Judy Curry, BS Business Administration ’90 and Prominent Patriot, didn’t initially plan on taking the entrepreneurship route. She worked in corporate telecommunications after graduation, but found the work stifling and limiting of her creativity. Judy and her husband Matt decided to go into business for themselves, successfully operating Curry’s Auto Service in Virginia and expanding it to 10 locations.
They sold those businesses to enter the hybrid business for about three years, sold the franchise, and semi-retired. After finding that their competitors couldn’t replicate their customer service based model, the Curry’s decided to open up shop with Craftsman Auto Care in Alexandria. They also have locations in Fairfax, Chantilly, and a shop in the works in Merrifield.
“From each business phase, we’ve learned something and we’ve grown, and we’ve gone on to do something different. I think with each progression, it puts us in a better space to employ, be involved in the community, and make a difference in our industry,” says Curry.
Curry serves as chief creation officer and co-owner with Matt. She oversees the brand, marketing, press, and location showrooms. Curry has created four successful brands, and credits creativity with being a core business value. Curry also believes their client centered approached has made each of their businesses successful.
"We’re selling an experience that is composed of great customer service and treating people how they want to be treated when they walk in the door,” Curry says. “We’re certified female-friendly, but this is not necessarily a female thing. It’s every customer who comes in. Taking the time to listen and communicating appropriately with every customer, makes all the difference in the world.”
Technicians at Craftsman Auto Care have a tablet, which allows them to take photos and show each customer a full report on their vehicle. Curry refers to the digital inspection process as a “show and tell service” that adds honesty and transparency to the process. Technicians go over each report with customers in the showroom or via email or text, helping them make decisions on their vehicle needs.
“It’s a great tool for our customers to be able to budget auto repair. Customers always come first. We’re going to be there for you,” says Curry.
Curry recognizes that she’s in the minority as a woman working in auto services, but brings a different vantage point to create a caring and family-friendly environment. “It’s so unique. It’s such a male-dominated industry that people just don’t expect the softer side. It’s fun for me to make a showroom that’s comfortable, and all the little touches that aren’t expected,” says Curry.
She also thinks the husband/wife dynamic as co-owners creates an infectious energy for Craftsman Auto Care employees, many of whom were previously employed at Curry’s Auto Service. As a husband/wife team, the Currys also keep each other accountable.
“It shows dedication, commitment, teamwork. It’s hard, but it’s a challenge that we embrace wholeheartedly, and I think it’s beneficial to all our employees too,” she says. “I think we have a certain chemistry, and hopefully everybody picks up on it. I think it creates an energy and family environment too.”
The Currys also enjoy giving back to the community, including the School of Business. Curry is excited to see the school offering students entrepreneurship courses and support for their start-ups.
“The focus on entrepreneurship in the school is what’s pulled me back in. The school is giving students who want to go into business for themselves the skills that I needed back then to be able to do what I’m doing now,” says Curry.
For students still working through what kind of business they’d like to create, Curry encourages them to take the time to learn and explore while working for another company, which is helpful when they’re ready to launch out on their own.
“Be creative. I don’t think you can be a good entrepreneur without having a creative mind,” says Curry. “Be dedicated, and don’t give up. I’m sure everybody says that, but it takes so many times and there’s so many setbacks. You have to continually move forward with confidence and be resilient.”
Photos courtesy of Craftsman Auto Care.