Online auto parts retailer takes $10K top prize at LSU Student Incubator’s Venture Challenge

An e-commerce startup that promises to quickly ship performance auto parts to customers bested a crawfish pricing app, a vegan bakery and marketing mobile app to win the $10,000 top prize at the LSU Student Incubator’s 2017 Venture Challenge on Thursday.

Performance Mods was formed by LSU marketing major Joshua Cauley less than a year ago. Cauley says winning the venture challenge has spurred him to craft a business plan and plot the course for his business’s growth. He plans to apply the advice he received from judges—like trademarking the company’s name—to strengthen his business and protect the brand. He applied for the trademark prior to Thursday’s competition, which took place at Tin Roof Brewing Co.

“I like telling the story and getting up in front of everyone and letting them know why I started the business,” says Cauley.

Performance Mods has a simple goal of getting online orders for customers faster than any other auto parts company in the industry. Cauley says he strives to have products to customers within one to three days of an order being placed.

Auto part companies can sometimes take weeks—or even months—to fill orders, leaving customers waiting and annoyed, says Cauley, who adds he’s been on the receiving end of this “runaround” from distributors.

“I bought a sports car and experienced a lot of problems with buying parts online. It would take weeks or months to come in and I wasn’t getting a good customer service,” he tells. “I noticed that people were willing to spend a lot of money on quality parts. I was spending in excess. I wanted to open up a business that would give the car people a better service. I wanted to solve a problem that I was going through.”

Cauley says Performance Mods, which has two employees, can make deliveries quicker because it has connections with manufacturers with warehouses throughout the country, and they can ship orders directly to customers instead of through a middleman.

And unlike other companies, Cauley says his has a competitive advantage in that it doesn’t charge a restocking fee if a customer needs to return a wrong part.

Cauley says sales have topped more than $2 million in the roughly eight to nine months Performance Mods has been in business. About five months ago, the company began operating out of the LSU Student Incubator.

“I want to make an impact in the automotive performance industry. I want to make a change and see the consumers have a better experience,” he says.

The Crawfish App, which helps crawfish-craving customers find the best deals for their boils, took the second place prize of $7,000, while the vegan bakery Doux Natural Bakery placed third to earn $6,000 and mobile marketing app Buzstat look home $2,000.

—Alexandria Burris

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