My name is Art Houchen and I’m a franchisee for Budget Brake and Muffler with a location in Kelowna.
In 1990, I was transferred from Kelowna to Vancouver as a branch
manager for another company. I began thinking about
franchising within a year of moving to Vancouver. For the
amount of hours you put into a job working for someone else, you
might as well be working for yourself. Entrepreneurship
didn’t hold any fear for me because I believed (and still do) that
if you are willing to work hard, you’ll do alright. The only
thing I’d ever lacked was money. I’d probably have looked
into a small business ten years earlier if I’d had enough starting
On the other hand, that decade gave me invaluable management
experience. I learned a style of leadership that was firm and
fair while still being hands-on-all elements I would eventually
rely upon as a franchisee.
My franchise opportunity finally arrived in 1993. That summer, I noticed a newspaper ad in the Vancouver Sun, placed by Budget Brake and Muffler. They had a franchise available in Kelowna and was looking for interested franchisee candidates. I called them right away and scheduled an appointment.
The initial interviews went very well. My management
experience and past knowledge of both retail and the automotive
industry were major factors in getting me accepted as a
franchisee. I also brought a personal interest in cars and
that helped, too. Of course, having 100 percent support from
my wife and sons meant everything. I was officially approved
as a franchisee in July 1994.
Unlike my previous career moves, I had to start this one on my
own-both my sons had to complete their school year in Vancouver, so
they stayed there with their mom through the spring.
That was a really hard time for me.
However, I was fortunate to take over a business with three very
talented, experienced mechanics already on staff. Right away
I became the ‘fourth man’, doing as much repair work as any of them
(it’s still that way, actually). When I began, this Budget
Brake and Muffler location was strictly brakes, exhaust and
suspension (typical of Budget franchises at the time), but I
quickly realized that I could do more. With the guidance and
support of the Head Office I set about converting my franchise to a
full-service repair business, and through that a very loyal client
Over the next few years we continued to prosper. By 2001,
I was able to build a whole new shop. My old location wasn’t
bad, but it had only five bays and was on a side road with limited
public exposure. My new location has eight bays, meaning we
can service eight cars or trucks simultaneously. The bays are
also larger, meaning I can service big vehicles, such as motorhomes
and large trucks and vans. Best of all, my new location is
right along the highway, giving me maximum exposure to
By the fall of 2005, Budget Brake and Muffler wanted to expand
to Vernon, BC; a city about 30-minutes’ drive from Kelowna. I
took several trips there with the then owner of the franchise
system, Warren Swanson, and the then Vice-President, Lane Vance,
to survey the area. After many months of continually
scouting the area for locations we finally found the right one,
which just happened to be operated by a competitor of
Budget’s. Through Budget I bought the business, and Budget
bought the property.
On March 1,2006, I took over the Vernon location. I
successfully ran this location for 21 months. I found that
although operating a Budget Brake and Muffler on a part-time basis
(I worked the Vernon shop only one day a week, and relied on a
manager for the other five) is profitable, it is more so when you
work the business on a more full time basis. Therefore,
Budget helped me find a buyer for the franchise and I sold it in
December of 2008.
Through my association with Budget Brake and Muffler I have had
the opportunity to operate a successful business, and also be
partners in the Budget Realty Company, as well as part owner of my
Both of my sons, Leigh and Shawn are very involved in the business. Leigh is my counterman and Shawn works as a mechanic on the floor. My wife, Iris, is also involved doing the books and answering the phones when things get busy. This truly is a family business and we are proud of our association with Budget Brake and Muffler.