Protecting the Peach State: Tiaan Krige’s Swift Rise to Fame
Tiaan Krige was excited. The owner of Atlanta’s AP3 cracked open a sparkling water as sunshine spilled into his lobby, which contained a different kind of shine. Krige’s business had just been recognized as the United States’ Ceramic Coating Dealer of the Year at XPEL’s 2023 Dealer Conference. Reflecting on an award he’s won several times, Krige shared the journey that started it all.
Dropping Out to Detail
“I was working at a full-service carwash after dropping out of Kennesaw State University in 2014,” shared Krige, whose business has locations in Alpharetta and Marietta, Ga. “I started learning about detailing and realized the tunnel wash scratched up cars. This isn’t the way you should be washing cars. You should hand wash them. I learned how to do paint corrections and dove into the world of detailing.”
Krige’s sister learned about his new interest and referred him to a friend with a connection to a Lamborghini dealership. Krige got a new role and immersed himself in the detailing and paint protection film (PPF) realm.
“I would love to help people learn PPF without having to go through the painful barriers that were there for me,” he says. “I was practicing at a dealership with no instructor, and those were some of the worst times of my life. It was humiliating.”
Krige says the dealership’s sales staff lost confidence in him, which led to low self-esteem at work because he didn’t have proper training.
“I was so embarrassed,” says Krige, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, but moved to the metro Atlanta area when he was four years old. “I was working as a detailer. Exotic car dealerships are very low volume. So every three weeks, I would give PPF another try. But I saw cars leave and come back with film, and then I would get asked to do a delivery detail. I realized the sales guy had subbed the job out.”
Krige hopes to provide a pathway for new installers that spares them of the trials he had to overcome. “I want people who are hardworking, have attention to detail and take pride in their work—I want to help them become successful,” he says.
“My big caution to anyone wanting to get into entrepreneurship is that you will have to sacrifice balance for the first few years—few years meaning as little as three and as many as five,” Krige says. “Entrepreneurship is romanticized. People think they’re one idea or one business away from being rich and making it big. But in reality, most people are better suited to the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. life and getting a good job and salary. With entrepreneurship comes incredible risk.”
Krige notes that financial freedom can be achieved with entrepreneurship, but trial and error is a part of the process.
“That’s the story of my dad,” he says. “My dad has been a serial entrepreneur his whole life. He had a lot of successes early in his life, but a lot of things didn’t work out. He sold binoculars, lamp shades and wine.”
Krige founded AP3 in 2017 but waited five years to open a second location.
“It was scary, and I think that’s why it took five years,” he shares. “I wasn’t rushing into it because it seemed daunting. I’m a control freak. I want things to be done a certain way, and I want to be there. I can’t be at two locations at once. It took the team getting to the point where I trust them; letting go of control and trusting people.”
On the way to operating two locations and winning multiple awards, Krige waded through the dark moments of initial business ownership.
“The most difficult part of my career has been being in the deepest, darkest depths of professional burnout,” Krige says. “When you work 70, 80 and 90 hour weeks and you don’t take weeks off … you start losing touch with your own identity. You start marginalizing your friendships and your relationships with your family. You become less effective.”
“I’ve invested every dollar that the business has made back into growing the company,” Krige says. “It’s a part of our greater vision—to be the location people seek out for coatings and automotive films in the Atlanta market … I’ve never believed in forcing growth. I’ve never taken outside investments, been in debt or taken out loans to start the business. I started with one roll of film, and used that one roll to buy two rolls.”
Krige says that, realistically, he hopes to open one to two more locations over the next three to four years. Even with all the growth, excessive work hours are in the past. He exits work mode at 6 p.m. each day.
“I always tell my employees that we work to live—we don’t live to work,” he says.
Meet the Team
“The story of AP3 is hardly my story,” Krige says. “It’s more the story of all these people who have contributed. We have 20 total team members.”
I interacted with some of the team at AP3 during my visit. Check out some of the team members’ personal and favorite cars.
• Tiaan Krige, owner and founder
o Personal car: 2021 Tesla Model 3
o Favorite car: Lamborghini Diablo GT
• Ryan Hageman, PPF specialist
o Personal car: 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
o Favorite car: McLaren F1, LT
• Jon Potash, client experience
o Personal car: 2018 Tesla Model 3
o Favorite car: Porsche Taycan Turbo S
• Jason Miele, coatings specialist
o Personal car: 2019 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport
o Favorite car: 2004 Volkswagen R32
• Brandon Crawley, PPF specialist
o Personal car: E46 M3
o Favorite car: Nissan Silvia S13
• Josh Kubat, window tint specialist
o Personal car: 2015 Toyota 4Runner Limited
o Favorite car: Ferrari 488
Editor’s Note: I visited AP3’s Alpharetta location for this story to celebrate National Small Business Week. I plan to visit several local film suppliers and distributors in the coming months. Reach out to me at email@example.com to arrange a potential visit.