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Ryan Knight

Ryan Knight

Pilon School of Business

Degree: Accounting

Year of graduation: 2012

Driven toward success: Ryan Knight pays attention to the details

Ryan Knight believes that, for some people, on-the-job experience is the best motivation to do well in the classroom. He counts himself among them. Knight first began the accounting program at Sheridan in 2001. But he didn’t complete the program, and over the next eight years he bounced between different jobs ranging from courier to jazz-radio DJ. Then, his brother told him about his idea to create a mobile car cleaning service. Detailing Knights, a mobile auto-cleaning company that uses an environmentally-friendly solution and travels to wherever customers are parked to do the job, began in 2009. It gave Knight the focus he needed to get back into the classroom, and put what he learned to use right away in his new venture. 

“The most boring class was taxation,” he remembers. “That class was so difficult, but it gave me the most info for running the business and how to structure things.”
Eight years on, Knight shares that message every year with members of Be the Boss, a program that gives young people a Detailing Knights franchise to run for the summer. They drum up business, service the cars, and manage their own team, giving them valuable skills they can put to good use later on in their careers. He recruits students in their late teens and early 20s through community partner Skills for Change. 
“People do video diaries when the program starts, and they’re really timid,” Knight says of the participants. “After the program they’re making $500 a week and they’re talking to customers, they’re … more confident. I feel like we’re a stepping stone for them to realize what their potential is and then go after higher paying jobs and not just entry-level stuff at fast food restaurants.” 
Knight’s contributions to his community are getting noticed. In 2013, he received the Emerging Entrepreneur Award from the Toronto Board of Trade. And in 2017 he was named to the Brampton Board of Trade’s Top 40 Under 40 list. Winning awards was never on his to-do list, but they give him the chance to reflect on his work.
“A lot of how we built the company has a social impact – we’re helping people get jobs, helping the environment,” he says. “Awards allow me to step back and look at the company and the impact it’s having.”
He’s now exploring franchising Detailing Knights, and looking beyond car cleaning to expand another business, called Service Kingdom, a personal-assistant service that offers clients house cleaning, landscaping and meal preparation. It may have taken Knight a bit longer to find his path to success, but he will never trade in the freedom of an entrepreneur’s life for another corporate job. 
“Entrepreneurship was an option I didn’t know existed. Now I can use my company to give that option to more people.”
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