Recently, Audra Fordin was named the first “Female Service Shop Owner of the Year” by the Car Care Council Women’s Board. Fordin is the first female owner/operator of her family’s automotive repair business, Great Bear Auto Shop, in Flushing, NY, which has been in the same location since 1933.
Audra has been a strong ally of RepairPal's since the beginning and we are pleased to announce that she will be writing a weekly blog for our website, the first of which will be published in early December.
We asked Audra a few questions about how she got started, what advice she has for women when it comes to cars, and her experience mentoring young girls.
1. Tell us about your history and your training. I know you learned a lot from your dad. Was he supportive of you? Did he want you to take over the business?
Dad never had a son. He took me under his wing and I became the next generation of “guys” who would do what the family has done for three generations before me. I don’t know about supportive. He was supportive in his own way. For sure he was demanding and had expectations. As far as taking over the business is concerned, he may not have expected that, but I did from the start.
2. What does winning the "Female Auto Shop Owner of the Year" mean to you? How did you feel when you first found out?
Less than 1% of shop owners are women, so who knows how many were in the pool of fish, but the honor is the recognition as a shop owner, not as a female shop owner. I can’t wait until I win shop owner of the year—male or female. It’s a start. This is what I am all about.
3. What is the most important thing you want women to know about cars?
Everything they need to feel safe and confident as a passenger or driver. The important thing they should know is what the heck their mechanic is talking about and get past the fear of it all. It’s amazing how many women are afraid of their vehicles. They get in them, turn the key, and expect the vehicle to behave. The moment it doesn’t, they panic. Gosh, we should be marrying those things if they performed so perfectly every time!
4. What advice do you have for other shop owners who want their customers to feel less anxious about auto repair?
Explain What They Auto KNOW. Don’t intimidate … don’t rush an explanation. Speak to your customer as you would speak to someone on your first date—without the hand holding, of course!
5. Tell us about your experience working with the Girl Scouts.
Working with the Girl Scouts is as rewarding as all of the awards put together. Here is an opportunity to mentor the next generation of women who will lead this country. America is ready for female leaders. The Girl Scouts gives me an opportunity, as it does many women, to share and to impose direction for these girls that will make them strong, confident leaders of our country. This is the best organization for any child. It’s amazing. It’s not the Girls Scouts your grandma belonged to. Trust me. Strong, confident women are coming your way.
And of course, there’s no better time spent than time with your daughters. I know this first hand because I have two (and a son). It’s a great time for all of us to share and build memories.