By: Elizabeth Sargeant
Toronto, Ontario -- July 10, 2019 - Hilary Noack's auto body shop, Ink and Iron has been repairing vehicles and smashing stereotypes since it first opened it's doors four years ago. Accompanied by her sister Emily and friend Audrey, the trio has been changing the collision repair game by leading an all-female auto shop with a taste for classic cars. Collision Repair spoke with owner Noack earlier this week as she filled us in on what it's like running a big business while being part of such a small minority in the industry.
Collision Repair: So what got you interested in vehicle repair to begin with?
HN: When I was a teenager, I used to get grounded all the time and my parents would take away my car. So I decided to buy a car for myself, and all I could really afford was a 1970's Oldsmobile. Honestly [the car] was a huge piece of crap and I wanted to learn more about how to fix the body up. There was a body shop close to where my parents lived so I just went there and asked if they would take me on, and they did. They threw me right into the mix, and I was hooked ever since.
Where did the idea for Ink and Iron come from?
HN: I used to read tattoo magazines in and they do this big festival in Long Beach, California called Ink and Iron. I just remember seeing the flyers with all these cool hot rods and pin-up girls and I thought, "this embodies everything I want my shop to be." I’d always wanted my own shop but I was [struggling with] what’s gonna make it different from the hundreds of other body shops, and then at the same time, when I first started, I didn’t know any other girls who did this Then when I was working I started to meet more and more women and just like me. Hearing their stories and meeting girls who started in this trade and quit because they couldn’t get a job or got harassed, that’s kind of where the idea came from. I wanted to take this bad-ass group of ladies and have a place where we do a lot of training, co-op and give other young women the confidence and skills to send them out to this world.
How have people responded to your all-female crew?
HN: Well I started an Indie-Go-Go campaign to raise the funds to open the shop initially and made a video [about the shop]. If you read through the comments of the video, it’s clear that the second that a man can’t be included, he cries out. Claiming it’s unfair, it’s discrimination, but this is what it feels like to be a woman in this industry almost every day. Initially, people would come in and kind of look past me, looking to speak to a male manager in charge...now I have customers who come in that are raising daughters and want their daughters to get into cars, and want to encourage their daughters to be whatever they want to be.
Why do you think there's a lack of women in the industry?
HN: A lot of the time, you’ll get women who apply at a shop and they’ll hear, ‘I don’t have a problem hiring a girl, but you might be a distraction to my employees.’ So, I just think it’s ingrained in people’s minds that cars are for boys, and girls don’t like those. But it makes me happy to see this place is still reaching people and encouraging young women to get into this trade, that’s our main goal and it’s been really awesome proving people that [women running a shop] can work.
What does the future of Ink and Iron look like?
HN: In the future, I hope to expand to a second location and begin franchising the business. It was never something that I had considered doing, but when I opened, and even now, I get messages and resumes from girls all over saying "I wish there was something like this in my state". Me not being a business owner, I learned a lot of hard lessons by failures, so if I can make a package and streamline it to someone so they can be ahead of where I was when I first opened Ink and Iron, it could build this awesome sisterhood.