Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Business Profile: Kickshot Locksmith

Slade Hoopes, owner of Kickshot Locksmith
Growing up in Idaho’s Teton Valley, Slade Hoopes had always figured he’d be a farmer, but when his parents sold their land to developers in 2008 he turned to something that had fascinated him since he was a child, locksmithing.

Hoopes, 27, can pick an old-fashioned lock with the best of them and has an arsenal of customized tools for getting into locked Fords, Dodges, Toyotas and what-have-you. But with high-tech electronics and the Internet, it’s a much different world than even five years ago.

Running his own business, Kickshot Locksmith, Hoopes, 27, knows he’s the new kid on the block. The changing nature of the market has allowed him to identify certain niches where he hopes to make a name for himself as the go-to person.
After his parents, Jack and Lorna Hoopes, sold their land in Teton Valley they were looking for franchise opportunities in which to invest. Hoopes, then a student at Boise State University, told them about Pop-A-Lock, based in Lafayette, La. They signed up and he ran it for two years in Boise, selling the business in 2010.

Hoopes came back to eastern Idaho and spent a brief period driving a food truck, then started Kickshot in 2012. “I’m essentially doing the same thing I did with Pop-A-Lock without paying royalties,” he said. “I knew what I needed and did not need.”

Since starting the business, Hoopes has focused on automotive keys. With older car keys you can still make a duplicate at the hardware store, but Sidewinder and laser cut keys require special machinery and computer codes. Lose the key to your Audi and you can do one of two things. Call the dealer in Boise or Salt Lake City (and pay to have the car towed there) or call Hoopes, who can make one right away for 15 to 25 percent less money.

Hoopes has a unit that communicates with a car or truck’s onboard computer and marries the key to the car’s ignition. “The profit is in the programming,” he said.

Like a lot of locksmith’s, Hoopes offers to unlock any vehicle door for free if there is a child locked in. It’s the right thing to do, but he admits it’s a marketing ploy at heart — in a desperate situation, nobody is going to let a child roast in a car seat out of reluctance to break a window.

Hoopes’ customers include Hertz Car Sales and local repossession yards. He is also dipping a toe into home security system set-up, a rapidly changing environment as well. “You can unlock your home or turn on the lights with your smart phone now,” he said.