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Side Gig Thursdays: Lauren Arce, Custom Tooling for BMWs

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What does a system engineer, happy with a successful full time job, do as a side gig? How about custom tooling for cars? That’s today’s Side Gig Thursdays piece and it’s with Lauren Arce, a systems engineer who, with his dad, sell custom BMW tools on the web.

Oftentimes you hear of how a company was started because the founder had a problem he or she wanted to solve. Well, not all problems are enormous ones and so not all problem solving products becomes mega-companies. Today’s story is a brief one about how one man, with the help of his father, makes a few bucks off selling tools they built to solve their own problems.

What is your day job?
I am a Principal Systems Engineer for an aerospace consulting firm.

What is your side gig?
Along with my dad, we do a lot of DIY work on my 1995 BMW 318i which occasionally requires us to create custom tools. We decided to produce these tools and sell them over the web as well as encourage other BMW enthusiasts to give us ideas about other custom tools they may need.

How many hours a month do you think you spend on it?
Maybe about 4-5 hours a month — advertising the tools, shipping tools to customers, and updating the website.

How much does it make each month?
The income stream is somewhat sporadic as this is a very niche gig. If we can sell 1 or 2 tools per month, that’s pretty good which yields about $100-$150/month after covering our expenses.

How did you start doing your side business?
It all started out when we tried to replace the water pump on my 1995 BMW 318i which was fused to the engine block. After several attempts to unsuccessfully remove it, my dad designed an extraction tool (within a day) which made the removal a 2-3 minute job.

Do you have a plan to try to turn it into your full time gig?
We haven’t really given it much thought, but we will continue to build our inventory of custom tools and see where it takes us.

How do you people find you for get this part? How many tools do you have now?
We have a website which we share via different BMW DIY and enthusiasts sites. Word of mouth with other BMW owners is also key. We also post the tools for sale on ebay and craigslist. We sell 2 types of tools right now — one to remove a BMW water pump and one to remove a BMW fuel pump/fuel sender.

Any plan to expand into other parts?
Absolutely, we are always looking for new tools to create and sell to customers. Including tools for other automobile brands or universal tools.

What resources did you rely on in starting the business?
As a machinist, my dad has access to a machine shop. As an engineer, I am somewhat versed in webpages. So, we figured we would use our existing skills to sell these custom tools without really having to leverage to many other resources.

Do you have any advice for people looking to start something on the side?
Follow your passions and hobbies, and it may eventually make you some money. At the risk of sounding cliche, follow your interests. Since you may have to give up some of your “free” time for a side business, make sure it is something you love so you won’t have any regrets later.

I hope you enjoyed the interview – if you know someone who would make for a good profile/interview for Side Gig Thursdays, please let me know!

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