Auto Service World
News   April 30, 2024   by Adam Malik

From the Magazine: How I became a shop owner

My journey to being a shop owner wasn’t typical, but being a women meant there were still hurdles along the way

Along with 11 other female tradespeople last November, I was asked to speak at an event that aimed to educate trade organizations on how to better support women.

This event was organized by the Office to Advance Women Apprentices, an organization that I have been working with for several years and which has offices across Canada. They register both female apprentices and employers looking for tradespeople, with the intention to support women through apprenticeship to Red Seal Journeyperson status.

At this event, I was impressed to see the number of people who came out, wanting to learn about how to create supportive and inclusive spaces for women in the trades. I was also inspired by the stories that these women told. Some stories were hard to hear but showed resilience and some stories spoke to the progress we have seen over the years.

My story was somewhere in the middle; a woman who was fortunate to have men advocate for her, who advocated for herself, and who now advocates for other women.

My journey into the trades was a little unusual. I hadn’t been interested in auto repair in any way, but I saw it as an opportunity to work with my hands, be regularly challenged and be physically active. The first shop where I applied for a technician position offered me a job as a service advisor instead, as this would be a better position for a woman.

I turned this offer down.

Soon after, the shop owner called to tell me that I could work there for a week and if I liked it, I had the job. Well, I liked it, and I worked hard over the next two years to learn everything they were willing to teach me.

I found out years later that a man at that shop had advocated for me, telling the owner that it shouldn’t matter if I was male or female, just that I had the drive to learn.

I found out years later that a man at that shop had advocated for me, telling the owner that it shouldn’t matter if I was male or female, just that I had the drive to learn.

Once the level of education I was receiving at that shop plateaued, I accepted an interview from another shop owner who had been asking me to join his team. My interview went very well and we decided that a move to his shop would be a great opportunity for both of us.

Then came the conversation about compensation. I was offered $2 an hour less than one of their other male technicians, who I knew and had less education than I did. Luckily by this point, I knew my value. I countered his offer with $2 more than that less educated technician — he accepted that.

What I learned in this situation is that we women need to advocate for ourselves, as there are still shops that underestimate our abilities and assume that, because we are women, we are unable to be as productive and efficient as our male co-workers.

After another two years, I found myself in search of a new employer, so I decided it was time to start a shop of my own. I saw a need to provide the community with transparent, thorough service, inspiring trust in female clientele who have historically felt taken advantage of in our industry (whether warranted or not).

As well, I had hoped to be able to provide an inclusive work environment to anyone who wanted to work as a technician. Over the last 13 years, I’ve sought out the education I require through industry organizations, local business organizations and lots of reading. This taught me how to build a successful business, so I can continue advocating for myself, my staff, women in our trade and women in all trades.

What I’ve come to learn is that if we want this industry to not just survive but thrive, we need to recognize the strength that diversity brings to our shops. We have the opportunity to go out in our communities to speak with girls and young women, educating them on the bright future they could have in the automotive industry as technicians, service advisors and shop owners.

Let’s take that opportunity and make this industry thrive!

Erin Vaughan is the owner of Kinetic Auto Service in Regina. If you are a woman in this industry, please reach out to me at and let me know what your experience has been.

This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of CARS

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