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This Southern California energy company began with just one gas station

This Southern California energy company began with just one gas station
David Delrahim grew Platinum Energy out of a single shared business in Agoura Hills. (Courtesy of Platinum Energy)

Platinum Energy represents a classic Californian success story. Though the company currently boasts around 150 gas stations across three states, plus a rapidly growing string of Southland car washes, it all began back in 1983 with an unassuming service station in Agoura Hills.

"I started with one third of one station in a partnership with my cousin and uncle," recalled Platinum Energy founder and president David Delrahim, "Working 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. For over three years, that was my schedule."

The only son in a family that had fled Iran shortly after that country's 1979 revolution, Delrahim, an engineer, was driven toward autos and mechanics. But he found his choice of business was more about personal interaction than petroleum.

"Early in my life I found that I truly love people ... and I wanted to be in the outside, dealing with people day in and day out" he explained. "It didn't matter how long I had to work."

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With loans from friends and family, Delrahim was able to open a second and third location, laying a foundation for an empire that today spans California, Oregon and Washington.

But Platinum Energy's upward trajectory wasn't always smooth. In 1992, with big box stores creating discount gas stations and the mandates requiring broader use of alternative fuels, Platinum Energy lost almost everything. The company responded by researching the future of the auto industry, concluding that service stations needed to move away from car repair. Instead, in 1995, Delrahim began adding car washes.

Platinum grew exponentially in the mid- to late 2000s. With alternative energies gaining traction, the gasoline industry continues to change, and with it Platinum's business portfolio. The company now boasts 15 Southern California standalone car washes, and later this year will roll out Platinum's first next-generation car wash, with a bar-raising focus on water conservation.

"It's very exciting," Delrahim enthused. "We've been working on it for over five years."

Over his 35 years in business, Delrahim's people-centric focus hasn't wavered, even with hundreds of employees. "There was a time, back in '83, that I only had two employees," he said. "I considered those two people my extended family, and I feel very blessed right now that I have a few hundred extended family!"

Delrahim recalls personally helping out employees in financial straits who needed to travel due to bereavement or were recovering from illness or injury. Platinum Energy has provided several scholarships and mentorships. Some of his staff have been with him for nearly 30 years, and there are now second-generation Platinum team members.

"Being compassionate is really what my wife and I always tried to teach our kids," said Delrahim. "We've always tried to be here : to hear them out and to do something about it."

Platinum Energy remains headquartered in Agoura Hills. Delrahim is still a active partner in his original gas station there, which he says has a "very special place" in his heart as the beginnings of not only a successful business, but of its fundamental credo that has provided a livelihood and a support system for many.

"Everything goes back to our core belief, which is people," he concluded. "Our journey has been about how we impacted people and their family and their next generation. I feel very humbled to be part of their journey."