GCU Canyon Ventures student all about details in building auto-cleaning business

Jackson Godwin is CEO of Jack’s Detail Garage, which operates out of Canyon Ventures and offers 10 car-cleaning products.

Photos by Ralph Freso

Success as a 16-year-old in his hometown of Troy, Ohio, built the confidence Jackson Godwin possesses in his auto-detail business. He has maintained that confidence despite being rejected twice by Grand Canyon University’s Canyon Ventures Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

And after his second-place finish in the Canyon Challenge in December, Godwin displayed his fearlessness by delivering a playful warning to Robert Vera, Director of Canyon Ventures.

“I basically told (Vera), ‘Hey, either you let us in (Canyon Ventures) first, because we get everything in five-gallon vats,’" Godwin recalled. “‘Those get delivered tomorrow, so either we’ll start mixing chemicals in our dorm room or you give us a spot (at the Innovation Center).’

“We kind of held him hostage. That’s our joke.”

Godwin, a sophomore entrepreneurship major, has been all business since receiving a workstation inside the innovation center to operate Jack’s Detail Garage. His makeshift desk is full of paperwork for order requests and sits across from a wall stacked with auto-cleaning products.

The mobile-detailing operation has generated steady business for Godwin and staff members in Scottsdale and Glendale.

The cleaning products have attracted business as far as Hawaii, where a regular customer orders soap by the gallon, Godwin said.

“Our services are a little more expensive, but we try to keep it competitive.”

To say Godwin has been heavily involved in the auto-detailing business is an understatement. Jack’s Detail Garage is a product of the work that started when he received an auto-detailing kit for Christmas 4 ½ years ago and progressed when he took pride in maintaining his 2003 Mustang GT.

“I thought, ‘I can charge people for this. I’m pretty good at this,’" recalled Godwin, who quit his summer job as a lifeguard and earned more money and satisfaction by grooming cars at a local dealership.

His clientele swelled to the point where he began his own business. He focused more on products and took his detailing business into a mobile operation the next year.

Shortly after arriving at GCU, he collaborated with a few chemical engineers to improve his products.

“We kind of brought it all together once we got in here,” Godwin said.

Godwin uses one of his car-cleaning products to clean the dashboard of a vehicle.

Despite his passion for detailing cars, he is learning to secure more contracts and delegate duties to a staff of 10 GCU students this fall. Jack’s Detail Garage recently secured a contract to manage fleet services for GCU’s Department of Public Safety, Vera said.

One of Godwin’s fleet services employees is Juan Quintana, a native of Columbia who graduated from GCU in 2021 after playing tennis at the University of the Southwest and is enrolled in the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

“It's been a great story how Jack has really created jobs not only for his fellow students but for graduates here and is able to employ them here so they can literally find work,” Vera said.

The business could reach its summer goal of $50,000 in revenue. Godwin likes being involved in all facets of the business, despite added help.

“Some would say it's chronic ADHD, but I just say I'm great at this,” he said.

But he needed to persuade the right people. He described a presentation to the Innovation, Development and Entrepreneurship Association (IDEA) Club as the “worst day of my life”; the criticism was hard to take.

“We had to make a lot of changes,” he recalled. But the changes and constructive criticism helped his business, and Godwin has since become IDEA’s Vice President of Business Execution.

“Jack is one of those kids who falls in love with the criticism and advice he gets because he knows that’s his weak point,” Vera said. “Instead of rebuffing people and say they know they're wrong, he actually believes their criticism is accurate and right.

“And it’s an area he knows he needs to improve. Kudos to Jackson for having the maturity to understand the criticism is not a bad thing. Criticism may help.”

Godwin acknowledges he’s in a competitive business and tries to persuade people that car washes are bad for their vehicles. He adds that it’s tough to compete when a customer can spend as little as $4 on products.

He counters by collaborating with school engineers to find the right products at the right price. He experimented with interior cleaners before settling on his 12th sample.

“My standard of quality is that I want every product that we make to replace what I use,” said Godwin, who constantly fine-tunes his products.

GCU Canyon Ventures student Jackson Godwin has embarked on a two-pronged auto detailing business, Jack's Detail Garage, that could reach $50,000 in revenues this summer.
Godwin continually tweaks his products.

The adjustment from treating vehicles in Ohio to Arizona has been educational for the entrepreneurship student, who grew up seeing the damage from salt and mud that made it easier for him to sell products in the Midwest.

“But I was explaining to a guy about how paint expands and contracts with the heat (in Arizona), and that’s what causes clear coat failure (in Arizona),” Godwin said. “There’s battles everywhere.”

Through the help of Vera and Tim Kelley, Canyon Angels Chair and an assistant professor in the Colangelo College of Business, Godwin has learned to navigate through layers of paperwork to file for an LLC and pay taxes.

“They have been two of our biggest allies and assets through this whole thing,” Godwin said.

He has been able to reciprocate the help he’s received by serving as an IDEA officer. He guides prospective entrepreneurs (some without a business background) as they polish their business model and refine their proposed sales pitches.

“You have people who come in and they have a great idea and a great product, but they don't understand the business side of things,” Godwin said. “That's where my job is, basically. This is the best way to do it.”

Despite a hectic schedule, he also serves as a Young Life leader at Sandra Day O’Connor High School.

“I love it,” he said. “I've seen some pretty good turnarounds. And I've only been doing it since I got here (in the fall of 2022).”

Coincidentally, he was set to attend Eastern Kentucky University until he saw an Instagram advertisement and learned that a friend who also was a Young Life member had an older sister attending GCU.

His interest grew after watching Jayce Candrea’s Washed Clothing startup win the Trinity 2021 Canyon Challenge, prompting him to visit the GCU campus and become instantly swayed by the Canyon Ventures operation and mission.

“I think if I want to pursue business, I think I'm going to come here,” Godwin said. “So I switched from psychology to business.”

Godwin has leaned heavily on TikTok, which has attracted about 45,000 followers (something he credits to co-owner and IDEA President Connor Vicary), and he also depends on Facebook for promoting Jack’s Detail Garage.

And in six months, the business will have stabilized operations with detail garages in Phoenix, Troy and Peoria, Illinois (Vicary’s hometown).

But Godwin has bigger ambitions.

“I think we want to be in every state,” he said. “There's no franchise detailing company with a location everywhere.”

Said Vera: “If anyone can do it, it’s him, for sure.”

GCU senior writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected].

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