Manatee County, Florida
OE Wheels was founded over 20 years ago and has grown to become one of the largest independent wheel distributors in North America. Specializing in design and engineering, their premium brands, OE Wheels, and 4PLAY Wheels are globally recognized and can be purchased through various e-commerce and wholesale outlets.
14% increase from 2018 – 2021
85% increase from 2018 – 2021
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida, and am a 3rd generation Floridian. I was active in sports growing up, playing baseball, and football and eventually joining the rowing team at Riverview High School. To help finance college, I worked with my uncle, the founder of OE Wheels. The unforgiving duties included refurbishing, dirty, used wheels that were sourced in salvage yards and dealerships. In 2000, I graduated with honors from the University of Florida with a Finance Major and then accepted a job at a large government contractor. 5 years later I would rejoin my uncle to help develop the business into what it is today.
Where did the idea for the company come from?
It was my uncle, the founder that truly had the first “ah-ha” moment when he realized what online shopping could become as he was an early adapter to eBay. My “ah-ha” moment occurred as I returned to a business that was
failing at a point when many businesses do. It was in that smoke-filled office that housed mounting unpaid/delinquent bills, personnel issues, no infrastructure, no software, and no accounting system, that I saw a long, difficult path to resurrection. That was when my entrepreneurial journey truly began. Since that day, we have had “ah-ha moments that included the early adaptation to NetSuite and the launch of 4PLAY Wheels.
Did you know you always wanted to lead a company?
I don’t know that I thought of it when I was young, though I always seemed to be the leader in social situations. I was always the one developing and orchestrating the plans, which continue to this day. It was in my early 20s that I really found a drive to succeed, and I was lucky to have mentors along the way.
Tell us about your business and the value it brings to your customers.
OE Wheels Distributors was officially incorporated over 20 years ago. Our global manufacturing partnerships allow us to maintain supply chain control since we operate as a distributor, as well as a direct-to-consumer retailer through our various online outlets where we offer OEM, Replica, and aftermarket wheel options to our customer base. In addition to providing immense value by shortening the supply chain while providing a very high level of customer service (4.9 Google reviewed, A+ BBB), we have also created several patented aftermarket designs, which have since dictated the direction of the industry.
What makes your company culture unique? How do you like to lead your team?
Our company culture is anchored by the acceptance and supportive interactions of fellow team members. It’s important for our staff to do their part in working towards company goals. A strong work ethic coupled with strong team-oriented relationships results in an excellent workplace atmosphere. We actually enjoy coming to work and seeing one another! My leadership is a reflection of our team embracing my role as their advocate. My job is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to advance whether it be in the workplace or personally. My door Is always open and my investment in our team will never be bound by the parameters of this business.
What makes your company different than others in your market?
Several differences exist between our company and others in our market. Over the past 20 years, we have managed to build a company that is primarily debt-free, creating a robust entity not pressured by interest rates or investors. Another difference is our ability to go direct to the end user through our numerous online marketplaces. This creates another layer of safety when supply chain margins shrink, as we are also direct with manufacturers. Lastly, the development of our aftermarket brand 4PLAY wheels, and the design protection afforded by our numerous patents awarded for these cutting-edge, industry-defining styles.
While growing your business, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a business owner? How did you solve or overcome them?
The early adoption of eCommerce was a challenge in itself but the unstoppable demand of the internet led to one of the company’s first challenges. There weren’t enough dirty, used wheels in all of the salvage yards to service the need of online consumers. This led to the development of manufacturing relationships that allowed the control of production and an opportunity for unprecedented growth. Ironically, this growth created an even more pressing challenge which almost doomed the company. That type of growth without proper infrastructure and a better-suited team was not sustainable. The institution of process, structure, and ultimately the early adoption of a cloud-based ERP reversed the fortunes of the company and allowed us to create sustainable growth from $2M/yr upwards to 40M/yr, which is where we are today.
How do you hope to see the company grow in the coming years?
Our company goals consist of continued individual and cultural growth while developing new products, and new brands and working hard to achieve our financial goals. In 2023 we will open our first distribution facility outside of Florida and have already formed several international relationships that will continue to produce results globally.
What has been your proudest moment as president?
This one is easy. My proudest moments have been witnessing the personal and professional growth of our team, especially during the pandemic. The support our team demonstrated for one another in the face of adversity and differing opinions really speaks to their character. You learn the most about people when confronted with hardship, and time and time again this team rose to the challenge with integrity-filled actions and character.
What does it mean to you to be selected as a GrowFL FLCTW Honoree?
To be honest, I feel uncomfortable being recognized for such a prestigious award. It’s certainly surreal considering how many great companies were nominated and selected. It’s truly a humbling experience for myself and our entire staff, especially considering that the real contributions originated with them.
Is there anyone special you’d like to thank?
I’d like to thank my parents, my wife, and daughter, my uncle the founder, and our entire team at OE Wheels that work hard every day to make our company great. I’d also like to thank Lauren at the Bradenton area EDC, and the state and local governments for their support. We are all lucky to live in Florida! And of course, I’d like to thank the entire staff at GrowFL for the countless hours that go into this process.
Understand what you can control i.e., work ethic, commitment, discipline, and integrity. Be determined and understand what it means to have perseverance. Spend time developing and refining a long-term plan and think about how you treat others during your journey. The human element may be more important than you think. Be humble and don’t live beyond your means. Be honest with yourself, actively seek out mentorship and embrace critical feedback. During setbacks look for value and growth in the lesson learned.