Ralph Holguin has always maintained a pretty simple policy throughout his life. Whatever he’s doing, he’s going to try to be the best at it.
When he dropped out of school at the age of 16 to focus more on what would soon become a career washing cars, Holguin wasn’t concerned with what people thought of his decision. He was just focused on being the best car detailer he could be. Over the years (and after a few ventures into other fields), Holguin took that mentality and his teenage business, Ralph’s Mobile Detailing, and turned it into RMD Garage and the marketing agency RMD Group. These days, the two businesses share a space in Long Beach, just down the road from where Holguin grew up in Torrance.
“I noticed that when clients were walking into the agency, they would notice some of my cars on display,” Holguin says of his initial decision to combine his garage and marketing agency. “I could always see people kind of salivating and see that they loved the automobiles. People loved what we had, so it tied all in. When they saw the builds of the cars — which are so complex — they understood that the builds of the exhibits we were working on for them were going to be no-brainers for us.”
But now, Holguin’s becoming more known for the crazy restorations and customizations his garage team makes rather than the projects he crafts for his agency clients. Earlier this month, RMD Garage's self-titled TV show premiered on Velocity (Discovery’s car-based cable channel) and they immediately began getting more recognition on a national and international level. For Holguin, the additional exposure is great — as long as he’s able to do it on his own terms instead of falling into the tropes of so many other reality television programs.
“When I was approached about the show, it was a really important decision for me to make, because I have this really successful agency that does well, so how do I do the show and keep the quality and integrity of who I am?” Holguin says. “I wanted to make sure that I could tell my story with my humble beginnings and drive that message of hope and aspiration. So far, it’s been crazy. The show pushes you to do a lot of things really quick, so it’s been a lot of us saying ‘That’s not how we do things’ and continuing to push the quality of our builds.”
Through the show, Holguin is hoping to combine the crazy restorations and customizations (of everything from vintage bicycles to the formerly dilapidated food truck he’s now using to sell merch all over Southern California) with his own rags-to-riches tale, in order to entertain and inspire viewers who may not care about the automobile industry. After all, the whole garage and agency are more of a byproduct of Holguin’s personal standards and beliefs than anything.
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Years ago, the Mexican-born entrepreneur only began doing more with cars than cleaning them because he was unhappy with having to take his own ride to someone else to be fixed. Following his promise to never let anyone else work on his car, Holguin began getting involved in the auto repair and restoration world as much as possible. His relentlessness turned his one-car project into a business, and he just kept plugging away on both the repair and marketing side of things until he eventually landed in the massive space his businesses currently occupy.
“I love what I do and having the opportunity to do what I do, but ultimately if you were to take everything away, the one thing I want to do is motivate,” Holguin says. “I want to talk to people, motivate people and encourage people. I want to be used as a case study and as a catalyst to push other people forward and help them understand that anything is possible if you’re willing to put in the work and give up who you are for who you want to become. That’s why the ‘Don’t Dream It, Build It’ tagline for us is so important, because it means everything to me, but it only means something if it resonates with you. We can dream all day — and that’s a free gift — but how do we build on some of these dreams and fulfill some of these dreams?”
With a seemingly endless number of one-of-a-kind cars in the garage at any given time, a successful marketing agency and now a TV show on the air every Wednesday, it may seem that Holguin has too many things on his plate to be able to focus on any one of them for too long. But much to the contrary, it’s actually his ability to focus on the task at hand that the business owner believes has gotten him to this point — and it’s a trait that he believes more people should work on if they want to succeed in a world full of distractions.
“I think a lot of people get distracted and unfocused when they’re in their garage,” Holguin says. “If you really dedicate that time and slot it to work on that car — disconnect from everything and stay in that garage — then I guarantee you that before you know it, you’re going to look back and that car is almost finished. It’ll feel good too, because it’s because of you. Even if you had help or you brought guys in, you drove that machine — you’re the one who really made that happen.”