In the third instalment of our ongoing series on women in the industry, we meet Karen Hovestad, whose service shop, Auto Check Automotive in Nanaimo, B.C. is housed in a building that’s been artfully renovated to look just like a vintage BA station. The shop’s great look attracts attention for local car owners; but Karen and her team’s passion for great service keeps customers returning.
SHOP: Auto Check Automotive
WHERE: Nanaimo, B.C.
SIZE: 5,000 square feet, 6 bays
STAFF: 9 employees
AFFILIATION: NAPA Autopro
“I was always interested in cars. When I was a teenager, I was frustrated that I couldn’t sign up for shop class because I was a girl! My husband (Ron) is a certified autobody technician, and he later went on to get certified in radiator work, air conditioning and other technical training. But after working in a high-end body shop in Vancouver, he became restless once we moved to Nanaimo, because the shop he worked in didn’t attract the same calibre of cars. Eventually, we started our own radiator repair facility, right down the street from his old shop!
“What made us different was that we focused on running an environmentally sustainable operation, and people responded to that. We grew so much that eventually we had to find a new building, but it was a while before we found this one. It was in a great spot on a corner, and it had history – it was the site of one of the oldest repair stations – it began as one of the first hand-crank gas pump stations in the city, so that had meaning for me, since I was on the city’s heritage commission.
“But the building was a wreck! We spent a long time (and money) renovating it, because I had an idea to do something striking because of this high-profile location: we decided to replicate the look of a 1940s BA station. We were a bit worried about how much we spent, but then, in the last couple of weeks before we opened, the phone started ringing off the hook, with people wanting to make appointments!
“I’d say our proudest moment was winning two important awards right after we opened: first, for top automotive business on Vancouver Island, and then the Top Commercial Renovation Award soon after. It was astounding to us, because there were much bigger and fancier renovations, but we won!
“But just being a woman in this business is definitely a challenge. I’m the owner, but salespeople will still come in and gravitate to the men in the office, before the employees point out that the woman over there is the boss. But more women are entering the business, and it’s starting to change slowly.
“My advice is share your passion for what you do. I often pick up and drop off customers, and I love doing that, because I get a chance to hear what they think of our service. And I think our passion shows. Over and over, people tell me they really have confidence in us as trusted advisers, which is so important when it comes to making decisions about your car’s care.”
This is the third 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.