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Custom Made

This custom-car creator wows clients like nobody else.

Vital Stats: Ryan Friedlinghaus, 30, of West Coast Customs

Company: Complete automotive restyling center in Los Angeles

2005 Projected Sales: About $10 million

Gearhead: Friedlinghaus delved into the car-show circuit at 14 and landed his custom-built beauties on numerous magazine covers. But he was frustrated by the intricacies of building custom cars--specifically, the hassles of dealing with multiple specialty shops. Friedlinghaus resolved to start his own shop offering all components in-house.

Originators: Friedlinghaus borrowed $5,000 from his grandfather to launch West Coast Customs in 1994. WCC thrives by masterminding innovative creations that surprise even the car owners, including an unprecedented Bentley limo, and attracting high-end clients such as Kobe Bryant.

Family Business: An industry pioneer, Friedlinghaus wrote the rules where none existed. "Don't listen to what people say," Friedlinghaus advises other entrepreneurs. "Listen to your heart and gut feeling, and go with it." Running his business as a family, he shuns corporate standards like micromanagement and timecards. When deadlines loom, the close-knit relationships his employees share motivate them to pull all-nighters without hesitation.

Showstoppers: As the automotive magicians of MTV's Pimp My Ride, which transforms young adults' clunkers into one-of-a-kind jaw-droppers, WCC has become a household name (product branding is underway). Booked through 2005, WCC never duplicates any of its finished rides. "There are no limits to what we can do," Friedlinghaus maintains. "With so many [automotive] artists inside my shop, they like it when people say, 'This is impossible.' We like challenges."

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This article was originally published in the June 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Custom Made.

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