Have you been behind the wheel of the S197 Mustang at 160 mph, with adrenalin pumping through your veins? Steve Puffpaff, owner of Blowfish Racing, knows that well. And Mustang car enthusiasts in southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois now have cause to celebrate. Steve has moved his business, which manufactures aftermarket performance parts for late model Ford Mustangs, from Stevensville, Md., to Waukesha.
An engineer and Mustang enthusiast himself, Steve is proud to return to his home state of Wisconsin. “The cost of doing business here in Waukesha County is far more attractive. And we had tremendous help from the Waukesha County Center for Growth to find a suitable site, re-evaluate our business model, determine our cost of operation here, and develop a new business plan and financial projections,” he said.
Turning customizations into a business
Steve started fabricating parts while building his own track-driven Mustang out of his garage, as there was little selection in the aftermarket for track-oriented Mustangs. Through social media, he showed other enthusiasts what he created for his car, and the requests to have more parts made to sell started pouring in. He established Blowfish Racing in 2012 and began using outside vendors to produce components when demand for his products increased exponentially after he began selling them online. In 2015, he moved the business into a commercial space to handle the product line growth and added equipment to move toward in-house manufacturing.
Today, a large proportion of Blowfish Racing’s performance enhancement products are sold to distributors around the United States and Canada, as well as direct internet sales that extend the products’ reach globally. Steve has developed a loyal following of Mustang enthusiasts who want a more authentic driving experience and seek out new products that he designs and makes out of his 4,600-square-foot facility in Waukesha.
Blowfish Racing manufactures braking system components and accessories, shift-enhancing systems, bracing and lightweight replacement components. Steve holds U.S. patents to the designs for many of these products.
Slow and steady wins the race
Before deciding on the move, Blowfish Racing learned about Wisconsin’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. As Steve was originally from Waukesha, he got in touch with SBDC Business Consultant Karen Taylor, who had helped to establish the Waukesha SBDC only a few months earlier, in partnership with the Waukesha County Center for Growth.
“Steve and his prospective business partner had initially come in with the idea to form a partnership, get a significant bank loan, buy a building and additional equipment, and diversify into manufacturing of industrial products. While risk-taking and entrepreneurship go hand in hand, we assessed the risks and challenges of moving so quickly and the ability of the company to take on such a large financial burden at this stage.” Karen said.
Karen helped Blowfish Racing develop a sound business plan, starting initially with the Business Model Canvas to quickly develop a clear view of its value proposition, operations, customers and finances. They also worked together to build the company’s financial projections for the next three years. With the additional knowledge of the company’s potential finances, Steve was able to come to a decision on how Blowfish Racing would be operated in Waukesha County.
Accomplishments with the Waukesha SBDC and Waukesha County Center for Growth:
- Launched a business locally
- Industrial site comparisons
- Business planning
- Financial planning
Poised for growth
“We are doing what we do best now – in-house design and production of performance enhancement products for Mustangs. The future is very bright – I see the opportunity to expand the product line and use their concepts to cross over into similar products for other performance oriented cars like the Chevy Camaro, Chevy Corvette, Dodge Challenger and Subaru WRX. It’s all about superior performance, and there isn’t a better place to do this than in Waukesha County!”