The Latino auto professional who turned his love of cars into an entrepreneurial success story
William Villafane owns multiple auto businesses in Avondale, Pa. and Kennett Square, where there had never been a Latino-owned business before.
From an early age, William Villafane has been absolutely enamored with cars.
Growing up in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, by the time the young Villafane was in elementary school, he frequently told his friends that he dreamed of one day starting his own auto shop.
As he got older and into high school, he started working at various auto body shops where he gained valuable hands-on experience and knowledge about the industry that would help him down the road.
However, Villafane faced several challenges along the way.
For one, his family didn’t come from money and lived on welfare, meaning the dream of starting his own business at many points seemed almost impossible.
At the age of 18, Villafane also lost his mother, which began a very tough period for him.
Despite the struggles, Villafane continued grinding and didn’t let any doubts or hardships get the best of him.
“I stuck with it,” he said, “never gave up on the dream that I had ever since I was a little kid.”
After several years working at an auto body and paint shop in Wilmington, Delaware, Villafane made the decision to leave his $65,000 a year job and take a leap towards starting his own business.
At the age of 27 and with just $3,000 to his name, Villafane opened his first business, an auto detailing shop out of a one-car garage.
Villafane received a lot of advice from others that discouraged taking such a chance of competing within the industry, especially with a wife and three children at home.
“In my mind, I wanted to do it so bad,” said Villafane. “I was willing to risk it all, and that’s exactly what I did.”
Initially, those people were right, as Villafane lost his house. However, he didn’t give up on his dream, and continued to do what was needed to make ends meet.
Fast forward to today, and Villafane is now an entrepreneur with multiple businesses — including Penn Green Collision and PG Auto Supply, an automotive body shop and supply store in Avondale, Pennsylvania; and Penn Green Auto Detailing, an auto detailing service company located in Kennett Square.
Villafane said his newfound business prowess came from a period of time where he and a partner opened an auto dealership in Chester, Pennsylvania. That taught him the ins and outs of business and entrepreneurship. While the partnership didn’t work out, the knowledge he gained from that experience helped get him to where he is today.
“It changed my whole view on how to look at business,” he said. “It was then that I realized that I wanted to be an entrepreneur.”
With the many challenges faced along the way, Villafane credited the fact that he never lost focus.
“I just blocked off the negativity, and just kept my eyes on the prize,” he added.
Opening his businesses in Southern Chester County was also important for Villafane, as there were no Latino-owned businesses in the area prior to his business.. As his continues to grow, Villafane is hoping to expand and continue to serve the Latino community.
When asked what was the most fulfilling part of being an entrepreneur in an industry he loves, Villafane said it’s that it doesn’t feel like work.
“Once I made the decision of going on my own, I feel like I haven’t worked since,” he said. “That’s why I think I’m successful at it, because you’re not working when you love what you’re doing.”
While he spends most of his time managing the businesses, Villafane still enjoys collecting and working on his own cars as a hobby.
Villafane often reflects on his journey and remembers those along the way who said he wouldn’t make it, particularly as a Hispanic. However today, many of his friends and peers look up to him for overcoming the mishaps and hardships and realizing his childhood dream.
“I struggled for years,” he said, “but I never gave up and then the benefits of it all at the end now makes me know that it was all so worth it.”