“I’m a firm believer in hard work and family.”

That’s the motto of a small business owner in Sophia.

Kevin McKinney, owner of Pro Tint Motorsports, describes himself as a simple guy, just trying to be a dad and a husband.

He started tinting windows as a hobby when he was in high school, but with determination and encouragement from his wife and grandma, he has turned his hobby into a thriving business.

His grandparents, Red and Elva, gave him $25 a week for allowance and when he started driving, he began mowing lawns for extra cash.

McKinney knew where he could get a good deal on long sheets of window tinting, so he saved his money and purchased some. During the weekends, he would tint his family and friends’ car windows.

The word spread and more and more people started asking McKinney for window tinting.

“It really got me started. I’ve been very lucky.”

He began working with Greg Riley at Ziebart Tidy Car, where he gained knowledge and experience. After about seven years working there, Riley sold the business. McKinney says he had the option to buy, but he was young and afraid of making that kind of business decision. He stayed at Ziebart for a while with the new owners, but eventually decided to open his own business.

He jokingly says someone could write a country song about his humble beginning as a business owner — the day he opened his business, he was already $25 in the hole.

He went to the bank with $100 and told the teller he wanted to open a business account. The woman replied, “How did you come up with that number?”

McKinney said, “Well, I figured there’s a long way to go up and not very far to go down.”

“Well, here’s the thing,” the teller explained. “You started out today $25 in the hole.”

A surprised McKinney asked how she came up with that amount.

“The checks that you ordered, with the binder that holds them, costs $125.”

McKinney laughed as he recalled the story. “And that’s how the very day I opened, I opened $25 in the hole.”

Although it was tough in the beginning, McKinney said his grandmother was always a huge supporter of his business endeavors.

He says many others thought window tinting was just a fad, but his grandmother and his wife, Anita, always supported him.

Thanks to their love and support, McKinney’s business has been quite successful, allowing him to offer a variety of services.

“Window tint is not what makes my business now, but it was at one time.”

He says he has lived in Sophia his entire life, but he has moved locally twice.

“I’ve got a pretty good-sized shop now and hopefully we’ll keep movin’ on up like the Jeffersons.”

Even though he’s quite the business man, his family comes first.

“I really put my family first, no matter what. Family means everything to me.”

He spoke lovingly of his wife and their five children, who range in age from 5 to 20.

“I’m just a simple guy who goes to work every day. I just try to be dad and husband and survive. And in this day and time, it’s really tough to survive, but we do.”

He says his community is very important to him as well.

“Small businesses have the toughest time making it. I try to keep my money in Sophia where I’m at, whether it be Priddy’s or the local banks and gas stations or wherever. It helps the community all the way around.”

So what is it that sets Pro Tint apart from other businesses?

McKinney says he treats everyone’s car just like he would treat his own.

“How many businesses can you go to that you actually talk to the owner face to face and then he works on your car? Very few. Most others pay someone to do the work. I’m actually in the garage,” McKinney said.

McKinney also says his prices haven’t risen in years. He’s been in business since 1996, but he found some old pricing sheets from 1987.

“The truck prices have changed, but as far as SUVs and cars, I have the same prices.”

Services offered at Pro Tint Motorsports include hand wash and wax, steam clean and shampoo carpets, performance parts and accessories, lift and leveling kits, remote starters, tire and wheel packages, running boards, hitches, Tonneau covers, audio and video, drop-in bed liners, chrome accessories and, of course, window tinting.

Pro Tint is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is located at 209 Main St. in Sophia.

For more information, call 304-683-2035.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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