April 18

Empowering Lives Through Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles with Justin McMinn

For those with the need, having access to a wheelchair accessible vehicle makes a huge difference in independence and quality of life. However, these specialized vehicles often come with a hefty price tag. That fact alone puts them out of reach for the very people who would most benefit. Justin McMinn and his company Mobility of Denver have been working to fill that gap of affordability. Started in 2014 by Justin and his two business partners, the company’s mission has been to provide affordable wheelchair accessible vehicles to individuals and families in need. Here’s the story behind Justin’s unique business and the impact it has had.

Getting Started in the Mobility Vehicle Business

Justin revealed that the idea behind Mobility of Denver was inspired by one of his partner’s, Leo, experiences running an ambulance company called Mile High Ambulance. Leo purchased a 2012 Ford E-450 ambulance from Municibid that he now uses in his ambulance service fleet. After Justin joined mobility industry, they collaborated, and the rest is history. Though they started out selling used trucks and vans, the trio quickly realized the huge demand for lower-priced wheelchair accessible vehicles. This led them to focus their company on providing a range of affordable wheelchair van options. In 2017, they partnered with wheelchair van manufacturer VMI to become an authorized dealer, allowing them to offer both new and used vehicles to meet different budgetary needs. As a national online retailer of used automobiles, Municibid has helped Justin connect people with both affordability and accessibility.

Leo's Ford F-450

2012 Ford E-450 Ambulance that Leo won on Municibid.

“He just knew a lot about ambulance vehicles and emergency responder trucks and vans. That's kind of what gave us the first idea. And so we started in 2014 in August. The three of us sat down and we had previously, you know, flipped cars and done different odd jobs in the automotive industry.”

“Whenever we would get a used wheelchair accessible vehicle in, that wasn't $30,000, you know, we were selling some of them in the early days, $10,000, $15,000. I mean, we just had such a huge influx of leads of people being like, hey, I need this. I've been looking everywhere for something like this. And so we would sell these, you know, inexpensive wheelchair accessible vehicles to people that had no other option.” - Justin McMinn

Justin McMinn Headshot

Justin McMinn, General Manager of Mobility of Denver

Mobility of Denver, mobility vehicle

2016 Honda Odyssey EX Mobility Handicap Van from Mobility of Denver

The Impact of Providing Affordable Mobility

For Justin, the most rewarding part of the business is seeing the impact felt by customers. These stories reinforce the importance of his team’s work, and prove that what they do is truly life-changing. Over the years, certain stories have stood out as especially powerful.

"We had just a very down and out veteran, his family life had been affected by sickness, and he had lost his wife...We went through like five or six different scenarios, trying to figure everything out. We finally found the vehicle that would work for him, finally figured out that he had a couple of trade-ins...Customer just starts crying, right? He's like, ‘this is exactly what I need.’ This is over like a couple months span too. So, he didn't even know that this is going to be able to go through. Just seeing his face, like made the day worth it." - Justin McMinn

Challenges and Opportunities in the Mobility Industry

While rewarding, running a business focused on wheelchair accessible vehicles comes with unique challenges. From an insurance perspective, Justin noticed that mobility vehicles exist in a "gray area" since the complex and costly mobility conversions often double the value of the vehicle itself. This requires him to work closely with customers to make sure their vehicle is properly covered.  

Moreover, financing can be tricky too. That’s definitely true for those with limited incomes. Mobility of Denver spends a lot of time trying to find lenders and programs to help make vehicles affordable. When working with the veteran, Justin remembers going through “five or six different scenarios” while trying to find a lender.

 "There's certain lenders that will lend on mobility vans and certain ones that won't.” - Justin McMinn

Despite the challenges, Justin sees a lot of opportunity in the mobility vehicle industry, especially for entrepreneurs who take a customer-centric approach. By focusing on building relationships and going the extra mile to find solutions, Mobility of Denver has grown steadily over the past 5+ years. In fact, they have doubled their sales each year!

"Whenever we have a customer in front of us, it's like, ‘Hey, you're my best friend. I'm not going to leave you until we get everything that you want to get done accomplished.’” 

“In this industry, you just really have to take everyone step-by-step one at a time." - Justin McMinn

Mobility of Denver, mobility vehicle

2022 Chrysler Voyager LX from Mobility of Denver

The Power of Providing Transportation Independence

Mobility of Denver's story illustrates just how powerful having access to transportation can be for people with disabilities. A wheelchair accessible vehicle is so much more than just a car. Such a machine represents freedom, independence, and the ability to fully engage with family, community, work. and life. 

"We just have so many stories about different folks that have been homebound or they had kind of given up on wanting to be able to be more mobile. Now that they have the vehicle that they can get around, things like that."

As Justin and his team continue on their mission, they demonstrate the positive impact a business can make when it combines profit with purpose and keeps the customer at the center of everything they do. Let their story be an inspiration to you and your community today!

Transcript »

(0:02 - 0:51)

Justin McMinn: Customer just starts crying, right? Like he's like, this is exactly what I mean. This is over like a couple months span too. Like, so he didn't even know that this is going to be able to go through and like, just, just seeing his face, like made the day worth it because getting home was a whole nother story.

Narrator: Join us as we dive into the wild world of government auctions and take you behind the scenes to uncover the cool and unique ways bidders from across America are utilizing items they've won on Municibid like an ambulance repurposed into a work truck to a city bus converted into an RV and so much more. 

Welcome to the Municibid Podcast. 

Greg Berry: This week on the Municibid Podcast, I'm happy to be joined by Justin McMinn of Mobility of Denver.

(0:51 - 1:09)

Greg Berry: I had the pleasure of meeting with Justin and his colleague Leo at their dealership. Just 20 minutes or so outside the Denver airport a few weeks ago. It was really interesting to learn a little bit more about the mobility space and how it differs from your traditional dealerships.

(1:10 - 3:43)

Greg Berry: So welcome to the Municibid Podcast, Justin. It's great to have you. Why don't we start off by letting you introduce yourself?.

Justin McMinn: Sure. That'd be great. So my name is Justin McMinn. I'm currently the general manager of Mobility of Denver.

This is a company that my two good friends and I started all the way back in 2014. We actually started out as a company called Colorado Fleet and Mobility. We thought maybe we should encompass all the keyword terms in our company name.

Greg Berry: So tell me a bit more about what prompted you to start Mobility of Denver. 

We knew that we wanted to have an automotive dealership brokerage that specialized in fleet vehicles, because my other partner Leo, that's really what his start into the whole professional working world after we all graduated college was in. He actually runs a company called Mile High Ambulance and he still does to this day in addition to our company here.

He just knew a lot about ambulance vehicles and emergency responder trucks and vans. That's kind of what gave us the first idea. And so we started in 2014 in August. The three of us sat down and we had previously, you know, flipped cars and done different odd jobs in the automotive industry.

I was actually working at a dealership at the time, a big automotive group called Groove Automotive, and they were good to me over many years. And it was one of the first or second professional jobs I had right out of college. 

Greg Berry: And what did you do at Groove Automotive?

Justin McMinn: I ran their inventory management for a long time. I moved up to their marketing department and just spent a lot of time in and around dealerships. And so I really liked the idea of it. That sounds like an incredible opportunity for you, but it sounds like you had some bigger aspirations.

You know, being young, 20 something year old guys wanted to kind of do our own thing and, you know, go against the corporate grain. And so we all sat down in August of 2014 and set up with secretary of state, didn't really know what we were doing, except that I had inside information on how dealerships work and things like that. And so over really the next year, we kind of figured out where we needed to go.

It took about six months just to get licensing in Colorado as a new startup dealership. Interesting. My first reaction would be, wow.

(3:43 - 4:07)

Justin McMinn: But then I thought, well, six months dealing with the government isn't all that long. What was that process like? I remember Alex, our other business partner going to CIADA, which is the local independent dealer group association. And he had gone maybe five or six times to go meet with the lady to like figure out all the paperwork and stuff.

(4:08 - 4:20)

Justin McMinn: And at the last one, she said, okay, well, I think you've come and seen me enough. Now it's time to get started because he just wanted to make sure everything was done just right, which is great. And that's exactly why we have Alex doing what he does.

(4:21 - 10:05)

Greg Berry: Well, everyone needs an Alex on their team. That's for sure. So tell me a little bit more about the early days of Mobility of Denver.

Justin McMinn: We started selling trucks and vans out of a little 500 square foot office called ourselves Colorado Fleet Mobility. And I mean, we started with like a hundred dollar cars for sale.com website. Being in the automotive industry and kind of working a lot of leads and doing things around inventory and sales has been my big key piece of operating the dealership here.

And then Alex has really run our service department. He's kind of the person that can just fix anything that he looks at and figure out how it works. And then Leo has always been our buyer.

He just has a good sense of what things should cost, even in crazy markets. Like when we were doing sales in COVID, we tried to not get part of this 19% increase in prices that a lot of dealerships and even just the economy that was going through all that craziness. We tried to keep our prices pretty even keeled. And so that helped us a lot. 

Greg Berry: Yeah, that sounds like quite the competitive advantage, especially in face of early inflation, the supply chain issues, demand, and all the other craziness that was happening during that time. 

Justin McMinn: We actually did really well during the pandemic because my background being in online sales and having our marketing foothold in Denver, but also we sell quite a few vehicles out of state.

So that's where kind of like, Municibid and some of the stuff from surplus.com really jives with our company because we are a national retailer online of used automobiles that happen to be wheelchair accessible. 

Greg Berry: Well, we certainly appreciate your business for sure over the many years. Leo was telling me how he bought an ambulance back in 2016, I believe from Hennepin County in Minnesota.

So yeah, really appreciate your business over the years. So everyone really remembers their first sale in their business. I know ours at Municibid was a riding mower that a town was hoping to get a hundred dollars for, and they sold it for $500 and they were thrilled with it.

So what was your first sale? 

Justin McMinn: Our first major vehicle that we sold, besides just some smaller vans and stuff like that, was an ambulance. It was an AEV McCoy Miller ambulance that a facility had, I think it might've even been a silent bid process that we bought, brought it in and resold it to another facility in a totally different part of the country. So we figured out that if we know what something's worth and we can find an audience for it, there's money to be made.

Greg Berry: Yeah. There's so many great opportunities out there to find deals on one side of the country and demand on the other and bridge that gap. It's funny to me, the governments that we speak with that are looking at using us, they don't realize until they actually start using us, how often people come across country to buy their items.

And they're always surprised by that. Sometimes I'm surprised too, depending on what the item is, but it happens quite often. So there's definitely opportunity out there.

So what came next in the evolution of Mobility of Denver? 

Justin McMinn: In 2017, because at that point we were really getting into the mobility business for selling converted vehicles, we were approached by the manufacturer VMI. And VMI builds these conversion vehicles out of Arizona. They do a really good job.

And so what they'll do is they'll take a brand new $50,000, $60,000 Toyota Sienna or Chrysler into their factory. They strip all the plastic, carpet, wiring out of it, and then they start slicing it up so that way they can put the lowered floor in there. And so we had always sold used vehicles up to that point.

So we didn't think it was that big of a deal, but like when they took us out to the factory and they're in there, you know, hundreds of guys at a time taking these vans apart and cutting them up, we're like, okay, well, this is serious. So we got signed up to be a local dealer for their product line. Part of that was with the agreement that we would have a full dealership setup.

So that's the location that you came and saw us at. Basically since 2018, we've just been doubling in sales every year because we've been able to now offer a full product line, you know, from brand new vehicles that have conversions all the way down to the sub $20,000 vehicles that are 10 years old with over a hundred thousand miles. So it's been super cool to see families that wouldn't be able to afford from some of our competitors or, you know, just a brand new, you know, $80,000 plus vehicle to be able to get into the lower priced vehicles.

And that's, that's a big thing. And I think it kind of goes along with the mantra of maybe what you guys stand for at Municibid and even just the online ability to sell something to somebody in a market that they don't have a lot of options and offer a product that meets different needs rather than just always the top price point. And even though we do still sell some of the, you know, expensive vehicles, a lot of the people that are super grateful and like it changes their lives a lot are the lower priced vehicles that you can find on surplus.com or even Municibid and our website.

(10:05 - 12:12)

Justin McMinn: And it's, it's cool to see, you know, Municibid, we really liked the idea of, you know, a facility taking a vehicle, getting their use out of it and then being able to repurpose that. 

Greg Berry: Yeah, you really hit the nail on the head with respect to making items available to a much larger audience of people and giving them access to deals that they might not have had otherwise. And then yes, the reuse aspect of these items that are one, and in some cases used for completely different reasons than the, than the original purpose of the item, which we'll always find fascinating. And then we cover quite a bit here on this podcast. 

I'm curious how you got into the automotive business. What, what is your background? What, what, what kind of set you in this direction? Yeah.

Justin McMinn: So I guess I've always been around cars and working on cars. My dad was a my mom called him a Renaissance man, right? He always had some kind of project he was working on, whether it be the house, his big family or cars. I mean, growing up, we always had at least three or four cars sitting in the backyard that my dad had either been given from friends or picked up at an auction or, you know, just one of our, our daily cars crapped out.

And so he just kept it in the back because he knew one day in his mind that he was going to fix it or work on it. So, I mean, at an early age, probably all the way back to maybe five years old, I remember sitting in a busted old car, literally that was sitting in our, our yard, kind of like a little junkyard. But my dad was really into Volvos.

And so we had like an old P1800 that he had had in college. It was his second one, the P1800. I don't know if you know, but that's the million mile car that um, there's a gentleman that drives around and he's racked over a million miles on that car.

(12:13 - 14:59)

Justin McMinn: Um, and so it just had kind of like that mystique. And, um, so I've always had a good connection with cars. Yeah.

Greg Berry: That's really cool to be able to take, uh, your experience from your dad and then turn it into a career. And then I also understand that your dad was super helpful throughout college. 

Justin McMinn: So I got into college right after high school, went to the Art Institute of Colorado. That's actually where my dad was teaching at the time. And he, um, taught, I think it was like 26 or 27 different courses over the course of his 13 years at the Art Institute. And I actually had the privilege of being able to take some classes with him.

And he actually taught clay model sculpting. Being able to see that was really cool. I never was like the best artist.

I did a lot of commercial design and things like that. And so towards the end of being in college, I kind of realized I was better suited for website design, more commercial applications for art rather than like fine art. Actually, my first job right out, out of graduating from college was at a wine cellars design company, because a lot of the people in my graduating class were like going and trying to interview.

And it was very competitive at that time, you know, pre-2008 to try to get a design job that was high paying. And so I just kind of took, I didn't spend a lot of time looking around for jobs, but I just kind of took the first one that was local. So there's a wine cellar company called Savante Wine Cellars, Darryl Hogaback, the owner over there, great guy, very passionate about woodworking and things like that.

However, I quickly realized I wasn't as passionate about all that. And so that's when my gears are kind of starting to turn. 

Greg Berry: Well, next time I'm in Denver, we're going to have to head over to Savante. So what was next? 

Justin McMinn: I took a job just as a salesperson at a Mazda dealership on Arapahoe road here. And that's when I started in the car business. And it was just a friend of a friend knew the GM over there and they always needed salespeople.

So they just threw me in. I was, you know, totally different person back then, very shy and not outgoing. And so being in the sales position for the first time, that was like a huge shock, I guess, cultural shock, but also like professional push to get in there.

And so I can definitely attribute my more success of being kind of thrown into the fire  there. But long story short, I went through a transition like immediately there. And so the people that I knew were kind of more old school car guys that had worked at the Burt Auto Group.

(14:59 - 19:12)

Justin McMinn: Burt Auto Group had been in Colorado for like 40 or 50 years. And so then this new startup company called Groove Automotive with like hands on the steering wheel, kind of new age stuff, like took over pretty quickly after I started there. And so a lot of people that were more veterans in the car industry that kind of wanted to do stuff old school were leaving at the same time as this merger takeover was happening.

And I stuck around. I was like, hey, this is interesting. Maybe I could position myself.

And that's how I actually moved up to the inventory management from just the lowly sales floor. Green pea is what they called you if you just started in the car business to inventory management, because I was, I always like to tell people I was smarter than the average car person on there, having my background and technical experience with websites and things like that. So I still, to this day, take the photographs of our vehicles on our website.

And that came from six months in, working at that dealership. 

Greg Berry: Well, I can certainly attest to the quality of photos based on the photos that you've uploaded to surplus.com and to Municibid. And so, really appreciate that.

And also in the line of work that you're in, I'm not sure there's a more important role of having great photos available to potential buyers. 

Justin McMinn: Yeah, we know that a lot of times people are only going to be able to see our car just based on the photos, right, because we do sell a lot of vehicles out of state. And even just the demographic of the folks that are buying our cars, maybe not.

They may not be able to get to the dealership and actually inspected themselves. And really, one of the sad things that happens that we really try to avoid, and hopefully that's like a good selling point of us, is we try to take a lot of photos of the cars. That way, when somebody gets something, if they haven't seen it in person, they're not surprised.

Right? So that's the main thing. Obviously, probably something that you think about on your sites is just show everything.

Right. The good, bad and ugly. And one of the things that happens a lot of times in our industry is like if there's a ding or scratch or something on the roof, somebody will say, oh, it doesn't matter.

You know, somebody in a wheelchair won't see that. Well, I know it's there and I don't feel good about that kind of thing. So we always try to make sure just if it's on there, it's photographed.

And so you'll see that on our listings. 

Greg Berry: Yeah, you guys really do a great job with not only the photos, but the descriptions. And again, super helpful for your demographic when it comes to searching for these mobility vehicles online.

I'm curious, when you kind of were making the transition from selling just regular vehicles and vans and ambulances or whatever, to the mobility, what was sort of the drive behind that? What opportunity did you see? Or, you know, what sort of is the genesis of that? 

Justin McMinn: Whenever we would get a used wheelchair accessible vehicle in, that wasn't $30,000, you know, we were selling some of them in the early days, $10,000, $15,000. I mean, we just had such a huge influx of leads of people being like, hey, I need this. I've been looking everywhere for something like this.

And so we would sell these, you know, inexpensive wheelchair accessible vehicles to people that had no other option. And so the lady that had flown out to buy the vehicle, I think we had the car listed for a day or two on eBay. She was like, hey, I'm coming out.

Is the car still there? I'm buying tickets. And she flew out from Idaho, got a little Uber ride from the airport over to our office, which is about 20 minutes, saw the car, was like, yep, this is exactly what I need, paid for his cash on the spot, and then drove it all the way back home. And I think that kind of goes back to like the idea of Municibid or some of these other sites, is like, this lady had no other option in Idaho.

She looked on eBay. She trusted that site and she saw that, hey, we were selling it. 

Greg Berry: A lot of people don't realize how often people buy items cross country on Municibid and now on surplus.com. And it happens all the time.

(19:12 - 20:36)

We just had a recent podcast episode where a guy in Texas, in Houston, Texas, drove up to north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to buy a used fire truck, kind of like a utility truck and drove it back to Texas with his daughter. It was a really cool story. Those stories kind of happen all the time.

And yeah, making these vehicles and equipment and other items available to a much wider audience than in our case, a government or a small business might have access to generally. So yeah, we hear stories all the time about that. So it's cool that you're also experiencing that.

Obviously, you've impacted positively, the lives of many people over the years. Do you have any stories that are exceptional or memorable with customers and how you sort of given back some freedom to them and autonomy? 

Justin McMinn: Yeah. I mean, we just have so many stories about different folks that have been homebound or they had kind of given up on wanting to be able to be more mobile.

And now that they have the vehicle that they can get around, things like that. But I'll tell you two. One of them is we had just a very down and out veteran that his family life had been affected by sickness and he just had lost his wife.

(20:36 - 22:32)

Justin McMinn: And a lot of people don't realize that obviously when you're married and you've been married for a long time that you just become very reliant on the person that you're with. And he had just felt horrible that he lost his wife. And so he kind of given up.

So we were approached by his son and his son just said, hey, my dad's in a bad place. We really need a wheelchair van. We can't use Access-a-ride.

We have a lot of public transportation here, but it's all kind of done through Access-a-ride, which is through RTD system. And it's a really great program and people are able to get to doctor's appointments and things like that. But there's just so many people that don't have the ability to purchase a mobility van.

And so they are reliant on the public transportation system. There's like time is a factor on those. So like you're on somebody else's time, you're waiting for a bus to show up, you'll get to the doctor's appointment, you'll get your hour there, and then you won't get picked up for like five or six hours because like the timing is bad for the pickup.

So his son was like, hey, I'm taking on the brunt of all this, and we really need some help. So we went through and we tried to figure out stuff. And this is in the earlier days.

So I also, in addition to doing the marketing, run the finance department. But basically there's certain lenders that will lend on mobility vans and certain ones that won't. And there's complications to all that.

But anyways, this customer didn't quote unquote technically qualify for the VA grants to be able to get a conversion and a vehicle. He wasn't service connected, but he had been a veteran and just had a lot of issues with all that sort of system. So he didn't get any assistance from the government there, which is totally fine.

A lot of people don't, but he just didn't make a good income. And so we went through like five or six different scenarios, trying to figure everything out. We finally found the vehicle that would work for him, finally figured out that he had a couple of trade-ins.

(22:32 - 24:44)

Justin McMinn: So then that way, cause he, I mean, he had no money. So we just had to, we had to figure out how are we going to show down payment? Cause a lot of lenders are like, yeah, you got to at least show 10% down or something. So we finally found the lender, found the car, had a couple trade-ins and he was North of Denver, of course, almost an hour away from us.

And this is, this is earlier days, probably 17 or 18. We had all this kind of stuff going on. And the son was just like, Hey, we can't get down there to finalize the deal.

We got to be able to have you come up. So I was like, okay, no problem. We'll figure it out.

One of the cars that he had as a trade-in was his daily driver, Ford Expedition 04, great car, just old. And then his other car was actually his son's car. And the son, we had coursed him into trading it.

And he was like, Oh, I don't think you'll give me anything for it. We gave him $500 for his non-running Ford Explorer that had a blown train or something like that. But he said, it kind of moves.

And so we had like confirmed, Hey, are we going to be able to drive these cars back? If we take your car up there. So Leo and I jumped in his car that he was buying, got all the paperwork, all the ducks in the row. And this is a subprime deal too.

So, I mean, there was, there was 25 pages. He had a sign. We had to get stipulations.

It was just a whole big thing. But anyways, it was, it was a lot of work got up there. Customer just starts crying, right? Like he's like, this is exactly what I mean.

This is over like a couple of months span too. Like, so he didn't even know that this is going to be able to go through. And like, just, just seeing his face, like made the day worth it because getting home was a whole nother story.

Justin McMinn: Uh, in that one of the cars worked, the other one sort of worked. And so we were like, screw it. Let's just go. We'll, we'll make it back. And so yeah, a lot of stories, right? Leo broke down on the side of the road and the Explorer, we had to take the other car, go get a tow strap from Walmart. Anyways, we got it home like six hours later.

Greg Berry: Well, that's an incredible story. I love hearing those stories like that. Uh, and I'm sure he was thrilled that you were able to make it happen for him.

(24:45 - 26:19)

Uh, switching gears, uh, no pun intended. Um, I, uh, I imagine a lot has changed in the last 20 years or so, especially with technology, autonomous vehicles. And I'm just curious about your thoughts on AI and, and autonomous vehicles and how it relates to the mobility industry.

Justin McMinn: As far as autonomous driving goes. So a lot of what people think of the autonomous driving is, um, advanced cruise control is kind of available on a lot of vehicles right now. Uh, Thomas driving is like 10 steps to where like, if you could actually just have your car drive itself.

And we're only, I think in like step two or three, Tesla is obviously the most advanced. I think some of the stuff that Mercedes is coming out with is going to be the next evolution and ability to just have the car do things itself. But yeah, it does help a lot.

So like a lot of the Toyota's we sell have that, um, advanced cruise control where it can follow cars can reduce, um, the amount of time that, uh, a driver that's in a wheelchair is having their, you know, hands be fatigued by having to press the gas pedal on long trips, um, through the hand control devices and things like that. So that does help, but yeah, true autonomous driving, you probably won't see in wheelchair accessible vehicles a few years after it comes out to the mainstream. So we're always a couple of years behind just because it takes engineers at the conversion manufacturing and even the manufacturing facilities that produce the adaptive equipment, like hand controls a couple of years to catch up.

(26:19 - 27:38)

Greg Berry: Yeah. That's, that's interesting. I, you know, that's kind of the big debate is how long this is going to take till we get to, you know, full self driving, real autonomous, uh, driving where we're not, we don't even need the steering wheel.

Um, so yeah, we'll see. So from, you know, from your business standpoint, how do you look toward future growth, I guess, within Colorado and, and outside of Colorado and what, what does the competitive landscape look like? 

Justin McMinn: So for our business in particular, what we've done kind of from day one, and I think I've touched upon it a little bit, but basically, you know, the three of us that started the company, and now there's nine of us that come into work every day and full-time employees, we have just slowly grown and we have taken everything a step at a time just to make sure that quality doesn't get sacrificed for quantity. Right.

And we don't obviously want to be a perfectionist on everything, but we can get the basics down, right. And, you know, produce a service for our customer base consistently and slowly grow that over time. I mean, that's exactly what we've done over the last eight or nine years, since we've been increasing sales so much.

(27:38 - 29:54)

Justin McMinn: And we've been approached by different places, different thought processes of, you know, Hey, let's just replicate what you have here and put it across multiple States or multiple stores and things like that. And so we're kind of always have that in our back of our mind that we'd like to expand to other stores. We've seen it done successfully at some other mom and pop shops that then became more regional suppliers for the vehicles.

A lot of what we have in Colorado is interesting because we're in a little bit of an oasis for mobility dealers in that there's several of us here in the Colorado metropolitan area that service a huge section of the Midwest. And there's like States like Montana that doesn't have really any mobility dealers. And so we sell quite a few vehicles out there because people can buy online and we explain things and kind of give them support.

Even after the sale, you know, we're able to, you know, ship out parts and kind of work with their local mechanics to kind of help. If there's an issue that comes up, you know, Arizona. 

Greg Berry: So are they, are they picking up the vehicles or are they having them shipped? What's, what's the typical scenario when people are buying out of state? 

Justin McMinn: Yeah, it's about 50, 50.

So we do have a lot of people that will fly in, check out a vehicle and then drive it back. And then, you know, there's an equal, or maybe even sometimes depending on the pandemic climate more frequent is that people just have us set up transportation for them. Colorado is nice.

We're actually luckily in the middle of the country. And so we're a really good transportation depot. You might call us for a lot of truckers coming in and out.

So a lot of what people do when they buy something, and it may be some of your customers on Municibid, is they'll buy something and then they're like, okay, now I got to figure out shipping. A lot of mobility customers are saying, is this the right vehicle for me? At the same time, they're talking about, well, how am I going to get this to me? 

Greg Berry: Yeah. I mean, it's probably the last thing anyone wants to try to deal with is finding a shipping company after all they've gone through or that they've been through.

(29:57 - 31:47)

Greg Berry So along with helping them with getting the vehicles shipped to them, I'm assuming you're also kind of holding their hand with respect to financing, dealing with insurance and that sort of thing. Can you talk a little bit about that and how insurance works and what it covers or what it doesn't and, you know, how, how people are paying for these vehicles? 

Justin McMinn: Yeah, that's a really good point. So we're kind of juggling like four or five topics with the customer whenever they call in, right? Does the vehicle fit their needs? Does it fit their budget? Can we get them finance? How are we going to get it to them? And then, yeah, a lot of people do ask about insurance.

So insurance industry on mobility vans is kind of what a lot of companies consider a gray area, right? So you have an insurance company that is insuring the car, and then you have a conversion that oftentimes can cost as much as the car that's added to the vehicle that insurance has to calculate residual values on, you know, for total loss scenarios and things like that. So it can definitely be a complicated piece of it. One of the things that we always talk about here is, hey, we should kind of like some of the big dealers do is have an insurance broker on site.

So that way we can get somebody set up with the right coverage. We have had a couple issues with customers in the past that their insurance company didn't put the correct policy in place for their mobility vehicle. And so that's kind of been a learning curve for everybody.

But now if somebody is in our office or even talking on the phone about insurance, we definitely recommend that they tell their insurance company that they're buying a mobility vehicle. And if the insurance broker agent doesn't know what that means, just tell them to get their manager and then that they want a mobility rider added to the policy. So that's really just an additional piece of insurance that covers all the mobility equipment.

(31:47 - 32:06)

Justin McMinn: And you just give them the invoice of what you paid at our dealership today. And then that shows them how to properly account for that. So like, God forbid, somebody drives off the lot and they've got everything set up correctly and they get it, you know, sideswiped and totaled out.

(32:06 - 32:26)

They're not fighting the insurance to say, oh, we have to prove that this was a mobility vehicle. It was just set up correctly at the front end. And obviously the cost is going to be a little bit more because you're buying a more expensive vehicle in their eyes, right? The biggest problem nowadays is, it's a good and a bad problem, is you have a lot of VIN to code software.

(32:26 - 32:39)

Justin McMinn: So as soon as you call in, tell the insurance company, hey, this is what I'm buying. Here's the VIN number. They're like, oh, perfect.

Yeah, this is a $30,000 Toyota Sienna. Well, hold on a second. I'm actually paying $65,000 for all the adaptive equipment, things like that.

(32:40 - 34:54)

It's not just a plug and play system. The mobility conversion manufacturers are working on being able to add that to the VIN. Because a lot of times the Braun or VMI will buy a specific mobility package, quote unquote, from the chassis manufacturer, Toyota, for example.

And so we know, hey, that's probably a mobility van. But really there's no way in the VIN to tell that it's a conversion vehicle unless you call the conversion manufacturer and verify their build. Yeah.

Greg Berry: Yeah, that's really interesting. How does medical insurance come into play? Are these vehicles covered at all by medical insurance in the event of a catastrophic situation for the person?

Justin McMinn: Yeah, great question. We get that one a lot too.

So your regular health insurance isn't going to cover a mobility vehicle. Say you developed a chronic illness where it puts you in a wheelchair. There's other insurance pieces specifically like workers' comp.

If you're injured on the job and the company that you were working for had workers' comp insurance, then workers' comp is going to be able to kick in and say, hey, this person is now wheelchair bound. They have to be able to access their vehicle and access their lives and things like that. So we do work with workers' comp through a lot of it is through Craig Hospital, which is a spinal cord rehabilitation center, one of the best in the country.

We're only about eight minutes from our dealership here in Denver. So that's mostly where that's come from. There are other funding sources, I would call it, where each one is slightly different.

A lot of the money that's out there to help with these type of conversions comes from grant resources that use state's allocated money for adolescents that have cerebral palsy or are just wheelchair bound for whatever reason or another. And so a lot of states have what's called waiver programs. So if your child is on a waiver program, which it takes quite a bit of doing, there's like a hundred page form in Colorado to fill out and go through all the application and everything.

(34:54 - 35:47)

Justin McMinn: You can get some assistance there too. The idea is it's from the old way of thinking, but basically that a person will adapt their van to make sure that it is wheelchair accessible. And so that money really oftentimes is about $10,000 for the assistance in making their vehicle wheelchair accessible.

That comes from the older days, you know, 1990s, early 2000s, where they would, a family would have in a conline van randomly, and then we could put a lift in it and kind of do a $10,000 or less conversion. Now, fast forward, I mean, these Toyota Sienna hybrid all wheel drive conversions are $45,000 just for the conversion. So it's kind of an antiquated system, but yes, there is assistance out there for the people that need it.

(35:47 - 36:31)

Justin McMinn: One of the big things too that Colorado does really well is we have division of vocational rehab and they use the state's money to be able to help people get back to work. And so if you're injured or you develop an issue where you are wheelchair bound, and obviously you need to get to work, you need a wheelchair accessible vehicle. So we've seen a lot of great cases where the state has stepped up and said, Hey, we're going to cover the cost of the conversion and the adaptive equipment.

The customer just has to pay for the chassis of the vehicle that is going to then get modified. And so that's worked really well, but it's not like an insurance base. It's through, you know, government funding kind of.

(36:32 - 37:26)

Greg Berry: Sure. That's good that that's available because again, someone that's going through a devastating injury that requires them to have a wheelchair accessible van. It's kind of one of the, one of the last things they're going to want to have to think about is, wow, how am I going to afford this? Or, you know, what are the options? So it's nice that that you're familiar and that can kind of help them or guide them along with, with available options to help finance this.

Justin McMinn: Yeah, totally. That's the rewarding stuff. 

Greg Berry: So, I mean, you're, you're a young guy and you started, you know, this business at a relatively young age.

Do you have any advice that you would give other young entrepreneurs looking to make a difference in the mobility and accessibility industry? 

Justin McMinn: Yeah. You know, it's, we didn't realize it, but it's a tough business. Once you get in it, there's a lot of cutthroat people, but there's a lot of great people as well.

(37:26 - 40:56)

 Justin McMinn:I think it probably is mimics a lot of different industries that you can get into. The car business is closely tied to mobility industry for wheelchair accessible vehicles, just by default, because that's what we are really as car dealers. And so if anybody has interest in it, yeah, go, go work for a car dealership.

The sales team is always revolving at those dealerships and always needing, you know, new perspectives and things like that. The car business in general, when I was working at a regular car dealership, you know, people were always talk about in management, how the car business is 20 years behind everybody else, like medical industry or technology is so far advanced and how we have systems and CRMs in place and the car business is so behind. But then we got into the mobility industry and it's like, oh, okay, well maybe everybody here is like 30 years behind because it's, we're doing stuff that the old car dealers used to do.

Yeah. So every industry always benefits from new, fresh perspectives. You know, I think I touched on it a little bit.

I taught at the Art Institute of Colorado, excuse me, Art Institute of Colorado for a couple of years as a professor. And it was so crazy seeing the reverse of me being the student versus being on the other side of the desk and seeing the fresh perspectives of people, young people that are just learning things for the first time and don't have a point of reference and how, you know, everybody connects the dots differently, but also kind of in the same way. And it's just cool to see how things, I mean, I'm sure you've experienced it in many different industries.

There's like the old standard way to do things. Right. And it doesn't necessarily mean that it's right, but it's the old tried and true way.

And so when you take certain pieces out of an equation out and you move it around, like it's a totally different thing. And that happens a lot. I read something a long time ago that the key indicator of a entrepreneur is that you're never satisfied working for somebody else.

Right? And so that presents itself in different ways, whether it be pushing back on, you know, management and bosses and trying to do things and, you know, keep getting held down by the man kind of thing. And so when we first started the business, it was great.

You know, I could just, I could do whatever I wanted. Right. I had free freedom to really choose any path that we wanted to go through, what we wanted to focus on, what we wanted to spend our money on.

And back in those days, I mean, we were on a shoestring budget, right? Each of us partners started with $50,000 that we scraped and scrimped and borrowed and pleaded beg to get pulled together. So starting a business at $150,000, when your main business is to carry inventory, our average selling price of a car is now $50,000. And we have 79 of them in our system right now that we're working on or for sale.

I mean, that's just a huge difference in where we had to scale. So it doesn't mean that when you're an entrepreneur, you truly can do anything because if you make the wrong mistakes, right, you're going to go out of business or you're going to piss a customer off, or it's just going to be not a good thing. So we really used our experiences in our different industries that we had professionally worked in, but we always just took feedback and tried to implement it as fast as possible.

(40:57 - 42:40)

Justin McMinn: And that really separates, I think, a young, cocky business startup versus like a seasoned, successful business person is, yeah, just because you can do whatever you want in your business doesn't mean that the market is going to accept that. And so you really just have to take feedback as fast as possible and implement things that are going to safeguard your business. So that way you don't get in trouble or get into a scenario where it's going to start losing you money, but also that it's beneficial to the customer.

I always tell people whenever they say, well, how have you guys been successful? It's just, it's literally, you got to, especially in this industry, when, when your customer might've been passed around from other businesses or corporations or, you know, they're dealing with, we have customers all the time in our showroom that their insurance is denying their need for certain medications and stuff like that. They're just used to, our customers are used to being told no and kind of being pushed around. So whenever we have a customer in front of us, it's like, Hey, you're my best friend.

I'm not going to leave you until we get everything that you want to get done accomplished. Right? So it's, it's, it's a lot different than car sales and that it's such a numbers game over at a regular car lot. In that, in this industry, you just really have to take everyone step-by-step one at a time.

There's just so many, there's so many aspects to business, I think in general. And then each industry will have its own, you know, particulars. And so you really just have to study whatever industry you want to go into, hone your craft, and then take that leap of faith.

(42:41 - 44:16)

Greg Berry: Sure. Do you have any moments of adversity over the years as we all do? I'm sure you have a story. 

Justin McMinn: One of the first early issues that we had in our business was, even though we went through all the steps, we followed all the guidelines from CIADA, which is the dealer assistance group.

We followed the Colorado dealers association board. We thought we had every T crossed and I dotted. And about three or four months into us opening, fully opening up our first location, the auto brokerage in Aurora, city of Aurora shut us down and said, Oh, by the way, you don't have a license to do business in Aurora.

We're going, oh, okay. Well, that would have been good to know. So it took me and Leo sitting down with the city planner and saying, okay, well, what does that mean? And they wanted to tell us that the building we were in wasn't zoned for automotive, but then there was a broker in the same building.

And so there's all these legalese to figure out. It ended up working itself out, but I mean, that's, that's the scary thing. And you kind of step back and say, okay, well, it's this difficult.

And we're being told no so many times do we, we focus on something else. So it's, it's that grit and resolve. I think there was a talk a little while ago about grit and what that really means.

You know, it's that, um, resolve and the courage to do it. 

Greg Berry: Well, Justin, this has been really awesome.  Again, it was really, really cool to come out and hang out with you guys for a little while and learn a lot more about the mobility industry.

(44:16 - 44:57)

It's been super helpful for me. And, uh, I really appreciate your time here on the MUnicibid Podcast. Yeah.

Justin McMinn: Thanks so much for having us. It's always great to hear from people that are in totally different sectors, but also there's a lot of things that are so similar and, you know, just good reassurance that we're out there. We're making, making people happy and just doing what we love.

So always good to share with you and really look forward to the success for your, uh, your websites and all that. And look forward to keeping in touch with you. 

Narrator: Thank you for tuning into the Municibid Podcast.

If you'd like to learn more about the world of government surplus, be sure to subscribe to this podcast, wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Last Updated on April 18, 2024


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