To break stereotypes, Toronto woman wants to open all-female auto body shop
29-year-old wants Ink&Iron to guide young women with interest in auto body repair
Hilary Noack admits it can be rare to see even one woman working at an auto body repair shop. But she says there are enough women interested in auto repair that she is getting ready to open a garage operated by an all-women team.
"Throughout my years working, meeting more and more women in the trade ... I thought it would be a really interesting and cool idea to have a shop that was [run by] all females," she told CBC News.
"I haven't really come across any other shops that do auto body that have been strictly all females," she said.
The 29-year-old graduate of Centennial College's auto body repair apprenticeship program created an Indiegogo campaign in late January to crowdfund Ink&Iron to fruition. To date, about $3,300 of the $20,000 target has been raised. It closes March 10.
The funding would help cover first and last month's rent of a space and materials such as primer, paint and sheet metal as well as advertising. But she and her small team already own a number of the tools and equipment.
Noack said she chose the crowdfunding route to gauge reaction.
"It's a really neat way to see how your idea will be received by the public," she said. "I've connected with so many different people in the industry so it kind of helps build your business before you've even started."
Response to the venture is largely positive, she said.
"Part of the reaction I've had is, you know, 'I would bring my car there.'"
Noack is not fazed by some criticism of the all-women garage. "I'm not opposed to having guys in there. I think it's more of the focus on being female-owned and operated."
The concept of an auto body shop owned and run by women is not entirely new. Jessica Gilbank opened Ms. Lube in Little Italy but the venture has since closed. She appeared on CBC's Dragons' Den and became tangled in legal issues with Mr. Lube.
Noack's vision for the shop she hopes to operate in the city's west-end is a focus on restoration and custom work.
"That's always been a passion of mine," she said. In fact, her foray into the industry started with a 1970 Oldsmobile she bought at the age of 17.
"I wanted to learn how to fix it so I went down to the local body shop and I asked them if I could do a co-op," Noack said. "I started out as a co-op and right after that I kind of transitioned into my apprenticeship and I've been doing it ever since."
But even more so, Noack said she wants to encourage and provide training to young women who have an interest in the auto body industry but are skeptical they can break in.
"I have girls come up to me and tell me, 'I wish I could do what you do.' I always tell them, there's no reason why you can't," she said.
"I love to share what I've learned and I love to see people, their skills grow so I hope to be able to train a lot of technicians in the future."
Noack said she hopes to "break the stereotypes that it is a male-dominated industry because women can do it just as well as men."