Top 100 Fastest-Growing Business
5801 Curzon Ave.
Fort Worth 76107
John Clay Wolfe’s life and career have been both blessed and cursed.
With the drive of a serial entrepreneur and the gift of gab, Wolfe became a self-made millionaire by age 27. His success came from business ventures that included owning bars and car dealerships.
Five years later, he was paralyzed from a motor-cross bike accident. Adding to the misery was embezzlement by an employee who never expected him to survive the accident.
“After the embezzlement, I had to start over,” Wolfe said. “But I didn’t know how to do it from a wheelchair.”
But he wasn’t about to give up.
He took the advice of a Fort Worth banker, who loaned him some money, and moved to Vernon, a small town near Wichita Falls to keep a closer eye on three car dealerships he owned in the area.
It didn’t take him long to come up with a new way to market his dealerships and it could easily be accomplished sitting in his wheelchair: a radio talk show.
The plan proved ingenious.
In 2009, Wolfe sold his dealerships and moved his operation to Fort Worth, where he grew up and played football at Arlington Heights High School.
At first, the John Clay Wolfe Show partnered with local auto dealerships as a platform to drive used auto inventories for the dealers. But the approach became tricky when dealers refused to pay the amounts agreed upon.
So, in 2015, Wolfe decided to buy and sell the cars himself through GiveMeTheVin.com, a wholesale vehicle distributorship marketed through his syndicated radio show.
The show is now syndicated in 32 markets across the country. In Dallas-Fort Worth, it airs on Lone Star 92.5 FM, an iHeartRadio classic rock station. It airs live on Saturday mornings.
During the show, Wolfe makes on-the-spot offers to listeners who offer to sell them their cars. Wolfe, in turn, quickly sells the cars at auction.
“I move 500 cars a week,” Wolfe said.
In 2018, GiveMeTheVin.com earned $370 million in revenue.
His catch-phrase, “If I can't beat your CarMax offer, I will mail you a $100 check,” has earned him eager sellers across the country who tune into his radio show. Vehicles can also be sold through the company’s website.
Wolfe admits that he loses money at auction about 20 percent of the time. The rest of the time, he makes money on the sales.
For Wolfe, the radio show and the buying and selling cars is like a dream come true, bringing together the highlights of his life and career.
After high school and during college, he sold cars for Hilliard Ford. He went to Southern Methodist University and was a walk-on defensive end for the Mustangs.
One semester in, his father’s construction business went bankrupt and Wolfe managed to stay in school with financial aid and a little bit of money he received from his mother and stepfather for tuition.
Through shrewd planning, Wolfe and his high school friend, Carter Coleman, opened the Plaid Pig bar near Texas Christian University in 1993. The two were earning $75,000 a year from the venture.
The following year, the two opened The Rail on Berry Street at the site of a defunct club.
Owning the bars helped cultivate his interest in music and gave him experience in booking bands.
After graduating from college, Wolfe spent a short time working in Boise, Idaho, to develop a technology product. The project failed when another firm beat him to the finish line. That brought him back to Texas and getting into new car sales with the Wichita Falls area dealerships.
Besides selling cars, Wolfe’s radio show, which he describes as “Saturday morning cartoons for adults,” is a combination of skits, impersonations and music. Wolfe is joined on the show by radio veterans J.D. Ryan, Bobby “Bobbo” Brown, Mike Turley and sidekick DY PreKay.
– Marice Richter
Who is the founder:
John Clay Wolfe
How many people do you employ?
What were your gross billings in the most recently concluded fiscal year?
$370 million in 2018.
Give a brief description of your business:
Wholesale vehicle distributor
What differentiates your company from others?
GiveMeTheVin buys cars digitally/sight unseen from the public
The business climate is changing rapidly. What do you foresee as challenges?
That’s another story in itself, it reads like a bad country song, but just check yes in every box.