Their original goal wasn’t to revolutionize how auto repair places are run. Robin Mainer and Kimera Shepler had found themselves at the end of a long road selling individual health insurance. Things had changed with the Affordable Care Act, and new guidelines made insurance sales less lucrative. The friends needed to find second careers.
“I was like, ‘God, I need you to tell me what to do.’ I’m kind of hardheaded, and sometimes I read into things, so I needed it to be like a flaming arrow,” Mainer says. “‘Have it come in threes. I need it to be stupidly obvious, and I’ll do whatever you want.’”
First, their financial adviser told Shepler that running an auto repair place that caters to women was the business for them. His name is Christian, which otherwise would be immaterial, but not to these Jesus-loving women, who took it as a sign from above.
Then, not 24 hours later, Mainer was mistreated at a mechanic’s shop.
“A man came in to set up an appointment, and the guy at the desk asked him what kind of oil he wanted, if he wants a tire rotation, all these questions. When I asked why he didn’t offer the same services to me or the other ladies in the waiting room, he literally said he didn’t want to have to explain it,” Mainer remembers. "You could see him trying to take it back as soon as the words had left his mouth."
And within the same week, Mainer’s brother told the pair he’d found the franchise for them — a female-friendly auto repair business. He knows his way around the car world after owning dealerships, so Mainer figured his advice was legitimate.
Those signs completed the trifecta Mainer was waiting for. The women became franchisees in Honest 1 Auto Care, and the byproduct has become one of North Texas’ most female-friendly auto repair shops. Plus, their location in Castle Hills is one of the most successful shops in the whole franchise.
By their 14th week in business, they were ranked No. 1 in sales. At the end of their first year, they were fifth in the company. It’s saying a lot, considering they opened Jan. 30, 2017, only operating for 11 months of 2017, as opposed to other franchises’ full year’s worth of sales.
The duo attributes the shop’s success to superior customer service and keeping an open dialogue with the clientele.
“Women are tired of being treated like dirt," Mainer says. "We’re tired of being talked down to. How hard is it to ask me if I need a blended oil or a synthetic oil? Or when was the last time my tires were rotated if I’d like for you to do it?”
They thought about what would appeal to women and set out to fulfill it. The shop was built for comfort, with plush leather arm chairs surrounding a central fireplace and flat-screen TV. There’s complimentary bottled water, soft drinks, cookies and organic juice boxes for the youngsters. It's dog-friendly, and since women are often moms, the pair put in a little play area for kids.
“We had a little girl throw a fit the other day because she was having to leave,” Mainer says with a laugh.
The ceilings are tall and the waiting room well lighted. Oh, and it doesn’t smell like motor oil. The duo even got a fleet of smart cars to dole out as complimentary loaners for long repair jobs, and they shuttle clients home themselves. They spent $3 million making their dream come true, and it afforded a long list of selling points for potential customers.
“Not saying we haven’t had bumps along the way,” Mainer says. “One of the biggest ones was finding financing. We talked to a lot of banks and got crickets. I almost instantaneously combusted when one banker said to our face, ‘Boys grow up working in the garage with their dads, and little girls don’t.’ I asked him point blank if this means he’s not going to give us the loan, and he said yes.”
Maybe more important than its modern conveniences, Honest 1 treats its clients well.
“We want this to be a place where both men and women feel comfortable,” Mainer says.
Service advisers are instructed to take clients into the garage to show them what’s wrong.
“We’re not talking down to them; we give them the respect they deserve,” Kimera adds. “We’ve asked service advisers not to come back because they didn’t handle our customers the way we want them handled.”
There's also a virtual vehicle in the waiting room to be used as a teaching tool to walk customers through the repairs.
“When someone says you have 20 percent of your brakes left, have you ever actually seen what that looks like?” Mainer asks.
They’ve gotten great feedback.
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“The biggest compliment I received last week is a gentleman saying, ‘I feel like my wife can bring in her car herself, and I don’t have to take her car in every time,’” Mainer says. “We’re very thankful to our clientele base, and we hope they feel it.”
The women rave about Lewisville and the surrounding communities, but it took a while to find their spot. They needed to find a city where zoning would allow them to build an auto repair shop.
The duo has been putting in 12-hour days since launching last year, but success has prompted the women to expand with the franchise. They’re looking for two more locations to open in the coming years. Next on the horizon might be Prosper and Wylie.
“Some days it’s intimidating, and some days it’s like, ‘We have to expand,’” Mainer says. “No. 1, we love what we’re doing, and we love our customers. They’re just great.”