In this era of longer hold times for vehicles in rental fleets, interior reconditioning is a good way for car rental operators to keep their vehicles looking good and increase their resale value.

Mokena, Ill.–based Creative Colors International (CCI) specializes in the repair, reconditioning, protection and color restoration of leather, vinyl, fabric, plastic and carpeting in the automotive, furniture, commercial and residential markets.

CCI President Mark Bollman says that for every dollar spent to refurbish and repair a vehicle yields at least $1.50 to $1.75 return on investment at resale.

CCI technicians can restore your damaged rental cars to like-new condition while providing significant cost savings versus replacement—sometimes as much as a 90 percent savings, Bollman says.

In an attempt to limit a vehicle’s downtime, CCI performs all repairs on-site at the rental location.

Where It All Began
CCI was born in 1980, after Jim and JoAnn Foster bought a license to learn how to dye vinyl. Through the years, the Fosters researched, practiced and refined techniques for vinyl, leather and plastic repair, and incorporated them into their fledgling business.

In order to strengthen the business’ marketability, the Fosters developed a demonstration-based sales technique that soon had dealers throughout their community calling for service.

As the business continued to grow, Jim and JoAnn’s children joined the family business and in 1991 they decided to begin franchising. “It was too hard to try and add technicians throughout the U.S. to manage,” Bollman said. “Plus they wanted to give people the opportunity to run their own business and have that kind of lifestyle.”

Today there are 70 CCI franchise locations in 23 states.

In It for the RACs
Creative Colors has been restoring rental vehicles since the mid-’80s—primarily in the Chicago area—for majors such as Avis Budget Group, Dollar Thrifty and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Bollman says CCI’s repair work is warranty-quality and can significantly reduce costs versus replacement. RACs have a particular interest in keeping their fleet looking good and ready for the customer, says Bollman.

Typical repairs in car rental vehicles include cigarette burns on the seats, door panels and carpeting; carpeting discoloration due to wear; and scratches on hard plastic trim from luggage being put in and out of the car. Depending on the severity of the blemish, CCI charges anywhere from $35 to $75 for each repair performed.

“We want to minimize the amount of time those money-making rental cars are off-fleet,” Bollman says.

CCI does repair work on site. For instance, CCI has two repair trucks at Chicago O’Hare International Airport working nearly around the clock to recondition rental vehicles’ interiors.

CCI’s goal is to restore the rental vehicle interior to as close to its original state as possible.

“Our skilled craftsmen meticulously eliminate scuffs, scratches, gouges, scrapes, rips, tears and color fading that occur over time due to normal wear and tear,” Bollman says. “Even water damaged and fire-damaged pieces can often be repaired to like-new condition.”


CCI Decides to Franchise
Franchising was selected because the company felt that the ongoing support and training at headquarters, the training within the franchise territory, along with continued research in products and techniques would provide the framework needed to duplicate success.

Franchisees are required to pay an initial fee of $27,500 to cover the territory plus about $10,000 for supplies and equipment. Other ongoing costs include a 6 percent royalty fee and a 1 percent fee for marketing and advertising. There is a minimum available investment of $32,000 and a required net worth of $100,000.

All franchisees have an exclusive territory containing all markets for continued growth. Each franchisee develops their territory by adding mobile units to provide services. The continued growth is built through name recognition, quality and service.

There are about 145 mobile CCI units currently in operation throughout the country. Some franchise locations have six or seven trucks, depending on how long they have been in business, Bollman says.

Every technician in the nation is certified through CCI’s training program. Three weeks are spent training the new franchisee at the home office in Mokena, and then one additional week of training is done in the new territory. CCI aids the new franchisee with the grand opening and provides a pre-marketing and direct-mail campaign.

The Future of CCI
In 15 years, CCI hopes to have at least 500 locations and become a household name for interior repair and restoration.

“We’re on our way. We have a lot of work to do, but we have a good brand and a good product,” Bollman says. “We’ve been growing year by year, so now we just need to keep expanding and leverage better relationships with our current vendors and work to add new ones.”

Specifically, CCI strives to gain more car rental clients in the coming years and wants them to be real partners in profit.

“We’re here to help our clients save money and we’re also looking to put a couple of dollars in our pocket too,” Bollman says. “If we can do that, and everybody makes out on it, we’re making the world a better place.”

To request Creative Colors’ services or to receive an online quote, visit


Kara Ohngren is a contributing writer for Auto Rental News.


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