Car guys love to work on engines, both large and small. And sometimes, they need an extra part for their small engine or a bit of advice on how to fix it up. Occasionally, they even need an entirely new engine for a lawnmower, generator, go-cart, or other machine. One of the best resources for these people is smallenginesuppliers.com, which sells small engines and their related parts and products. SafeAuto caught up with Craig Holdeman, the owner and founder of the site, and asked him about his business and his customers.
SafeAuto: Tell me about the history of smallenginesuppliers.com. What led you to start up this website?
Craig Holdeman: I was looking to start some kind of business back in 2002. I always had an interest in small engines and I’m located close to Kansas City, where some of the major distributors are, so it made sense. I spent almost a year running the site before getting my first order.
SA: It seems like a pretty comprehensive site in terms of the parts and engines that you sell. What are some of the customer favorites (or “hot sellers”) among your product offerings?
CH: I sell a lot of Rider engines, mostly Kohler and Briggs V-Twins. Carburetors are very popular too. They seem to get clogged up pretty easily with today’s gas mixtures.
SA: Are most of your customers the do-it-yourself, engine-tinkering “gearhead” types? Or do you have a customer base with broader interests?
CH: I have a lot of “do-it-yourself” customers, but I also have a broad base of work-from-home mechanics. I also get orders from schools (for instructional purposes) and military contractors, too.
SA: How do you go about locating some of the “hard to find” parts that customers are seeking?
CH: I generally make the extra effort to try to find someone’s part wherever it is located in the US. I do even sometimes recommend competitors’ pages if I know they have an engine or a part that I don’t.
SA: Generally speaking, when is it more economical for someone to buy parts for their small engine and fix it themselves, rather than just buy a new engine — or an entirely new product (lawnmower, generator, etc.)?
CH: Sometimes it is better to buy new equipment, in my opinion. It may be that the replacement engine costs almost as much as new equipment; but if people really like their equipment, they sometimes choose to go ahead and replace an engine instead of buying new equipment and taking a chance on not liking it. I always try to tell people if I honestly think it’s better for them to buy new equipment.
SA: Tell me a little more about the other resources that customers find on your website (other than the products themselves).
CH: Off my links page I have an “Engine Specs” link. I have tried to put the best information that I can find on that page. There are some service manuals, service specs (such as torque specs for example), and line drawings, linked there as well. I do also have a parts lookup site for Briggs & Stratton, Kohler, Robin Subaru, and Oregon (aftermarket) parts.
SA: Is technology changing significantly among small engines these days? If so, do you have to scramble to keep up with the changes in terms of what you sell on your site?
CH: Technology changes at least slightly from year to year. The small engine manufacturers have an incentive to make more fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly engines (because it leads to more sales). It is always a challenge to keep up with changing part numbers and engine models.
SA: Has anyone ever bought an engine and/or parts from your site for an unusual end use — like, say, building a homemade “megablender” or an experimental aircraft?
CH: I have sold engines for people that have made tricked out mini-choppers and racing riding mowers. I’ve had people use them on boats. I’ve sold to a guy that invented a trailer towing device called trailertugpro, and I’ve sold engines for remote-controlled lawnmowers too.
SA: What can you tell me about the future of smallenginesupplies.com?
CH: We plan to continue our growth and to add new product lines, and to continue to provide the best resources available to help our customers solve any small engine problem they may have.