Friday, May 24, 2024

Jose Costa


Jose Costa, a native of Venezuela, has made a mark on Charlotte’s business during his decade in the Queen City, holding key roles at the Driven Brands automotive services company and Bojangles. Now, he’s leading a company with ambitions to become a car wash industry leader, backed by Connecticut private-equity group A&M Capital Opportunities.

Magnolia Wash Holdings is already the 11-largest U.S. car wash operator, but Costa is pushing to expand from about 100 existing locations in eight states. The industry leader is Tucson, Arizona-based Mister Car Wash, followed by Take 5 Car Wash, which is owned by publicly traded Driven Brands of Charlotte.

Consolidation in the car-wash industry is likely because small operators still dominate the business, but many owners are nearing retirement age and seeking to sell, Costa says. Magnolia and others also are increasingly promoting membership plans that produce recurring revenue. 

Costa left Venezuela in 2003 to attend graduate school. His father founded that nation’s largest advertising company but departed along with many business leaders and owners because of the leftist policies of former President Hugo Chavez. 

Costa earned a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University, then added an MBA at the University of Chicago. He also met his wife, Cindy, at Northwestern, where she earned a similar degree. The couple now has three children and plans to stay in Charlotte for the rest of his career, he says.

After marketing stints at Burger King and Yum Brands, Costa became president of the Maaco automotive company, helping it report 61 straight months of revenue growth. During his tenure there, he was featured on the CBS network’s “Undercover Boss.” He later joined Bojangles as chief development officer, where he spent about three years recruiting new franchisees and developing real estate and restaurant design strategies.

Magnolia’s locations are company-owned, and the plan is to gradually reduce the number of individual brand names from the current 10. It focuses on exterior washing and doesn’t provide interior cleaning. That enables Magnolia stores to run with about 15 to 20 employees.

Having a private-equity owner that wants to build a strong company is motivating, Costa says. “Our incentives are aligned and you don’t have quarterly earnings to report publicly, so you can be more strategic. I thrive in that environment.”

Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications named Costa to its Hall of Achievement in 2018.

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