BY MARY BEVANS GILLETT Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — John Koseba and Ryan Caldwell represent the region’s newest generation of entrepreneurs.
Koseba, 24, and Caldwell, 19, are putting their college business courses into action as owner and employee of Signature Motor Sales and Team One Trailers in Traverse City.
The business sells a broad range of trailers and previously-owned vehicles at 981 Blue Star Drive in Garfield Township. The two are notable for their youth compared to others in the industry, but they said their ages aren’t a barrier.
“I think it is an advantage, because you are willing to try new things and promote more in new ways…and more aggressively,” Koseba said, noting various promotions he has tried include online efforts and events like “Trailer Safety Awareness Day,” which is an annual event to educate users on safe ways to use trailers and haul cargo.
He was also willing to become a business owner immediately after graduate school rather than seek employment.
“Some things work and some don’t,” he said. “I wanted to give (ownership) a try…when you are younger, you are more creative and take risks that can pay off later.”
Koseba opened the Traverse City business in February after relocating it from Alpena. He started the business while a graduate student at Northwood University. He subsequently hired Caldwell, who is working in sales while also pursuing a degree in automotive marketing and management from Northwood University.
Koseba originally planned to focus on vehicle sales with an emphasis on trucks, but he said he found an unmet market niche in trailer sales. The Team One Trailers side carries seven national brands of such units as utility trailers, enclosed cargo trailers, car haulers and dump trailers with snowmobile trailers planned for next winter. Approximately 40 trailers are sold each month in addition to vehicle sales.
“I would like to stock at least 300 trailers in the future,” Koseba said. “There is so much variety…you can take one trailer and then modify it in a dozen ways.”
Koseba also hopes to stock 15 to 20 vehicles on site but said his current location limits the amount of inventory zoning allows and could limit expansion. He is working with township officials and recently purchased the adjacent Hilltop Auto Wash.
Caldwell thinks the business has a bright future. He said watching Koseba open and operate his own business leaves him with a similar goal.
“Opening your own business is a huge risk, but success comes from taking risks,” Caldwell said. “I give credit to any business owner, no matter how large or small. Young entrepreneurs are what we need in today’s society.”