now two stores to run, Arteaga spends a lot of his time at work.
“It’s rare that I have free moments, but when I do, I want to spend it with my son. It’s very difficult to be a business owner. People think that you don’t have set hours, that you’ve got it easier, but that’s not the case. You’ve got to work a lot of hours. It’s all work, work, work and you never really stop,” Arteaga says.
Arteaga’s been in the United States for more than a decade now and though he rarely talks with the family members still in El Salvador, he remains close to his mom.
“I don’t really talk with my dad much. We only exchange a few words a year, but my mom—I talk to her every day. She’s one of my main pillars,” Arteaga says.
With the support of friends and family, Arteaga has become a successful business owner but he doesn’t forget how far he’s come.
“The best thing I see is … as a human being, I have learned how to respect and treat everybody, especially employees. We’re all the same; it doesn’t matter how much money people have,” he
Brigid O’Leary is the editor of Window Film magazine.