The Story Exchange, Audra Fordin, Women Auto KnowYour Name: Audra Fordin

Business Name: Women Auto Know, a service to educate women about auto repairs

Type of Business: Auto Repair

Business Location: New York, NY, United States

Twitter   @WomenAutoKnow
Tumblr   women auto know
Pinterest   women auto know

Reason for starting
I was a lucky kid, my dad brought me to work with him. Being a woman in a predominately male industry was always a challenge but, being a 4th generation Fordin did have its advantages. I was born and bred to be in the automotive industry. Like the movie My Cousin Vinny, my great grandfather, grandfather’s father, cousins and uncles were all in the auto repair business. As a small child, I remember wanting to be “included” in the family conversations. Cars was always the topic of conversation. I bought the business from my dad in 1998 and became the fourth generation, 1st female owner of Great Bear Auto Repair and Auto Body Shop. This is a legacy I hold close to my heart and I have since, taken the family business to new heights. You see, the auto repair industry as a whole is stuck in a time warp of the 1970’s because it is a stereotypical male dominated career choice, it is desperate for a transformation. This became evident to me when the recession hit in 2008. The automotive industry took a nose dive, as well as the employment rate. My neighbors and local community were parking their cars and taking public transportation. I was on the verge of losing my legacy. So, I did what any good New Yorker would do. I hit the streets, asking the community why they patronize my shop. They said it was me! I was shocked. Because I lived in this protected world, I didn’t know there was anything “different” about me. I always knew I was the token female in my auto classes but, it was deeper than that and I needed to take off my blinders. Opening my eyes, and ears, I heard clearly there is a huge disconnect between auto shops and women. Well, being a woman, and a mom (not to mention ASE certified, a motor vehicle inspector and an automotive ATTP graduate) my approach to cars was different than the typical sterotyped auto mechanic. Fact is, women are different from men and I had the natural born tools to make a difference. I used these natural born tools to ultimatly save my business. In 2009 I changed our business philosophy to “tell not sell” and launched Women AUTO Know. We educate and empower women of all ages “to be safe, confident and knowledgeable drivers, passengers, and consumers.” By showing basics, seriously, just life skills, and basic auto maintenance, women understood and were more confident when bringing their cars in for service, as well as being able to do minor repair themselves like light bulbs and fuses.

How do you define success?
When I demystify the car and see the “light bulb” go on in driver’s eyes, it fuels me and lights a fire that drives my passion to keep moving forward.

Biggest Success
I have received many awards and recognitions. New York’s Small Business of the Year Award, as well as the very first “Female Service Shop Owner of the Year” award. My ultimate biggest success is the daily and ongoing support from the community and the women that I give strength to. That is priceless.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My biggest challenge is breaking through the sterotype throughout the nation. It is still male dominated. But, that’s ok, baby steps and we will get there.

Who is your most important role model?
My most important role model was Rosa Parks. I used to say I will not sit down until I get this movement rolling. I have hit a lot of obstacles! Today, my role model is Harriet Tubman. Since the walls I am trying to break through are very thick, I have launched a “rank and review” community based website where women can go on (free) to share their honest opinions of their auto experiences. Thus, empowering other women to make smart choices on who to partonize for their auto repair needs.