Film Stars September/October 2022August 30th, 2022 by Nathan Hobbs
A ‘Self-Made’ Success Story
Raphael Van Dexter’s Trials and Triumphs
The adjective self-made means “having achieved success or prominence by one’s own efforts,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. It’s a fitting term for Raphael Van Dexter, who in 2005 founded Dynamic Tint and Paint Protection from the trunk of a 1993 Acura Integra. The minimal funds he possessed were used to register the business and purchase two rolls of film.
Seizing the Opportunity
Van Dexter had dropped out of high school in 1998 when he was 17-years old. He started working at 14 and clocked hours at McDonald’s, bussed tables, cleaned carpets and operated forklifts. The oldest of seven, Van Dexter’s goal was to support his single mother.
He lived behind a Ziebart location that offered window tint and auto detailing. He had lost his license after speeding in his 1997 Chevrolet Camaro and was between jobs. Window tinting beckoned, and Ziebart was where it all started.
“From 2000 to 2005, that’s when I got my experience,” Van Dexter says. “I started as an automotive detailer washing cars. They had issues with their window tinter, who had an attendance problem. He randomly wouldn’t show up, and I was washing cars at the time. The boss threw me in there, and I never looked back.”
The new tinter quickly fell in love with his new gig, foreseeing limitless potential.
“I knew that in the back of my head, this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he says. “I had the anticipation that I was going to master the craft and become the best at it. People would travel to the shop I was working at and specifically ask for me to tint their car.”
“I’m an introvert,” he adds. “I don’t talk much unless it’s of value; I do listen a lot. It was hard for me to jump into owning a business because that meant I had to talk to people. But I started knocking on doors at car dealerships, stereo shops and auto glass shops.”
Van Dexter eventually drummed up business, but the transition to brick-and-mortar operations didn’t happen overnight. “I failed miserably until 2010,” he admits. “It was four or five years of back and forth—going back to mobile to having a shop or doing a mixture of both. I would have a 9 a.m. appointment at my shop and then a 12 p.m. appointment in the field. I transitioned to shop only, and that’s when things started happening.”
Today, Van Dexter owns more than just one shop. In fact, he has three New Jersey locations: Marlton, N.J., Williamstown, N.J., and Swedesboro, N.J. He oversees a team of 15 installers and a total of 23 employees. His three stores offer ceramic coatings, paint protection film, window tint and remote starts. The team’s efforts generated $2 million in sales in 2019, $3 million in 2020 and $3.7 million in 2021. Van Dexter aims to reach $4 million this year.
“We’re opening our fourth location in the next two years,” he says. “We’re growing fast, and it’s hard to train talent; we don’t hire outside talent. Anyone that’s experienced I won’t hire. They don’t acquire my techniques and skills, and it’s hard to change that. That’s the most difficult thing I face. My anticipation is to open one up at the Jersey Shore. After that, I want to venture either up North to Northern New Jersey or out of state to Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.”
Chris Collier is the assistant editor for Window Film magazine.
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