March 8 2021
Julie Kirouac has been co-owner of Garage Pelland with her husband Mathieu Michaud since 2013. However, Ms. Kirouac waited for the right time to make the jump to full-time ownership of her business, which she did in 2017.
"I was working in a company in Boucherville while owning Garage Pelland and working part-time to learn the trade," said Julie Kirouac. "I wasn't ready to leave my job yet because I was making a good salary and I had good benefits. Being an entrepreneur isn't always easy because you can't count on others if you're sick and can't come to work, for example. However, my life is better now that I have my business."
For Kirouac, being an owner means success: "When you arrive in the morning, it's nice to walk in the door and feel like you're at home."
Julie Kirouac certainly took her place as co-owner of the garage, but it wasn't an easy journey. "I don't feel the gender difference at all anymore," she says. "But a few years ago, when I started, I saw it. It took me a year to adjust, to build up my self-confidence. I questioned whether I really wanted to do this, but it's all good now. Men have automatic credibility, which we women don't have. I still make mistakes sometimes, but I try to understand, and I'm interested in the work of the mechanics, and when there is a training available, I attend."
"If I could talk to myself when I first got into the business, I would say to trust my competence and not underestimate me. Not to think that it's just a dream, that everything is achievable and attainable." Although Kirouac is very happy, having her business comes with a lot of sacrifices, "since I'm full-time, I have less time with my younger son. However, I know these sacrifices will pay off; otherwise, I wouldn't be doing it!"
To help her make the leap into the automotive industry and become self-employed, Ms. Kirouac made a life plan "I wondered where I saw myself in 5 years and 10 years. Twenty years ago, I never thought I would have a garage. I wanted a coffee shop and to sell croissants! But I'm happy with where I am. However, when you walk into the garage waiting room, you can see my feminine side as I put a personal touch on it and a coffee machine!"
"I am a very caring, meticulous and methodical person. For me, it is crucial that everyone is always happy, customers and employees alike. I love welcoming customers; they trust us because I take them seriously; whatever the problem, I listen and try to help them. This is my motivation!"
It is these qualities that made her response to the COVID-19 pandemic outstanding, "I was cautious! I disinfected customers' cars before and after, and I invited them to leave their vehicles with us and go home so that we don't have people in the garage. The waiting room is so clean and sanitary that we could eat on the floor! Now all clients make appointments by phone instead of showing up at the garage. At the peak of the pandemic, I gave priority to essential workers, which was not always convenient for some clients who only needed a little human contact, but then I made sure to talk with them on the phone and reassure them. "
Ms. Kirouac concluded the interview by listing the qualities a woman should have to work in the automotive industry, "you have to be diligent in your work, strong because it is a man's world, and have a good character. We're not in a spa, we get our hands dirty, so we can't be too sensitive."