In 2019, Sonia Robinson opened SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service in Fort Mill, S.C., after more than six years working as a regional service manager for Mobility Works, a leading dealer of wheelchair-accessible vans.
Robinson wanted to apply her industry experience to business ownership with an established brand. After researching different opportunities and meeting with some of the other franchisees, she knew SpeeDee was the right choice for her because it allows her to offer a full range of oil change and mechanical services that she wouldn’t be able to elsewhere. With Robinson’s background in customer service, owning her own shop lets her focus on building relationships and working with people, which is she loves most about the business.
She has seen excellent growth in her SpeeDee store since opening, reporting 17% growth year over year. But women have not always been so successful in business. In 1972, approximately 4.6% of businesses in the United States were owned by women. As of 2019, women own 42% of companies and that number continues
to grow. And while female-owned companies grew 21% over a five-year period, companies owned by African American women grew double that rate, according to the “2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report” commissioned by American Express.
Having been in a male-dominated industry for over 10 years, Robinson shares four tips to being successful as a Black woman in this sector:
Trust yourself and grow your confidence
Don’t be afraid to take risks—trust your gut and the strength of your skill-set; it got you this far. Women who want to succeed in life must take risks and get out of their comfort zones. When other people fear failure, embrace it because of the knowledge that this is a crucial part of success. With this, you’ll build confidence which will become essential to your long-term success.
Learn as much as you can as fast as you can, and then keep learning
You might not be automatically respected in male-dominated industries, but if you show that you know what you’re talking about, you can earn respect. Do this as quickly as possible by asking questions every chance you get and paying close attention to the answers. Remember, learning is fluid—once people stop learning, they stop growing.
Build a support team
As an entrepreneur, having a strong team adds major credibility to your business. It demonstrates growth and organization and provides a certain level of comfort to your customers. Find those all-star team members, then grow, nurture, and empower them. They will help you gain credibility and build your business.
Nothing generates positive morale among team members more powerfully than a good attitude. Celebrate wins—big and small—with your team, embrace and act on their feedback, and share your vision for the future. With a positive attitude and a positive team, you’ll be well on your way to achieving business milestones.