The 14-pax Lincoln Navigator stretch is popular for weddings, proms, wine tours, and other special events.
WHAT HE DID BEFORE: Edgar Zacarias was one of Stardust Cruises Limousine’s top chauffeurs, and when Ken Martin sold Stardust in 2010, Zacarias bought a vehicle from the Stardust fleet to begin his own venture. He also works a day job.
WHY HE GOT INTO THE BUSINESS: What began as a part-time chauffeuring gig ended up as a passion. “I was [first] a chauffeur and I loved it, I love it to this day,” Zacarias says. “I understand what makes clients happy. My kids named the company ‘Shining Star,’ and it means a lot and motivates me to succeed.”
START-UP COSTS AND METHODS: A 20% down payment and financing through Titus Leasing helped Zacarias purchase a Krystal 5-door Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine. He expanded with a 12-passenger Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van and sold his first vehicle to make room for a 14-passenger Lincoln Navigator stretch when he saw the need to transport bigger groups, especially for weddings, quinceañeras, wine tours, and nights-on-the-town.
BEST MARKETING STRATEGY: “A good old handshake and handing out business cards,” Zacarias says. “I meet clients everywhere. It can be the grocery store clerk about to celebrate her birthday or the 75-year-old grandmother in line about to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary. Every time you meet someone is an opportunity to grow your business.” While the driving force behind his business has been affiliate work and word-of-mouth referrals, Zacarias is planning a marketing campaign to build his brand.
BIGGEST MISTAKE: Relying only on the old-school handshake approach, although it’s working for him now, instead of building better brand recognition through a marketing campaign.
BIGGEST SUCCESS: Paying off his first vehicle within six months and expanding with a second vehicle, and donating trips to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Wounded Warriors, and local high schools.
Edgar Zacarias uses a 12-pax Sprinter Van to serve his group clients.
UNIQUE APPROACHES TO CUSTOMER SERVICE: Zacarias and his chauffeurs bring a camera on each trip to take a group picture, which is later turned into a digital Thank You card, burned onto a CD, and mailed to clients. “We want to make their experience memorable, and we do little things for our clients like rolling out a red carpet or matching the colors of vehicle accessories with the party or wedding colors,” he says. “You have to pay attention to the little details because that’s what can really surprise and please clients.”
ADVICE TO OPERATORS: “You need to have a passion for the industry and can’t just be in it for the money. You have to be understanding, willing to go above and beyond, and take a personal approach with clients. It has to be customer service all the way, otherwise don’t get into the business. In the end, we’re pushing for something bigger, something stronger, and the foundation has got to be strong. If you don’t love it from the beginning, you never will.”
FUTURE PLANS: Expanding his fleet and revamping his marketing campaign.
Fast Facts about Shining Star Limousine
Location: Santa Maria, Calif.
Owner: Edgar Zacarias
Main service region: Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties
Types of vehicles: 14-passenger Lincoln navigator stretch; Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 12-passenger
Fleet size: 2
Annual revenues: $75,000
Information: (805) 264-5015