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In the driving seat

BREAKING THE MOULD: Melissa Fox

COVENTRY-BASED Melissa Fox is showing that it is good to break away from tradition.

In the car servicing industry, where it is rare to see female business owners, Fox owns and runs iAutoUK, a vehicle servicing and repair specialist company that stands out and makes Britain’s male-dominated industry more female friendly.

Fox started iAutoUK which is a part of a female-only garage network three years after remortgaging her home. The company has reached a £1m turnover and is pulling in annual profits of more than £100,000.

“It was a very big decision to re-mortgage the house. We had small child at the time…It was a chance we took but I was confident in the business model that we had and what we could potentially achieve. But with hard work, we are achieving our goals and we are happy.”

Fox has concentrated on making the Coventry garage an example of good customer service, particularly towards female car owners, by saving them money while ensuring they don’t get ripped off.

In the three years since starting the business that she runs with husband Andy Fox, the garage has won several awards, including Motor Codes Garage of the Year 2012 and being named in the Top 10 UK garages.

Now, they are planning to launch a franchise across the UK, with the first franchise sign off expected by the end of February.

“We have some really big plans for the business. There’s lots of interest and we’ve won some great awards…People like quality and that’s what they get,” shared the proud entrepreneur.

The 39-year-old said she and her husband had not expected this level of success when they remortgaged their home to start the Longford Road business.

Despite the success, the journey has not been easy. Fox grew up in St. Albans, Hertfordshire where she faced racism that got so bad her family had to move out. Unable to connect with school, she left aged 16 with no formal qualifications.

Fox did a string of retail and clerical jobs before joining food giant Iceland, where she was made customer services manager.

She later went into recruitment and then joined an investment bank in London, where she was soon promoted to IT manager.
For 11 years, Fox was the only woman in the team of 25 men, which was training ground for handling sexism – a prejudice she still faces at times.

“You have to be a strong woman to work in such an environment,” said Fox, who studied for a degree in business management in her spare time.

“It is quite male dominated so I had quite a good background to take me into the motor industry. It takes quite a lot to faze me.”
She does not let sexism – or the few instances of racism she has encountered affect her. “If anything, it’s made me stronger and the funny thing is that it is actually going to make me work harder to prove that I can do what you can do but I can do it better.”

Fox expressed a desire to see more women in the car serving industry and urges them not to shy away from careers such as motoring, because they are male dominated.

“Don’t be fazed. There is nothing out there that I feel we can’t do equally as well as any man in any industry,” Fox said. “It certainly hasn’t held me back. Be confident in what you know and what you can achieve and go for it. The only thing that holds you back is yourself,” she advised.

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