The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center and North Iowa Area SBDC are proud to recognize Joe Jamtgaard and Jackie Villela of Dave’s Auto in Lake Mills, IA as the July 2021 Entrepreneurs of the Month.
Joe Jamtgaard purchased Dave’s Auto Service in November 2020 from Dave Anderson after working for him for 15 years. Dave, the founder of Dave’s Auto, had always talked about how one day he would be ready to move on from the business but hoped someone would take over and keep the tradition going. When Dave turned 70, he knew it was time to look to his business’s legacy. “Dave is the greatest guy ever,” Joe says. “He didn’t want the place to close, and he wanted to make sure this worked for everyone involved. It’s the same name, same quality of service, but new owners.”
Dave’s Auto is a full-service gas station, a place where a customer can buy tires, get the windows cleaned and oil checked while getting a few gallons of gas. “It’s one of the unique value propositions of the business,” says Brook Boehmler, Regional Director of the North Iowa Area SBDC. When a local teenager gets their first car, their local gas station isn’t just a place to fill up, it’s a place to learn car maintenance and care. Jackie Villela, Joe’s partner, says, “If someone has a problem, you send them to Joe and Dave’s Auto, and they create a lasting relationship.”
Joe and Jackie participated in the Fall 2020 University of Iowa Venture School program at the NIACC Pappajohn Center before officially opening the business. “We didn’t think we had time for it, but we’re so glad we did before we finalized the purchase – the business takes up a lot of time and concentration, but we were ready with the prep work. It was worth our time,” Jackie says. Venture School was online at the time, an unexpected benefit for Joe and Jackie who live 45 minutes away from the NIACC campus. Joe and Jackie conducted extensive customer discovery by phone and Zoom during this time. “We learned so much about people’s buying habits and why they do what they do,” Joe says. “We did more customer discovery than we needed to, in a wider market area, because just about anyone is a potential customer at a service station.”
Joe and Jackie have some advice for their fellow entrepreneurs just starting out. “Use the Small Business Development Center and other professionals as a resource,” Joe says. “They have contacts who can help you find what you need.” Jackie adds, “Don’t be afraid to ask for advice if you don’t know how the processes work, even if you feel dumb for not knowing. There are so many thing we learned that we never would have known if we hadn’t asked.”
In January 2021 Joe reopened Dave’s Auto Service in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the economic impact was still uncertain. But, with thorough research and preparation, a commitment to tradition and service, Dave’s Auto has gained a stable footing. Joe and Jackie look forward to continuing the legacy of Dave’s Auto Service. As for Dave himself – he’s still involved, still teaching teenagers how to check tire pressure, still lending his years of experience. For him, it’s never been only about the business – it’s the relationships with the community they’ve all made along the way.