Cole Ule, owner of Blown Black Performance in Chili, Wis., started following his passion early in life. Before he was even old enough to drive, he was ripping apart old motors, and figuring out what made them tick. Ule received an LLC status for his diesel shop in 2013, shortly after he turned 18, but was working under his father’s name long before that.
“I kind of fell into it when my dad started building his first competition truck,” Ule said. “I saw an opportunity to expand into the diesel market, and it all started from there.”
At first, he would get contracts and work under a sole proprietorship that was started under his father’s name.
“It was trial and error, hands-on, trying to figure everything out,” he said of the initial phase of starting the company. “I would work with support techs over the phone to diagnose the problem and go from there. More and more customers started coming in, so I knew that I was onto something then.”
Still in high school at that time, Ule would get done with classes and head to the shop to work until midnight or longer, slowly growing the company.
Knowing he would need one, he learned how to build a website that has since evolved to offering thousands of different items for trucks.
Blown Black Performance specializes in performance, repair, and accessories, but their “bread and butter is our in-shop services,” Ule said. “We mainly pull from a four-hour radius because there are not a lot of shops that do what we do.”
Their approach to their customers, is one key reason that they keep coming back. “We diagnose for free and explain what is happening and why,” he said. “We encourage people to ask questions and then ask them a question — ‘where do you want to be with your vehicle?’ From there we suggest ideas and work to educate our customers based on our experience.”
Blown Black Performance’s roots are in truck pulling. Following in his family’s footsteps, Ule appeared in Diesel Power magazine for a firstplace finish in 2012 in the stock diesel class at the fifth annual Churnin’ Dirt Nationals in Richland Center. He was driving his favorite truck, a Chevy Duramax.
Ule and his family continue to compete in truck pulls. Now, along with pulling, his company designs and creates products for trucks at pulling competitions.
During its early years, Blown Black Performance became a dealer for a company in Union Grove that catered to the truck-pulling crowd. After becoming one of its top dealers, the owner approached Ule in 2016 about taking over.
“We officially took over on August 17, 2017.,” he said. “The name changed from Big Chevy Hitch to Big Hitch Products and the logo is similar, but the concept is the same. We build our pulling equipment heavy and have never had a problem. When you’re pulling some of those eliminators, you are looking at 40-50,000 pounds. If they aren’t built tough, they are going to fail. Ours are super heavy duty and the strongest out there, no question.”
Another interesting niche is supplying truck owners that have roll pans. Some truck enthusiasts like the clean look on a truck, so they remove the bumper in favor of a roll pan. One of Blown Black Performance’s specialties is equipping these trucks with receivers to provide them with towing capability.
“There aren’t many places out there that provide roll-pan receivers and we cater to that niche,” Ule said. That niche now has them conducting business nationwide. “We’ve worked with people from Ohio, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Canada, you name it,” he said. “We’ve been getting orders from all over.”
Looking forward, Ule has some ideas and he’s continuing to build relationships, but he knows he can’t do it alone. Kirsten Berra, office manager, plays a vital role managing the website, accounting, and coordinating customer ordering.
Joe Gomez, technician, is Cole’s right-hand man in the shop and keeps everything running in the shop as Cole takes care of the business.
“Right now, we’re working on taking on as many sales as we can and dominate this area,” Ule said. “We’re Wisconsin’s number one source of Duramax parts, and we’re trying to position ourselves to take advantage of the next opportunity.”