Jonita White: Driven by faith, committed to community

The Dallas Examiner

Christian Brothers Automotive franchise owner Jonita White believes that generating income is how any businessperson gets by, faith is what should drive our larger purpose, and creating a bond with members of the community is the true foundation of business – especially when her perspective is coming from within a field that is traditionally male-dominated.

“I tell my guys that all that time – you know, people are bringing their cars in here to get fixed, that’s not the baseline. It’s about building a relationship with that person,” she said. “Their brakes may go out, they may need brake work. That’s not the real issue. They’re looking at, ‘I’ve got to get my baby to the hospital for medical appointments. This car needs to be ready.’”

White talked about how, as a woman, she has to find her own niche for a service most often associated with men. She feels that her franchise, located in Frisco, fits perfectly well in serving the needs of her community.

“A lot of my customers are female, and men seem to intimidate women, and being a female owner I can empathize with the women, and I can give them insight as to what’s going on with their vehicle,” she said.

Her shop employs an innovation called the “Virtual Vehicle” that she described as a show-and-tell device to assist people in better understanding the issues with their cars.

“Women aren’t always underneath the car. There are some women do work on cars, but we are not traditionally underneath, but we can visualize and see with Virtual Vehicle what brakes actually do, what the transmission is actually doing, so we can visualize it and see it on the screen,” she explained.

Her dedication to her clientele is linked in part to the designs she had on alternative business opportunities after years of experience in other fields.

“In my prior life, I was facility service director at Kaiser Hospital,” said the former San Diego resident. She worked at Kaiser for 16 years, where she managed five departments with 400 employees. A 2006 move to Texas with her husband and two children to be closer to family provided White the opportunity to work for Bank of America; during that time, she also became a licensed Realtor.

As her curiosity in franchises grew while the housing and banking industries became more unstable, the opportunity to own and operate a Christian Brothers Automotive shop appealed to her; as a woman of faith, White noted that she could appreciate the deeper motivation that formed the foundation of the company.

“One of the things that I love, is because it is Christian Brothers and we are faith-based, I am able to share the Gospel with my customers that come in here, and I am going to treat each customer honestly and with dignity and respect – and all of my staff will do the same thing,” she offered. “Do the right thing every time, and God will bless the right thing that you get done.”

Her spiritual dedication and positive outlook is not to say there were not problems that had to be faced, White acknowledged. There was no internet for the business in the beginning. It took some time before she was able to get phone service for her new place. Even then, there were some start-up issues.

“When business began to build around me, it was just phenomenal. We had our growing spurt and we had challenges with growing because my phone lines would constantly get cut while they were digging and putting in new lines. But we survived,” she said. “It was very productive, too.”

The business has been so successful that the owner marked her sixth-year anniversary March 28 with an open house celebration.

In fact, White’s success represents the latest trend in start-up businesses. Businesses owned by minority women increased to 1 in 3 in 2015 from 1 in 6 in 1997, according to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by American Express OPEN.

“While non-minority women-owned firms grew 40 percent over the 18-year time period, Black women-owned firms grew 322 percent and Latina-owned firms grew 224 percent,” Carolyn M. Brown reported in the March 6, 2016 online edition of Black Enterprise.

“Women now own 30 percent of all businesses in the U.S., accounting for some 9.4 million firms,” Brown penned. “And African American women control 14 percent of these companies, or an estimated 1.3 million businesses, employing 297,500 workers and generating $52.6 billion in revenue.

Without bringing up any statistics or percentages, White affirmed that anyone with an entrepreneurial drive had the potential to accomplish what she has, regardless of setbacks or stumbling blocks.

“If you’re going to be a business owner you have to be in the business; you cannot just say, ‘I own a business.’ You have to work it. You have to work the business, being there. Don’t depend on other people to do things for you,” she cautioned. Still, she underscored from her own experiences in owning a rather atypical business that hard work should not stop those who are determined.

“Know what you are getting into and follow your dream,” she stated. “Because what you put into it, that’s what you’re going to get out of it – and if you’re in it just for the money that’s the wrong reason to be in it. Any business that you go into, it’s about relationships.”

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