In January of 2016, Elmont graduate, Daniel Alexis, released a video on his birthday that quickly went viral. The video amassed over 11,000 shares on Facebook and even landed Daniel interviews with CBS 2 News, a feature on News 12 Long Island, and other online magazines.
Months later in April, Daniel continued to give back. With no news cameras around, Daniel and his friends joined forces with Imani Youth Group of Rochdale, Queens as they handed out care packages and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to the homeless of New York City.
We sat down exclusively with Daniel to discuss his newest ambitious undertaking, a personalized car wash service on wheels that meets the customer where they are.
In perhaps The Elmont Excelsior’s longest interview, we cover the story of how Daniel’s business got started, how he is able to create jobs for his Elmont friends, and the importance of Black entrepreneurship, ambition, dreams, and spirituality.
Words and interview questions by Karl Valere of The Elmont Excelsior. Answers by Daniel Alexis, co-founder of A&D Mobile Wash.
What is A&D Mobile Wash?
A&D Mobile Wash is a Car Wash and Detail created by me and my friend Alex. We decided to do it a year ago and we just wanted to start a business on our own that is possible at a young age so we created A&D Mobile Wash where we give your car a full wash and inside and outside detail.
Is this your first business?
Yes, this is my first business that I started.
How did you decide “Car Wash” or mobile wash — Where did that idea come from?
I had seen it before but I just thought that this is a business that everybody needs and it’s more convenient if I could go to them and do what they do instead of them waiting in line and getting their car washed I could go to their house while they are there or at work and give them what they wanted.
Where did you see it before?
I [saw] it in Florida.
How’d you go from an idea — from an inspiration to something that you actually built from the ground up? How did it actually come to life? What steps did you take?
I called Alex and told him that he ran straight from there. Alex [Dennis] is a long time friend — one of my best friends — I consider him a brother since high school. We’ve been close since 2012 when he graduated from Elmont, the same year as me. We always looked out for each other, had each other’s backs.
So I called Alex and he was a 110% with it and started doing his research with me online. He was living in Florida when I told him this. And he just went on the Internet and then one day — while he was — I forgot how the story went but one day somebody actually gave him an actual van with the tools inside the van. The guy was like, “I’ll give it or sell it to you for a low price,” so I just thought of that like as a sign from God. Like just take this opportunity and run with it.
This isn’t the first time that you’ve had an inspiration — that you’ve done something in the neighborhood. Talk about how you went from “The Giveback” to now A&D Mobile Wash? Are they related or connected in any way — whether by the same spirit of entrepreneurship & inspiration?
Well, I can definitely connect the two, by just using people in my community to do good. Because I can also give people in my community a job and give people my community a good car wash. Either way, they are happy.
The Giveback plays a big part of it ’cause it’s like that’s where I became really known for and having positive energy and for doing something good. Now, I can actually make money while doing something good in the right way. And help people out in terms of getting a car wash. Or if they need a job or if they need help raising money. I could — when I receive good [enough] money — I could help raise money for something towards [a good cause] so it’s good.
You mentioned creating jobs: Have you created jobs for anyone in the neighborhood yet?
I have a few people [who have] been working with me, that graduated with me so it’s helping them put money in their pockets, giving them something to do. They help me wash the cars, give me ideas, and working with me in the neighborhood give me ideas on what I need or do their own research and have just been helpful.
Talk us through your beginning — How did you first start?
I originally started the business out of Florida last year and that’s when I got in tune with washing cars in Coral Springs, Florida. I just thought it would be a better idea for me to bring it back to my neighborhood. For me to just bring it back to me start a business out here where I’m more known and people will be wanting to support me just cuz they watched me grow up and now they see me start my own business at a young age.
When did you wash your first car? (On Long Island or in Elmont, specifically)
I washed my first car Long Island maybe you’re around like maybe like 2 weeks into July.
How’d you get your first client?
My first client was somebody that wanted to support like a friend. Somebody that just saw what I was doing and just wanted to be involved.
Did you wash it for free?
Actually, yeah. I did [the] car for free.
How much do you charge for a standard wash?
For a full detail in and out, I start off at 60 and depending how filthy your car is you could be charged more. A quick standard wash — it depends on what you want — you can get like a quick outside wash for $25. A quick outside wash quick and a vacuum for an extra $5 or $10 depending on how filthy your car is will play a part.
Now is it by appointment only? Do you do same day washes?
If I’m available I will definitely do it on the same day but I would rather appointments so I could just know like alright this is the car I’m doing so I don’t have to mix in two different types of appointments.
How far in advance would you need to be notified?
One day is good enough; 24 hours is good enough. And it’s not just Elmont — I travel all the way to Suffolk.
Do you have boundaries or neighborhoods that you service, specifically?
Well, I don’t see myself going to Brooklyn to do a car wash — unless the money is real right but I try to avoid like bad like bad roads for my van in my van is not too new so…
And you only have just one van?
Yeah, I have one van right now, but soon to be multiplied.
How many workers do you have working with you?
I would say at least 2 other young men [from the neighborhood]. One is 23 the other is 22. Of course, they get paid through tips and by car.
So are you looking to hire more young people?
Yeah, I’m looking to hire more young people once the business grows to become more overpacked. I’ll eventually need more help to organize and get things done. So, yeah, soon I’ll be looking for more people.
What is the ultimate goal? What’s your grand vision for A&D Mobile Wash?
Well, my vision for A&D Mobile Wash is to have plenty of vans out there. More people can just call A&D Mobile Wash to get their car wash instead of waiting in line to go to a car wash. And they can get the same treatment me — as somebody that they know in the neighborhood and my goal is to [encourage] more Black entrepreneurship. More Black businesses owned to set up a pathways/lanes for black people, I’m not gonna lie. Set a way for my people so we can start a change in our communities.
Why do you feel like Black ownership is important?
Because I feel like we don’t own enough. And if we do, it’s very quiet. It’s not as known as it would [or could] be. So I think there would be a lot more help. You could get a lot more leeway in the community and for the stuff that we need done in the community if black ownership companies were to be more prone to taking things to the next level for our people.
What are your thoughts on Black ownership in Elmont?
We do have a lot but there’s always more needed. Because there’s still people out there in the streets doing what they have to do when they could just be having a job.
What would you want to see?
I want to see more Black-owned, very successful corporations. Not just small businesses. I want to see Black-owned cities and black-owned big buildings. And I think if it’s in the ‘hood then it’ll be great but that’s what I want to see.
Many people take issue with the high volume of liquor stores, laundromats, and/or beauty salons in Elmont. What do you feel ought to be built instead?
More juice bars [so we can] be healthy. I feel like more indoor gyms should be created in the Elmont community for people to play sports. Elmont needs to bring back little leagues and stuff like that. That was really important [for me] because I went through [those leagues] at a young age; that gave me something to do.
What are your goals — What do you feel like this will give you an opportunity to do?
I feel like this will give me an opportunity to make a pathway for my family and my future families I feel like I’m trying to plant a seed that can grow into something very big where a lot of people could benefit from it. Not only me but the people [who are] around me and surround the people that I love. So that’s basically the main reason why I’m doing this.
So none of my family members after me could think of doing something illegal or do something that they don’t really need to do to get money when they could just have a backup job if they don’t get that degree you or if they don’t have the physical [attributes] — like if they don’t know how to play sports really that well they don’t need to think that’s the only way for them to become successful.
They will be successful just by working in my business or I can give them [part-ownership] to where they could partially own a franchise in my business and they can make it.
I feel like I’ve already started inspiring a lot of people. I get a lot of good feedback on what I’m doing.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best advice I ever got was to [not] wait on anybody // “Don’t wait on anybody.” If you have a thought just get right to it. Because if you’re waiting on somebody you’ll never get [anything] done. Just, once you get a thought, just put [together] a plan, organize it, and just get to it.
If you ever want to chase a dream, there’s got to be a vision for it. You can’t chase a dream without a vision.
So, if you have a vision [and] there’s a dream behind it, just work on the vision for you to reach that goal. Reach that dream and don’t wait on [anybody] because nobody’s gonna want it more than you.
What do you feel like keeps you going? What drives you? What motivates you and what makes you want to do this?
What drives me is my potential. Me taking the time to learn about my history, the truth about my history. Learning that I can be great just by self-motivation. Like I don’t really have anything that I’m fighting for but I just want to prove to people that I could grow up as an average kid and live in an average household and I can be great like I wasn’t average at all.
I’ve always been the underdog [who’s] not really noticed to do something great. [But] I know deep down I have something planned [and] I plan to be great.
Are you a spiritual person?
I’m a big believer in spirituality. I believe if you don’t believe — Because I feel like I what gives you strength is your spirit. If you have no spirit, you’re not going to feel like you have any purpose to do anything so your conscience is what could be your drive.
If you feel from the inside that you will be somebody great, then you’re gonna be great. So spirit is a very big thing. I believe it’s good to keep your spirit uplifted and keep your mind going. And tend to cleanse yourself from time to time and keep your spirit pure, like clear. Do what you know is right and what can get you to the next level.
A thousand thanks to Daniel Alexis for granting The Elmont Excelsior perhaps our longest-ever exclusive and in-depth interview! Support Elmont’s own and look out for A&D Mobile Wash on your street washing your neighbor’s car or book them for yourself before your next holiday or special occasion.