On the go and on point: UGA student's mobile detailing business turns heads

Two guys standing with a sign that says Detail Dawgs (pronounced dogs) in between them.
University of Georgia senior, Jack TerHaar and UGA freshman, Perry Hatcher are half of the the Detail Dawgs crew that cleans cars around Athens. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Jack TerHaar’s vacuum sucks up dirt, broken leaves and old french fries off the floor of a white Volkswagen Tiguan.

“We’ll go through with microfiber towels, and we’ll wipe down all the interior surfaces,” said TerHaar.

Two guys cleaning a car.
Louisiana native, Jack TerHaar started this business during his junior year at UGA. He participated in an entrepreneurship program on campus that inspired him. (Marlon Hyde/WABE)

TerHaar is wearing a black hoodie that reads “Detail Dawgs.” It’s his auto detailing business, which he launched during his junior year at the University of Georgia. The 21-year-old says he learned from his past mistakes.

“At the beginning stages, there were some things that we could have done better. And some customers weren’t quite as satisfied as I would have liked them to be,” said TerHaar.

He started it as a side gig to get some extra cash. After joining the UGA Idea Accelerator Program, he began expanding by handing out business cards wherever he could find busy people, like grocery stores, real estate and law offices.

“It was so uncomfortable for me because I just didn’t want to talk to people about my business, but I think it was necessary to try and grow it,” said TerHaar.

Anyone within a 20-mile radius of Athens, Georgia, can set up an appointment, and they’ll either come to you, or you can meet them at their drop-off location. TerHaar says being mobile gives them a competitive advantage.

“Some of my first one of my first cars were pretty terrible.You can tell when people have kids.”

Ian Fitzgerald, a senior at the University of Georgia and Detail Dawgs crew member.

“[With] every other service, you have to call a number for a quote and talk to somebody. On our website, here’s what we provide, here are the services we offer, and people can literally just click on their one tap, book it for a time, and come meet us out here,” said TerHaar.”

He went from detailing around five cars a month to over a dozen cars a week, so he had to hire more help, like Ian Fitzgerald.

“I’ve had some bad ones. Some of my first one of my first cars were pretty terrible,” said Fitzgerald. “You can tell when people have kids. Kids don’t care for the cars as much as adults do. You see a lot of gum squished into carpets, cupholders, and snacks everywhere. There’s stuff that you couldn’t even imagine being in places.”

A man is whiping down the back of a dolled seat inside of a car.
UGA senior, Ian Fitzgerald is wiping down the seats of an SUV. He is one of the 4 that make up Detail Dawg’s crew. (Marlon Hyde/WABE)
Jack TerHaar says his business has also grown into a way to give back.In September, Detail Dawgs donated to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Here he is posing with children that participated in a “Walking for Alopecia” event.

Now in his senior year, TerHaar says his business has also grown into a way to give back. His older sister was diagnosed with alopecia areata when she was 7. It’s an autoimmune disorder that hinders hair growth. In September, Detail Dawgs donated to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

“So through my business, I wanted to do something to help my sister, Abby,” said TerHaar.

As Terhaar nears the finish line for his degree, he and his team plan to take the business on the road to help cars in other college towns shine.

“So the next location is going to be Atlanta, and we’re going to try to compete in that market, and then probably just go into a couple of different towns, I’ve looked at like Charlotte, North Carolina, and like to Columbia, South Carolina, some of the dealerships have branches over there,” said TerHaar.