Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. This week, we’re getting a head start on Women’s History Month early, profiling female franchisees that everyone can learn from. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email ktaylor@entrepreneur.com.

Rissy Sutherland isn’t the typical Franchise Player. Instead of being a franchisee, she held nearly every position in the industry before becoming COO of Honest-1 Auto Care. She also isn’t a typical automotive care industry professional. In an industry often dominated by men, Sutherland and Honest-1 Auto Care are breaking the mold. Across the automotive care industry, 66 percent of customers are female. At Honest-1, 70 to 90 percent of customers are women. Here’s what Sutherland has learned about being a female entrepreneur in the auto care franchising business. 

Responses have been edited for content and clarity. 

Name: Rissy Sutherland

Franchise: Honest-1 Auto Care COO

How long you have you been with the franchise? Six years in March

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Why franchising? 

I grew up in the automotive franchise concept and became the VP of operations for a large automotive franchise before redefining Honest-1 Auto Care six years ago with Jack Keilt. I believe in the proven systems and support that franchising provides to people who are wanting to go into business for themselves doing something that they love. Franchising gives people a reduced risk (from using our proven systems) and guidance to do what they have always wanted to do and love!

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner? 

I have always been in franchising. Growing up, I held every position inside of my family’s automotive franchise business. Then, I took over developing the training programs for owners and managers for that franchisor (after I received my masters in training and development). After that, I moved into the VP of operations role for about 10 years before becoming the COO of Honest-1 Auto Care

Why did you choose this particular franchise? 

 Jack and I wanted to create a concept that was represented a few things:

  1. Jack and I have both been on the franchisee side so we have a unique perspective that most franchisors don’t have. So, we have a justified empathy in that “we have stood in your shoes and we understand”
  2. We wanted to reinvent the automotive aftermarket because the industry was ready for a change. Since the female or family customer was growing every year and moving away from the male dominated customer base, it created a unique opportunity and hole that our customers were looking for in many areas.
  3. The industry didn’t have any eco-friendly options for customers to consider or choose from.

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Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

Growing up in the industry provided me with a huge amount of experience and knowledge. Talking to my customers and asking them what they were looking for provided great feedback. We also hired a market research firm to find out what consumers really wanted from their automotive service professionals.

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

As franchisors, the biggest challenge is generally when you see a franchisee reinventing the wheel or not following the proven systems that know will work for them. Then, when they finally have that moment of clarity and hopefully turn the corner to follow the systems they usually say “why didn’t I do that all along?”

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

  1. Do something you are passionate about. Money will only take you so far but if you enjoy what you do then it won’t be work it will be a joy to run your business everyday
  2. Follow the systems – as a franchisee you paid for proven systems and guidance so take advantage of every aspect of it.

What’s next for you and your business?

This year alone we have will have over 50 units open and have projected to grow our sales by over 36 percent!

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