For decades, the automotive service industry has tended to be a man’s profession, but that’s changing.
By Martha Uniacke Breen
Women entrepreneurs are increasingly part of the service business at every level, from the shop floor to the executive’s office. Regardless of gender, it all comes down to building trust – which is about relationships, about honesty and being a good neighbour, which comes naturally to entrepreneurs like Josie Candito of Master Mechanic High Park in Toronto.
WHAT: Master Mechanic High Park
WHERE: High Park/Roncesvalles/Parkdale /Junction area, Toronto, Ontario
SIZE: 4,365 sq.ft., six bays
STAFF: 8 full-time, 2 part-time employees
AFFILIATIONS: Master Mechanic, NAPA AutoCare
“Together, we can change the stigma in our industry. It starts at the shop level, to bring up standards and raise morale. It’s important to show people we are honest, and we’re good businesspeople.”
“I started in 1992 at Master Mechanic’s head office as an accountant. I was intrigued by the franchise process, working closely with our franchisees, in customer service. In 1999, I caught the entrepreneurial spirit and bought a franchise with two partners, but I continued to work at head office until 2008, when I realized the location needed more attention, so I quit and began working here full time.
“I had done some research on the neighbourhood before I bought the shop, and I fell in love with the location! It’s on a corner in a family neighbourhood. I love my customers! They really are the best part of my day. We’re dog-friendly (I have a King Charles spaniel), and there are many, many dogs in this neighbourhood. I feel very strongly about animal rights; I’ve been working with our local MPP to update animal rights laws and will be going to Ottawa soon to speak out on their behalf. That’s really important to me.
“Our shop is unique in a way, because we are very community-oriented. We throw events, and also participate in community events like raising funds for the Redwood Womens Shelter, and food drives for the Parkdale Food Bank. Every winter, I leave scarves out for people who might need them. I’m also very active in the industry. I work with AIA as an mentor through the AIA’s AWAKE program. ( Advancing Woman in Automotive Knowledge) and I’m currently mentoring and training Brittany Taylor as a service manager. Last year, for Canada’s 150th anniversary, I was recognized with the 150 Changemaker Award, which was a real honour.
“I have a message board outside that brings the whole neighbourhood together, where I put up funny, positive messages. Sometimes they’ll be topical – such as after the recent van tragedy in Toronto, it simply said “Give someone a hug” – or it might have a funny or inspirational message, to put a smile on people’s faces. Several times a day, people will come in just to tell us it makes them feel good! It’s part of our focus on bringing that trust and confidence to our industry, which is sometimes lacking, I think.
“I would say my greatest challenge is not in business, but a personal one: my health. I have fibromyalgia, but my motto is I won’t let my illness define me. And my team is very supportive.
“You know how sometimes you walk into a place and it’s stuffy? You walk in here and it’s friendly, there’s a great vibe. We feel strongly about paying attention to good old-fashioned customer service. Our company mission is to always treat people the way you want to be treated.”
This is the first in a series on Women Owners in Auto Service leading up to the 2018 Women’s Leadership Conference in Toronto, Ont., June 13, 14. presented jointly by the AIA of Canada and the Auto Care Association. For more information, visit the Women’s Leadership Conference Registration Page.