Brian Johnson has worked several jobs, but he always dreamed of someday having his own car detailing business.
Johnson is a Hays resident who receives career assistance and support from Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas. His long-time dream seemed a bit out of reach — that is until he connected with local business owner Troy Burkhart.
Burkhart first met Johnson, who is described as passionate and outgoing, when he stopped in his business — Xibit Customs — to ask if he could clean and detail his personal vehicle. Johnson enthusiastically discussed his plans for the future and, in doing so, left a lasting impression on Burkhart.
When their paths crossed again several months later, Burkhart said he was sad to hear Johnson was having a difficult time achieving his goals.
“I remember being passionate about this business before I opened it, and talking to my friends and family,” Burkhart said. “It was the same kind of passion that he had talking about his business, and then when it didn’t get to happen, it was a bummer. I was like, that dude needs to be able to do that for his job.”
That inspired Burkhart to expand his established customs business, located at 1005 E. 37th, to include detailing services — provided by Johnson, of course. With a big smile, Johnson simply said it’s “really awesome” to be fulfilling his goal.
“He took me under his wing,” he said of Burkhart.
The arrangement made sense for both of them. Johnson had the skills and passion for a detailing business, but no location or funds for startup costs. Paperwork and taxes also could have been a challenge.
Meanwhile, Burkhart’s existing business included extra space for cleaning customers’ vehicles and all of the equipment necessary for detailing services. He just needed the right employee to take it on, he said.
“Clearly, as an owner of a business, you’re always looking for ‘that person’ to come work for you or to be a partner in the things you do,” he said. “A great employee is worth everything. That’s what makes a business. And when you find somebody that just loves doing something, clearly that’s the goal.”
When he’s not busy detailing cars, Brian has been expanding his skillset by helping with certain other duties around the shop. And he’s already got his eye on expansion. Burkhart said Johnson thinks about detailing cars “non-stop” and has great ideas for the future.
Johnson continues to receive support from Employment Connections, which receives funding from the United Way of Ellis County to provide long-term follow-along services for qualifying employees.
LaVonne Giess, employment program manager, said Brian has “blossomed” since starting work at Xibit in the fall.
“He’s passionate about it, but we believe in him. He does a great job,” Giess said. “We wouldn’t be selling it if we thought he didn’t do a very good job. He does it very well. We just want other people to know what a great job he does.”
Xibit Detailing is offering a “sweetheart sale” all month in efforts to grow the new business and show off Johnson’s skills.
Burkhart has continued to work closely with Johnson’s support staff to ensure he’s offering a work environment that will be a good long-term fit for his new employee, he said. The relationship also has evolved into a mentorship, in which he also provides advice and practical assistance for daily living as Brian has a need.
“This is the relationship we wish all of our people employed could have, and we’ve got some great employers in this community — absolutely phenomenal employers that go above and beyond for the individuals we serve,” Giess said. “But this definitely is above and beyond.”
“It’s weird, because it doesn’t seem above and beyond,” Burkhart said. “It seems like it’s supposed to be that way.”