Woman achieving firsts with Chicago Heights shop
The Midas auto repair shop at 656 W. Lincoln Highway in Chicago Heights looks like any other from the outside, but inside, history is being made.
Andrea Brown is the first female military veteran and the first black female to own one of the 2,500 Midas franchises in the United States and Canada, she said.
“It is an honor and a tremendous privilege to be the only female veteran Midas franchisee in the country,” Brown said.
Brown said she knows her background in the medical field makes her an unlikely candidate to run a machine-oriented business, but she had a different view when applying for the franchise.
“This is my catch phrase: I’ve studied all of the systems for the body. I’m now ready to study the systems for the vehicle,” Brown said.
Born and raised in Vicksburg, Miss., Brown earned a bachelor of science degree in biology/pre-med from Texas Southern University and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Eastern Illinois University. But she faced some challenges while pursuing her degrees over more than a decade.
When her efforts to continue her education were stalled by a lack of finances in 1997, Brown decided to join the Army.
Brown said her father, a Vietnam veteran, was “dead set against it” and offered to pay her way through school, but her independence kicked in.
Brown told him, “I really need to do this on my own,” she said.
As an E-4 specialist in the Army, Brown served as a pharmacy specialist at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in Texas from 1997 to 2001.
After her discharge in 2001, Brown continued her schooling while working. She eventually earned her nursing degree from EIU in 2007.
Brown said an internship and subsequent job at the Hines VA Medical Center was rewarding, but she wanted to create additional income by becoming an entrepreneur.
Brown said a friend with whom she had been speaking about a business partnership, Stacy Everett, had been with the “Midas family” for about 15 years, so when Brown saw Midas listed on a government website as one of the Fortune 500 companies partnering with the government to give franchise opportunities to veterans, “a light bulb went on.”
When Brown eventually became the owner of a Midas franchise, she used Everett’s skills to operate her business.
“He has the (automotive) experience I needed,” Brown said.
Her “strong suit” in management came from her experience in managing other nurses and medical personnel from her days in the medical field, Brown said, and it has helped her run a successful business since opening in August 2012.
“It’s been fantastic,” Brown said. “It’s great to have the freedom of owning your own business. ... but it’s also hard work. You can’t clock in and clock out. Your time is 24 hours because there’s always something to manage, always something to do.”
Brown isn’t afraid of hard work.
“One of my goals is to have at least two more Midases along with other businesses as well,” Brown said.
She hopes to own automotive-related businesses such as car washes or body shops and is “in the process” of trying to buy the empty lot adjacent to her current business, she said.
Brown said she is very aware that she is in a “predominantly male field,” but she believes she has the formula necessary for anyone to become a successful business owner.
“When you’re starting your own business, you have to have tenacity and endurance,” Brown said. “Why? Because you’re going to have several different roadblocks along the way. It’s going to take that tenacity and endurance to keep going once somebody tells you ‘no.’ ”