Many obstacles stand in the way of the automotive industry’s efforts to boost sales. But, it’s possible that one of its biggest problems isn’t just what it sells, but also how it does so. Particularly, how it handles a customer base that still feels disregarded and even patronized, Women. Chaya Milchtein, an educator and the founder of Mechanic Shop Femme, joins us on The Small Business Show today to discuss her journey and how she is educating and empowering others.
At 18 and aging out of the foster care system, Milchtein took her experience and wanted to do more. After running into the idea of creating a blog from a coach, her blog transformed into a guidance book for both consumers and dealer staff. “There is a need for information,” Milchtein says, and as a result, “both my blog and book have developed into an automobile education company.” According to Milchtein, her most rewarding experience has been being an advocate for consumers, small business owners, and dealers.
“I’m here to help everyday people just driving down the road who want to know how they should buy their next car, save money, find technicians, avoid being scammed, insure their car, and understand what’s the best car for their needs and budget.”
Taking Control of the Wheel
By being a part of a male-dominated industry, Milchtein has felt the impacts in every area. For example, Milchtein says, “if I can experience sexism, homophobia, and other forms of isms, you can bet the consumers can too.” To illustrate, if general managers, technicians, or even upper management aren’t taking care of their staff, then they won’t take care of their customers. Meanwhile, Milchtein’s book, Taking Control of the Wheel, was inspired by the dehumanizing effects she experienced from the dealers. It is a comprehensive guide to car ownership and maintenance.
"I know what I do has an impact. It’s new but necessary”*
Mechanic Shop Femme
Ultimately, Milchtein’s goal with Mechanic Shop Femme is to create a larger platform for reaching out to more manufacturers and mechanic shops that aim to bring more women into the automotive field. But a lack of consumer information, poor technician communication, and years of terrible dealership experiences have come together to formulate a negative backlash. According to Milchtein, there is a gap in the market because “women and queer people have never been welcomed into a shop and those individuals need to be taught on more than just how automobiles work.”
Milchtein’s teaching materials are fully gender-neutral; the only exception is when something directly applies to women. Using a gender-neutral curriculum has the additional benefit of including those who may not have previously had access to automotive education. Driver’s education and vehicle ownership are expensive decisions that are frequently out of the price range of families living at the bottom of the social scale. These groups might therefore be lacking in generational automotive knowledge.