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Girl Power Turning Male-Dominated World On Its Head


When it comes to Girl Power, forget Geri Halliwell, Mel B and the rest of the Spice Girls and think of a trio of intrepid entrepreneurs who are turning a male-dominated industry on its head.

Debra Robinson, Emma-Jane Kisby and Claire Mason all decided to embark on a journey into the world of automotive fast-fit care - despite having no experience in the sector whatsoever.

With many women feeling uncomfortable visiting a garage for repairs, the decision to stop off for a full-time career change is almost unprecedented but underlines the ethos behind the HiQ fast fit network and the work the brand is doing to create a memorable retail experience for female motorists.

Despite no experience in the automotive sector, Debra Robinson, aged 48, became managing director of HiQ Ilkeston, following 27 years in the banking industry. 

Emma-Jane Kisby, 33, marketing manager for HiQ Franchisee, Easy Tyres and Autocentres, went one step further by giving up her role as regional manager for a beauty company who distributed designer fragrances, skincare and cosmetics.

And Claire Mason, 25, centre manager at HiQ Lanark, joined HiQ as a school leaver, working full time for the company since 2001. 

Debra said she joined the HiQ Franchise as she was attracted to the brands mission to change perceptions of the fast fit industry, where motorists and particularly women motorists can find the experience untrustworthy, dishonest and unwelcoming.

She said: "I joined HiQ because I wanted a fresh challenge. I had been in the banking scene for a long time and the opportunity presented itself to become a franchisee.

"I never thought I would own a business, especially not in the automotive sector, but I knew then that I had good business sense with lots of financial experience."

Emma-Jane, who has been Easy's marketing manager for the past three years says she was drawn to HiQ because she believed in the brand's culture.

She said: "I had visited other garages in the past and always had bad experiences. I would avoid going to a garage and often would send someone in my place. 

"The time had come for me to start a new business direction and I really wanted to make a difference in the automotive industry so women would have a better experience than I did."

Claire Mason knew that she couldn't work behind a desk everyday and liked the challenge HiQ presented.

"I always knew that I wanted to join the HiQ franchise and work my way up. I enjoy meeting new faces and the variety of each day at HiQ. 

"Great customer service is what we are about at HiQ Lanark and my role is to lead and drive this," continued Claire.

A recent Onepoll survey of 2,000 motorists back up the women's claims that the fast fit industry needs to be more open and honest - with a feminine touch and some fresh ideas.

The HiQ commissioned research revealed that a staggering 70 per cent of women believed they received a dishonest and untrustworthy service when they visited a garage.

It also disclosed that 24.3 per cent of women charged the men in their lives with taking their car in for new tyres because they found the experience so unpleasant.

Geraldine McGovern, HiQ marketing manager backed by an all female marketing team said: "We are a family motoring brand, active in our communities and proud partners with Breast Cancer Care under our Project Pink programme."

"We knew women sometimes distrusted garages but our research results were far worse than we thought. By having Debra, Emma-Jane and Claire on board with us, we are in the strongest position to alter perceptions and make HiQ the fast fit network that everyone can be sure of.

"Debra, Emma-Jane and Claire are just three of our key female franchisees and are part of a growing group attracted to the HiQ franchise. They have established themselves well, raised their profiles and have had a positive impact on business growth and customer satisfaction.

"We have seen a steady increase of women joining HiQ, taking on a variety of roles within our centres from ownership to centre management. We want to keep this going and make a difference."

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