Learning to Grow During a Crisis — Josh Casillas Profile

For 18 years, Josh Casillas has been running American Factory Wheel out of San Diego.

As a small business owner, he’s overcame adversity and witnessed a lot, but nothing quite like what the world felt during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this,” reflects Josh. “I don’t think any of us have.”

Always one to push and never one to pout, Josh is honest about the struggles his business is experiencing during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The first thing we had to do was cut payroll and that’s something no business owner enjoys doing,” says Josh. “I had a very difficult time doing that.”

Thankfully for Josh, he’s rooted in faith and inspired by growth during the COVID- 19 crisis. His solution during these dire times? Doubling down on digital content and expanding his online reach.

“I’ve never been big on posting on social media, it’d just never been my thing,” says Josh. “Doing videos is not my thing, but the uncomfortable is what I need to do to grow my business. I’m taking a leap of faith.”

A Leap of Faith

So far, the leap of faith has done wonders for Josh and keeping his business on track. Though social distancing and quarantine has slowed down of foot traffic for his shop, it has provided a renewed focus on his online business. When considering web analytics for American Factory Wheel, it’s been a boom in traction during these times.

“The numbers have doubled,” Josh says in regard to web traffic during social distancing.

“People are on their phones, their computers, people are definitely looking to buy stuff online. It’s important for us to have that e-commerce and eBay presence as a business. People need to know I have 10,000 OEM wheels here and they’re all for sale! The only way to do that was to get out there, post on social media and do videos to let people know we’re open and it’s all for sale.”

Doing business online and on eBay has been a revenue avenue for Josh for years as AFW is not just big in San Diego but also has a strong presence in the likes of Virginia and Colorado when it comes to selling refurbished rims. Quieter conditions around the shop has allowed his employees to list and sell more inventory online.

“Now we have time at the shop, so the first thing I did was get my eBay team – which is two guys – to put everything we have on eBay. They’ve been super busy.”

Online sales aside, it’s also essential – no pun intended – for Josh to get the word out to his Cali customers in need of restorations and repairs by letting locals know that they are open. This again has Josh going digital to reach his roots in San Diego.

“A lot of people don’t know who’s open and who is not open during these times,” notes Josh. “It’s important for us to get out there on social media and let people know that we’re open.”

Providing an Essential Service

Unbeknownst to some, or perhaps many in these times of change and confusion, auto shops are indeed an essential business as they facilitate the ability for people to travel to other essential businesses.

“We’re helping you guys get back on the road to get to the bigger needs like getting to the grocery store and getting to the doctor. We’re able to assist in these things by fixing your rims and letting our mechanics help you get to these places.”

Still, it’s not common knowledge to many and that’s why Josh is getting out of his comfort zone to spread the word online. He’s also encouraging peers in his field to do the same.

“That’s something that I encourage a lot of my friends in my industry to do,” says Josh. “Like, ‘Hey man, I know you don’t like doing Facebook, I know you don’t like doing Instagram, but you need to let people know that you’re open.’ We’re an essential business and we are here until we’re told otherwise.”

Fortunately for Josh, he has the help of fellow San Diego-based company Cali BBQ Media to create content and improve marketing during this time of transition. Enlisting Cali BBQ Media’s Digital Hospitality services to update their website and online content, guidance from Cali BBQ Media’s Shawn Walchef and Stover Harger has allowed Josh to showcase his space, product and team on a YouTube tour as well as get the word out on his services via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“We need to get more content out there,” says Josh on these times. “For me, I’m going to be doing a lot more content. It’s time for us to get out there and let everyone know what we have for sale and what we can do for service. We need to be more consistent with having that social media presence more than ever because it’s important.”

Though getting in front of a camera is new for Josh, overcoming adversity is not. A small business owner for the majority of his adult life, he’s risen from modest beginnings and stayed the course during times of turbulence.

“I started in my garage with $5,000, so I’ve been struggling my whole life,” reflects Josh. “I’m kind of immune to this type of stuff. I’m not nervous about it, my faith runs deep and that’s what I rely on: having the faith that we’re going to run through this. No, I’ve never seen anything like this, but yes, I’ve felt this feeling before.”

Josh, his family and employees understand other small businesses are going through this same cycle of feelings, too. Because of that, his habits are changing, and his heart is opened to others overcoming the same struggle.

“My wife said, ‘We need to go to our friend’s restaurants at least once a week to support those guys,’” agrees Josh.

“The good thing is that after we get through all of this, which we will, is that my family’s habits will change. We’ll be supporting more local businesses than ever before. The smaller businesses are where it’s at and that’s what I want to do for my friends.”

Guided by faith and growing in social, Josh is rooted in his values in this time of crisis and forward-thinking in every meaning of the term.

“My faith is strong and doing the right thing is important. Just keep it moving.”

— Article by Ian Stonebrook for Cali BBQ Media

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