LOS Labs Automotive Firm's Carlos Hickman sets an example for young and old alike
Carlos Hickman, founder of LOS Labs Automotive Firm
Carlos Hickman, owner and founder of LOS Labs Automotive Firm, is a study in contradictions.
location is a clash of opposites.
"We try to develop new trends and styles here," Hickman
I do not," Hickman
"Most people work to live.
I live to work."
Hickman's personal drive and philosophy, and the life experiences that molded them, are what make him a worthy role model for young people, as well as for other entrepreneurs of any age.
The 30-something Hickman
is especially interested in being a positive example to the many young Black males who see crime, rap music or sports as their only avenues to financial success.
"You don't have to do the 'streets, beats or cleats thing'," Hickman
As a teen, Hickman
found social life to be yet another challenge.
"Girls back then liked the guy who was the athlete, the street hustler or the guy who was great with music.
I was never one of those guys," Hickman
"I wasn't hip.
I didn't have money, so I didn't have great clothes.
I didn't have a car.
It was a lot of 'didn't haves.'"
All those early challenges made Hickman
determined to succeed through hard work.
After graduating from Northrop High School, he attended Purdue University where he majored in electrical engineering.
For a time, he
worked for defense contractor Lockheed Martin
, and in August of 2001, Hickman
was prepared to leave the Midwest for a job in Seattle with airplane manufacturer Boeing
However, one month later, Hickman's plans changed forever.
On September 11, 2001, the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil shook the nation.
While the entire economy was in shambles, the airline industry was particularly devastated.
job was now questionable at best.
In the meantime, Hickman
decided to try to make a living out of something that had previously been mainly a hobby.
"I'd been doing automotive installs on the side for years," Hickman
"I always had a love and a passion for it."
flashes a broad smile and a hint of embarrassment when he
first auto assignment: at age 15, he
sister into letting him work on her
After a short time working primarily on commission, Hickman
skills could be put to better use working on his
education, experience and an $800 loan for tools and rented garage space, Hickman
went out on his
"I didn't want to be the guy who showed up to work one day to find out that his
job had been outsourced to Asia.
I wanted to control my own destiny," he
"If I was going to fail, it was going to be at my own hand."
With no actual experience running a business and no formal business plan, Hickman
hit the road - literally.
saw a car on the street that looked like it could use his
skills, he'd approach the owner.
"I would actually run up to people in the middle of the intersection to try to convince them that I was the guy to fix up their stereo.
If the driver was young and looked like someone who took an interest in their car, I would go talk to them.
college connections, positive word-of-mouth, submissions of his
work to national auto magazines, and meticulously building relationships with manufacturers, vendors and suppliers, Hickman
business from a drive-by sales pitch to an award winning company employing about eight installers.
is currently focused on growing his
does envision getting married and raising children someday.
At present, his
custom automotive work provides a stimulating creative outlet for him.
In addition, he
is putting the finishing touches on a book of poetry and other writings.
definitely has his
serious side, he
also has a quirky sense of humor.
In fact, he
even got up the nerve to perform as a stand-up comic while attending college.
"I don't have enough sense to be scared," he
believes success in business demands a suspension of fear and a commitment to give it your all.
"You need to be fanatical about it," Hickman