March is National Women's History Month and local entrepreneur Amanda Gilbert gives a face to the changes in women’s roles. Gilbert is not only her own boss, but she works in the male-dominated automotive mechanic repair industry. She is a franchise owner of Christian Brothers Automotive, an auto repair shop, in Fischer Crossing in Sharpsburg.
She said she always had an entrepreneurial spirit, previously owning a towing company and an X-ray company. She decided to venture into the automotive industry in August of last year, mainly because the values of Christian Brothers are the values she wanted to be the foundation of her business.
“I’ve been involved in different industries, but I found out through the process, not everyone is as upfront, honest and ethical as I am,” Gilbert said.
She said after having a successful business and one that was not so successful, as well as after much prayer, she decided Christian Brothers was the right move.
“I wanted to let my customers know that someone in the automotive industry can be honest and ethical,” Gilbert explained. “I like to think of myself as a light in the community.”
She is often asked how a “girly-girl,” as herself got into such a dirty business.
“I don’t mind getting my hands dirty,” she said. “I have no limit. I do whatever it takes to get it done.”
While she doesn’t work on cars, Gilbert said she can often be found talking to customers and explaining issues, or even cleaning up the men’s bathroom or oil off the floor of the repair shop.
As far as questions about her presence in the male-dominated industry, Gilbert said she believes it’s part of human nature. She said even some of the female customers are surprised.
“I don’t take offense to it,” Gilbert said. “Sometimes I’ll talk to a customer about suggested repairs or what’s going on with their vehicle, and they’re usually shocked when they see I’m the owner. Sometimes, they will even peep around the corner to speak to one of the mechanics.”
Gilbert said as the area in Sharpsburg grows, she intends to grow. She encourages women, and any other entrepreneur, to never give up, no matter the obstacles.
Nola Klaubert, who also owns a Christian Brothers franchise in the Atlanta area, said she doesn’t fight it when a customer prefers to speak to a male, because she wants the customer to feel as comfortable as possible.
“No one has been hostile, rude or disrespectful,” she said. And if anyone were, Klaubert said her employees are “very protective of her.”
Christian Brothers has 160 franchise stores, with 24 of the franchises being female-owned, according to Klaubert.
“We are proud to have the quality of franchise owner/operators that we do in the Christian Brothers family, but especially proud of women like Nola Klaubert and Amanda Gilbert because they know how to build a team of people who love their customers well,” said Josh Wall, Christian Brothers vice president of franchise and strategic development. “More than half of our customers at Christian Brothers nationwide are women, and so it’s no surprise that as a percentage, women-owned franchise businesses within our family disproportionately outperform our average store location.”
Women’s History Month is celebrated in March, but can be traced back to March 8, 1857, when women from New York City factories staged a protest over working conditions, according to diversityinc.com, a publication a that focuses on diversity in business.
International Women’s Day was first observed in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1981 that Congress established National Women’s History Week to be commemorated the second week of March. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month.
This article originally appeared on times-herald.com