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He Launched His Creative Side Hustle Out of a Garage. Now It's Worth $225 Million. Tom Humble, CXO and founder of E.C.D. Automotive Design, followed his passion for custom auto design into big business.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

Key Takeaways

  • E.C.D. Auto Design's founder leveraged a background in automotive design and a passion for Land Rovers to build a side hustle into a full-time business worth $225 million.
  • Innovation, quality craftsmanship and expanding into the electrification of classic vehicles were key strategies in the company's remarkable growth.
  • The founder advises side hustlers to maintain a clear vision, prioritize quality, embrace innovation and build a dedicated team for long-term success.

This Side Hustle Spotlight Q&A features Tom Humble, CXO and founder of E.C.D. Automotive Design, which specializes in "creating the finest custom Land Rover Defenders in the USA."

Image Credit: Courtesy of E.C.D. Automotive Design

What were you doing before you started your side hustle, which ultimately grew into E.C.D. Auto Design?

I have a background in the automotive industry, primarily focusing on custom vehicle design and construction. I gained valuable experience and knowledge in this field, eventually inspiring me to start my own venture.

Why did entrepreneurship appeal to you?

Entrepreneurship appealed to me because it allowed me to bring my passion for custom vehicle design to life. I wanted the creative freedom to build something unique, push boundaries and deliver exceptional products and experiences to our clientele. The prospect of creating a business that combined my love for automobiles, luxury and travel was a compelling motivator.

Related: This Millennial Dad Just Wanted to Help His Daughter Care for Her Bearded Dragon. Then His Cricket-Breeding Side Hustle Exploded — Earning $27,000 in One Month.

When did you start your side hustle, and where did you find the inspiration for it?

E.C.D. Auto Design was founded in 2013. The inspiration came from a deep appreciation for Land Rover Defenders and a desire to preserve their iconic design while enhancing their performance and functionality. I wanted to bridge the gap between classic and modern by offering fully restored and modified Defenders that combined nostalgia with modern features and quality.

What were some of the first steps you took to get your side hustle off the ground?

In the early stages, we started small, working out of a garage. The initial steps involved assembling a talented team of craftsmen and technicians who shared our passion and vision. We also focused on building a reputation for quality craftsmanship, attention to detail and excellent customer service, which were crucial in establishing trust and attracting clients.

Image Credit: Courtesy of E.C.D. Automotive Design

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while building your side hustle, and how did you navigate them?

Building E.C.D. presented its fair share of challenges. One of the most significant challenges was securing the necessary resources for growth. To address this, we gradually reinvested profits into the business, secured strategic partnerships and leveraged our reputation to attract investment. Additionally, scaling our operations while maintaining quality was a continuous balancing act, but our dedicated team played a vital role in overcoming these challenges.

Related: She Started Her Side Hustle to Solve a Serious Problem With Outdoor Furniture. It Blew Past Her Full-Time Job's Income — to $66,000 a Month.

How long did it take you to begin seeing consistent monthly revenue, and at what point did the side hustle's income surpass that of your full-time job?

Building a consistent revenue stream took some time, as we focused on quality and reputation rather than rapid growth. However, within a few years, our revenue began to increase steadily. E.C.D.'s income surpassed my previous full-time job's income within the first five years, reflecting the growing demand for our customized vehicles and dedication to delivering excellence.

You've turned your side hustle into a full-time business with a $225 million valuation. What were some of the key strategies that made that possible?

Several key strategies contributed to our success. We prioritized innovation, staying ahead of industry trends and embracing modern technology. We also expanded our product lineup to include other classic vehicles like the Land Rover Series IIA, the Range Rover Classic, and the Jaguar E-Type, diversifying our offerings. Additionally, venturing into the electrification of classic vehicles was a pioneering move that set us apart in the market. Finally, maintaining a focus on the luxury and travel segments allowed us to cater to our clientele's unique needs and desires.

Image Credit: Courtesy of E.C.D. Automotive Design

Related: She Started a Furniture-Flipping Side Hustle to Pay Off a $10,000 Dental Bill. It Surpassed Her Full-Time Job's Income Within a Year — Earning Up to $37,000 a Month.

What's your best advice for other side hustlers who hope to turn their ventures into successful full-time businesses?

My advice is to start with a clear vision and a genuine passion for your actions. Stay committed to delivering exceptional quality and customer experiences, as your reputation will be a key driver of success. Be open to innovation, adapt to changing market dynamics, and don't be afraid to take calculated risks. Building a strong and dedicated team is also crucial; surround yourself with individuals who share your vision and can help you navigate growth challenges. Lastly, always maintain sight of your core values and the unique value proposition that sets your venture apart.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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