As seen in the Oct. 25 issue
Jessica Lu, spotlight editor
Alumnus Nathan Ong, class of 2012, is the CEO and founder of Blacklist Autosport, LLC, a company he founded after learning his passion for the fabrication of custom, bolt-on exhaust systems for cars. Blacklist Autosport makes axle-back systems, which consist of the exhaust components from the end of the car to the exhaust tips.
“Development and production of these systems has become our main focus,” Ong said.
Ong’s passion for cars has been around since he was “old enough to comprehend” what they were. After buying a car and deciding to improve its sound system, Ong searched for a solution under a $1000. The solution came when he went to GranTurismo, a shop owned by Giovanni Cusimano, where he learned how to improve the sound without taking his car apart.
“For a fraction of the price, I got what everybody who installs an aftermarket exhaust system ultimately wanted: improved sound,” Ong said. “To make things even more appealing, I didn’t have to take apart my entire exhaust system because this was a bolt-on part, so I’d simply unscrew the rear section of my old system and put the new one in.”
He explained that many people find it difficult to upgrade a leased vehicle, but his company can address this issue.
“I realized that if a lot of people knew that this product existed, they would be choosing this over a full exhaust system for the reasons mentioned above,” Ong said.
Ultimately, Ong made a business agreement with GranTurismo. All installation is done at their location on Sepulveda Boulevard.
Initially, the company suffered from advertising issues, Ong said. Describing the services Blacklist Autosport provided proved to be more challenging than expected.
“[It was] difficult to properly convey the business to anybody who asked,” Ong said.
To solve the problem, he read a few business books and reorganized his mission statement.
“One of the books that really resonated with me is called ‘Focus’, by Al Ries,” he said. “That book taught me to focus my business on one thing, rather than try to do everything.”
The business now specifically focuses on producing “cheaper exhaust solutions.”
“We aim to beat the more expensive full systems in the sound and performance department,” he said.
Ong said once he centralized his company’s focus, business picked up, but is still in its first stage.
“We’re still in a development phase, trying to create and test as many prototypes as we can,” Ong said. “There’s a lot of potential for success in the future.”
Ong added that his company can also install a cosmetic or performance upgrade if requested. The process involves a consultation in which the customer can choose from a list of available options.
He cited his target customer as the “automotive enthusiast,” whom he described as someone with an appreciation for “automotive things.”
“I believe that the way a car sounds contributes hugely to the driving experience, and anyone interested in that is considered a consumer for me,” Ong said.
Over the next five years, Ong predicts the company will have a fully-operational website with several products available to customers.
“I see us as becoming a major player in the automotive performance upgrade game,” Ong said.
For now, Ong is balancing the business with his studies at Santa Barbara City College, which he calls his “priority.” However, he still expresses his love for his business.
‘“The most rewarding thing about this experience is that I’m doing what I love for a living,” Ong said. “I’m so lucky to be able to mesh work and play at the same time. I’m really passionate about sharing something good that I came across with the rest of the world, and it makes me feel great to know that my work will make others happy.”