Across North America, More than 50 Women are at the Helm of CARSTAR Repair Facilities, Lending Unique Leadership and Management Skills to a Once Male-Dominated Industry
At CARSTAR, North America’s largest premier network of independently owned and operated collision repair facilities, a unique group of leaders is shaping the success and growth of the organization – the women who are franchise partners, managers and generational successors at the more than 600 CARSTAR locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Today, more than 50 women are in leadership roles at CARSTAR locations, providing CARSTAR a distinct advantage in serving customers, insurance partners and the community. Many other women are working their way up the ranks, from technician and painters to customer service and estimating. The unique structure of CARSTAR, which offers independent owners an opportunity to grow and succeed as part of a dynamic North American network, provides female leaders the resources and support they need to compete in today’s collision repair industry.
“We have an amazing network of franchise partners across North America, and we’re proud to count more women among our franchise leadership than any other collision repair network,” says Hannah Ross, Senior Marketing Director for CARSTAR. “The female leadership within the CARSTAR family and their success is a testament to their hard work, commitment to serving their customers and communities as well as their unique skills and perspective that drives growth and achievement.”
Stéphanie Daviault is happy to be a part of the CARSTAR family and thinks ‘quality’, when she hears the CARSTAR name.
“I am extremely proud to be a part of CARSTAR, wearing branded clothes and bringing my CARSTAR pin wherever I go,” says Stéphanie Daviault, partner at CARSTAR St-Rémi D’amherst in Quebec. “Whenever my mom took her vehicle for a repair or tune-up, I never thought she was treated with respect. When I got into the industry, I made a commitment to be considerate to everyone, explain the repair process to customers and make sure they would feel confident in the service they are being provided. CARSTAR values are the same as ours – plus they provide the support we need while allowing us to independently own and operate our store.”
It’s in Their Blood
More and more women are taking over the CARSTAR locations started by their families, highlighting a distinctive benefit offered by CARSTAR – the ability to retain independent ownership while being part of a national network.
“I started working at CARSTAR Alpine in 2002 for my step-dad, Gary Boesel, as a customer service representative,” offers Kelly Domer, general manager at CARSTAR Jordan Road. “Then in 2007 after CARSTAR Jordan Road opened I moved there and became the general manager. I have now been part of the team for 12 years and while I am not yet an owner, being a female really has never been ‘an issue’. Going to the different corporate events, EDGE Performance Group meetings and leadership classes, I was never made to feel any less than the male franchise partners. Although being a woman in collision repair is rare, I have always felt welcomed and looked at for the knowledge I have and never discounted just because I am a female in the industry.”
Lisa Rush got her collision repair education from her father.
“CARSTAR to me means knowledge,” says Lisa Rush, who grew up in the family owned business, notes that her dad had her under the hood of a car from the time she could walk. “Without the knowledge of our CARSTAR team and other CARSTAR owners, I would need to research and learn about changing technology myself. Pushed down to CARSTAR franchise partners, we receive data we need from both a technology standpoint and an insurance relationship standpoint, helping to keep us current. Thanks to CARSTAR I have the resources and knowledge to be OEM certified and to have the confidence to know I am putting my customers back in vehicles that not only look good but are safe as well.”
Partners in Business and Love
For LaDonna Russom, a growing CARSTAR operation provided the opportunity to join forces with her husband Brad.
“The CARSTAR Rutherford store opened in 2010 and we opened Dyersburg in 2013,” notes Russom. “It has been a great opportunity for my husband and I to work together. Attending CARSTAR’s annual conference and being able to network with other women in the industry allows you to feel you have a support system.
Women’s roles in this industry and the ability to balance work/life is very rewarding but challenging. It is good to know you have those you can lean on for encouragement and support.”
Rosanna Lucarelli traded a career in banking for the body shop.
“It has been a learning experience and it has been nice to work alongside my husband and support him,” says Rosanna Lucarelli, who runs CARSTAR Stoney Creek in Ontario with her husband Domenic. “I was an employee at a bank and decided to come in to this business to do bookkeeping and manage the office, all the while raising a family. By me taking care of the office, it took a load off Domenic’s shoulders so that he could focus on the facility. As we have been here for many years, we have obviously seen a lot of changes. We have grown with the company and have seen a lot of changes, some good and some not so good. It has also had its challenges. I would not be in this line of work had it not been for my husband, but I definitely think more women should get involved in this industry in the trade side of it because there is so much opportunity.”
Doni Collins combined a passion for cars with her husband Ed’s new CARSTAR location for the perfect marriage.
“I grew up around cars, racing and my father had his own custom body shop until he retired,” says Doni Collins, a partner at CARSTAR Fairborn and CARSTAR C&H Auto Body in Ohio. “Ed and I had been dating for eight years when he decided to join CARSTAR. After asking me if I would help him because he was running the entire operation by himself, I agreed. I arranged to help him for one year; as I’ve owned my own business since 1991. We were married in 2010 and 12 years later…. here I am! Being a part of CARSTAR has allowed my husband and I to step away from the daily operations and focus on specific goals and operational margins. It has afforded us the opportunity to triple our sales and make many friends whom have made lasting impressions on me as an individual, our team and our business.”
A Unique Approach to Team Management and Customer Service
Many of the women in the CARSTAR network agree that they bring a different perspective to their businesses.
“Having a female presence in the store to think through a women’s experience as a customer, from a clean and stocked washroom to a family friendly reception areas, can make a big difference,” says Bernice Di Vito. “These considerations extend even further to attract female employees to work in collision repair, both in the office and the production floor. Employees are your first customer so it is important to consider both female and male perspectives in every aspect of our business, if you want to be successful.”
“In a very male dominated industry it has been interesting to offer a female perspective in particular when it comes employees,” notes Cathy Shirtliff, who joined CARSTAR Peterborough and CARSTAR Markham in Ontario to provide HR and marketing support for her husband’s growing business. “Training, feedback and retention need to be a primary focus of long-term success. It is getting more and more difficult to find the right people so when we get them, we need to focus on their development and engagement. I think women offer the soft skills that can be more challenging for men. I’d also love to see more women in the technical role especially painters and preppers as they tend to be very detail oriented and would thrive in this industry.”
A Sisterhood for Success
The women of CARSTAR have created their own network group to share insight and guidance, and even have breakout sessions during the annual CARSTAR conferences.
“Being in this industry has been great as it has definitely pulled me outside of my comfort zone at moments visiting insurance partners, doing events to raise money for cystic fibrosis and other wonderful charities,” says Ashley Van den Hoven, of CARSTAR Elmira in Ontario. “I think having more women involved in the industry helps to end a stigma that can go along with an industry such as this. Raising three daughters and one son, we want them to know they can work in any industry as well as be an entrepreneur and succeed no matter what the odds are. Hard work, integrity and respect go a long way!”
“I started as a customer service representative for a dealership in Saskatoon and came to CARSTAR in 2004,” says Esther Cantafio, owner with CARSTAR St. Albert, CARSTAR Edmonton East and CARSTAR Edmonton North in Alberta, Canada. “I feel respected by my peers, my opinion has merit and is often requested. My daughter Melissa is also now an important part of our business. Her perspective is sharp and, of course, much different from mine as my approach to staff, customers, vendors and insurance partners has grown with her expertise in retail. I look up to many women at CARSTAR, like Bernice Di Vito from CARSTAR Barrie, who is the first to come to mind, but closer to home is my friend Lisa Murphy from CARSTAR Edmonton South East. I’m so proud to have these women in my corner as we all grow and share knowledge amongst one another.”
A Lifetime of Learning
Kathy Giles sees CARSTAR as a powerful resource in continuing the success of the four generations leading their business.
“I am in the collision repair industry because I am the happy wife of the owner,” said Kathy Giles, a partner with her husband at CARSTAR Fergus (Giles) in Ontario. “D.G. Giles Auto Body Company Limited has been a family business since 1955. My husband’s grandfather started the business, then his father took over, now my husband, and soon, our son will. Being a female partner with CARSTAR has been busy, educational and a lot of fun. CARSTAR opened many doors for our facility with computer programs, functions with our CARSTAR family, fundraising (cystic fibrosis) and more. CARSTAR has affected our business in many ways – being a preferred facility with insurance companies and becoming well known not only within our little city but with surrounding cities and nationwide. We are thankful our CARSTAR family will help guide us with the auto body future.”
Candy Trapp seconds the value of CARSTAR’s resources to carry their business into the future of collision repair.
“We purchased an existing CARSTAR franchise location,” says Candy Trapp, who with her husband owns CARSTAR Utzig in Janesville, WI. “Being involved with CARSTAR has helped us, and we enjoy having access to groups from different locations who meet and go over how they run their businesses. It is very helpful to get other ideas and have other CARSTAR owners look over what we are doing and give opinions on what we could do the make us better. It also has helped greatly to have them work with us on DRP programs. One facility can only do so much so having a big brother help and look over us is amazing. I think that joining CARSTAR would be a great advantage for a collision repair business to help them grow and become known by the community with the help of advertising and the insurance companies with all the DRP programs.”