Greg Szczesny

Wheels for Workers

What is Wheels for Workers?

Wheels for Workers is a social enterprise and incubator space for Detroit youth, ages 18-28, to learn job skills to become mechanics and marketable craftsman in the auto industry so they can re-enter the workforce. Participants will be matched with volunteer mechanics to fix up donated cars, which will then be sold at market value back to the community, and at reduced rates to youth coming out of the program. Participants will also be offered internships with local auto shops and dealerships to gain hands-on experience. My business idea follows the triple-bottom-line model.  Many people don’t realize that it’s not all about the money, it’s about the strength of your business model and how you are helping your customers in the community.

What was your experience in Build Institute?

Build helped me define my business plan and put a strategic plan together for my first annual fundraiser and launch party which I held in May.  It gave me the tools to think about the finances behind my business – including cash flow, startup costs, and breakeven point. I realized how much strategic planning was necessary to put into the business. Another highlight was the unit on branding, which taught me about the importance of a consistent message and image.

What are your most recent developments after Build?

I organized my first fundraiser on May 15th and was able to raise $3,500 in addition to gaining a lot of exposure in the community. I also received a grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation and used that to put a two-year operational plan in place. Most recently I was one of six award winners in this year’s Michigan Corps Social Entrepreneurship Challenge. I was awarded the Mission Throttle Social Entrepreneur of the Year and won a cash prize as well as the opportunity to take the impact investment fellowship. Right now I’m looking for cars, volunteer mechanics and securing a location to get started. There’s a lot in the works!

What’s in the future for Wheels for Workers?

I hope to provide reliable transportation not only to those who participate in Wheels for Workers, but to participants from other workforce development programs in the city. Many of these programs hit the same roadblock of providing training, but no transportation or ongoing support to participants who have graduated. I don’t view it as a handout, but a ‘hand-up’ because we will be selling the vehicles to participants and educating them about budgeting and life skills. My ultimate goal is to have a co-working, co-learning lab that is a space for individuals to share their skills, educate one another, and introduce youth to newer technologies all geared around cars and our rich auto heritage in Detroit.