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. “It is an honor and a tremendous privilege to be the only female Veteran Midas franchisee in the country,” she says.
Brown also 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,” she adds.
Born and raised in Vicksburg, MS, 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 ago.
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. “I really need to do this on my own,” she told her father.
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 and eventually earned her nursing degree from EIU in 2007.
Brown explains that while an internship and subsequent job at the Hines VA Medical Center was rewarding, she also wanted to create additional income by becoming an entrepreneur.
Brown was introduced to Midas’ franchise opportunities through Stacy Everett, a friend with whom she had been speaking about a business partnership. 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 says.
Brown’s “strong suit” in management came from her experience in managing nurses and medical personnel during her days in the medical field. She says that this has helped her run a successful business since opening in August 2012.
When asked about her experience with Midas, Brown says: “It’s been fantastic. 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.”
But she isn’t afraid of hard work.
“One of my goals is to have at least two more Midas shops along with other businesses as well,” she says, adding that she hopes to own other automotive-related businesses such as car washes or body shops. Brown is currently in the process of trying to buy the empty lot adjacent to her current business.
Aware that she is in a “predominantly male field,” Brown 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,” she says. “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.’”
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