I grew up in Marshall, Virginia, a small town about an hour west of Washington, DC, with a father who owned a Ford Dealership. After graduating from Longwood University in 1986, I went to work for my father managing the used car department and eventually running the finance department. It was a great introduction to business: working with customers, striving for efficiencies, managing people and having direct exposure to the entrepreneurial spirit.
My father sold the dealership in 1990, choosing to retire from the auto business. In 1991, along with four other friends from the car business, we started Automatch, Inc, a used car buying service based out of Silver Spring, Maryland. We build a database to input and manage used cars from dealers around the metro-Washington, DC area, and fielded phone calls from prospective buyers, helping them find specific requirements such as mileage, transmission type, color and much more. As this was before the Internet was widely available, this approach was unique and widely praised by dealers and buyers alike.
In 1993 we sold Automatch to another firm that delivered advertising services to the auto dealership industry, Autopark in the Mail, where I went to work once the acquisition was complete. Autopark in the Mail was a buying-club style service, offering pre-set pricing to consumers, pre-arranged with dealers in the area. Beginning in the Washington, DC market, Autopark in the Mail eventually expanded up and down the east coast to markets such as Richmond, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; Atlanta, Georgia; Orlando, Florida; West Palm Beach, Florida; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Miami, Florida and several other cities. I had the great fortune to open several of these markets, and to work with car dealers from around the country, many who knew my father from the business.