Sports cars, fancy cars, you name it — Jonita White likes them all. Upbeat and warm, she stands out in the male-dominated world of auto repair. Along with her husband, she owns Christian Brothers Automotive Frisco West off Stonebrook Parkway and Farm to Market Road 423. When her shop opened in 2011, White was the second woman to own a Christian Brothers franchise. “My store was 82 — so, out of 82 shops,” she says. The number is even more remarkable considering that even now, at the 250-plus Christian Brothers locations across the United States, there are still only 12 women owners.
With a background in banking and finance, White flipped houses in Southern California before moving to Frisco in 2006 to be closer to her native-Texan parents. But when she was a new arrival, the market crashed. For her, it was back to the drawing board. She looked at different franchises, like Subway and Pizza Hut, but the local auto repair shop seemed more appealing than slinging sandwiches and tossing pizzas.
“We used to take our cars to Christian Brothers in Frisco,” says White. “And we loved the service, the motto and the values.” She found out that the shop was a franchise, called the home office and, voila, was in auto repair. But according to her, it wasn’t that big of a leap from real estate. “You are still dealing with people,” she says. “It’s all about relationships. And me? I’m a relationship person. I love people.”
The relationship part was easy, even for a self-described introvert. The car part required work. Christian Brothers sent her to classes and gave her reading material to get up to speed. “I think it took me, maybe, three years to really feel comfortable,” she says. “Now, they can tell me, ‘Hey Jonita, this air compressor is not working on this air conditioning unit,’ and I can speak that language after being in the industry. And no, I didn't know it at first and that's okay.”
But she never felt stressed or unsupported, citing Christian Brothers’ encouragement. “For me, when people have faith in you, that makes me work that much harder,” she says. “I don't want to disappoint them.” Now fluent in carspeak, she still hasn’t stopped learning. Says White, “Until you are six feet under, you should be learning every single day.”
Behind The Wheel
Taking your car into the shop is a daunting, anxiety-ridden task for most. White calls house-hunting “happy-go-lucky,” but when people are bringing their cars for repairs, they’re anything but. For women, there’s also the prospect of entering a male space.
"I don’t think women are expecting to see a woman running the shop,” she says. “I think they are expecting to see it be male-dominated. But it is an added relief when they do see a female.”
White doesn’t only run the shop, she also shuttles customers — an important aspect of her business because that is where she builds relationships. “I can find out information about what’s going on in the household, how many kids, birthdays, anniversaries,” she says. That intel is kept on file. “So next year, on their anniversary, we send them some flowers. We found out their kid is in the hospital, so we send them some flowers. We found out that grandpa just passed away, send them some flowers.”
Even though White’s shop is a franchise, she has the autonomy to do whatever she has to do to take care of her customers — many are single mothers, who might need that extra helping hand. “I had a customer who came in last week — a single mom who is a grandma now,” says White. “She needed her car fixed and didn’t have the money. And so, we fixed her car — $4,000. She only had $500.” For White, it was about doing the right thing and not merely focusing on the bottom line. The same goes for Christian Brothers.
Once a year, Christian Brothers holds a single moms’ day with free oil changes. “For me, I pick the top three worst cars that come in and fix them for free for them,” says White. “Moms that cannot afford to get their breaks done. It’s like, ‘Oh my God, how are you driving these kids around? I cannot let you leave here.’ Of course, we get our vendors to donate things, and Christian Brothers, as a corporation, chips in money, as well. But we take care of the single moms.”
The Road Ahead
In 2011, Frisco was a different place. FM 425 was two lanes. “We were the only business on this street,” says White. “There was nothing, just cows.” No Walmart, no CVS, no Chick-fil-A. There wasn’t even internet: White got her computer online with an air card. There used to be cows. And now, as White points out, no more bovine neighbors.
The area around White’s auto repair shop is bustling, but now, with two grown children, she is looking to slow down, spend more time traveling and bring on a general manager to ease the workload. But right now, she’s happy to be in Frisco. “I am so blessed to be in this area in Frisco,” she says. “I have fabulous people working for me. I would not change it for the world.”
In case you missed it, here's a retrospective look at Local Profile's Women in Business Summit 2022.