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Vehicular face-lifts.

Few people know what it's like to leap from the minor league to the majors. Michael Stewart does. No, the 34-year-old isn't a famous athlete. An entrepreneurial success story, the hard-working Stewart made the jump from selling cars to repairing and refurbishing buses and trucks.

Stewart's five-year-old World Class Transportation Services Inc. provides buses with window replacements, engine overhauls and wheelchair lift services, among other things. Last year, sales for the Chattanooga, Tenn., company were $340,000; revenues may hit $1.3 million this year.

After two years of selling BMWs and Volvos for someone else, Stewart decided to strike out on his own in 1988. He began modestly with auto dealing, the vehicular version of a face-lift. "I always did that before I sold cars to my customers," says Steward, adding that he leveraged $5,000 in personal savings to secure a $10,000 line of credit to buy a steam cleaner, two buffers and renovate an office.

A year after opening World Class, Steward found himself doing a lot more than car detailing. "A truck dealer, 10 blocks from my business, asked me to clean the dust off an 18-wheeler," Stewart recalls. "One thing led to another and I started detailing his trucks." The transition wasn't easy. "When we started, it took two of us three days to do one truck. Now one of us can do it in eight hours."

World Class has moved on to the repair and refurbishing of buses. As part of a $650,000 contract with the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, Stewart is retrofitting 30 buses with wheelchair lifts, now in high demand due to the recently adopted Americans With Disabilities Act.

Says Wayne Wolf, president of Coach Crafters Inc., a Fairbault, Minn., bus remanufacturer who helped train Stewart's 20-member staff. "He's making it in a tough and competitive business."
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Title Annotation:World Class Transportation Services Inc., Chattanooga, Tennessee provider of window replacements, engine overhauls and wheelchair lift maintenance services for buses
Author:Gite, Lloyd
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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