Constituent Spotlight: Andrea Brown
Feb 11, 2014
Chicago Heights entrepreneur shifts nursing skills from people to cars
It didn’t take long for biology major Andrea Brown to realize that a car is much like the human body. The former nurse and military veteran turned entrepreneur found her medical skills quite useful as she moved into her new role as the first African American female owner of a Midas Automotive Service franchise.
“When I went to the interview (with Midas) I said, ‘Look, I’ve studied the systems of the body, so give me the opportunity to study the systems of the car.’ It was madness—but it worked.”
Only a few years ago, Brown was working at Hines VA Hospital when she began craving a switch in career paths. She reached out to the Veterans Administration and other organizations that could help her, including the Women’s Business Development Center, the Small Business Association and SCORE, a nonprofit association supported by the SBA. All of these organizations help veterans find jobs or start businesses.
“My education, along with the assistance of these organizations, allowed me to advance,” Brown said.
She then partnered with longtime friend and experienced automotive expert Stacy Everett. He suggested they open a Midas Automotive Service together.
“He has the experience and I have the wherewithal. When I was practicing as a nurse, I had the opportunity to manage several other nurses and several people underneath me.”
In 2012, Brown and Everett opened Midas Automotive Service at 656 W. Lincoln Highway in Chicago Heights. Consequently, she earned the distinction of being the first female military veteran and the first African American female to own a Midas franchise in the United States and Canada.
“There are over 2,500 stores in the country. I was the only female Midas veteran franchisee. There’s another female, but I’m the only African-American female. It’s totally an honor and a privilege. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. They take much pride in entrepreneurship. This is what I had instilled in me from childhood.”
Business partner Stacy Everett said Brown’s managerial skills have been a great part of the business’s success.
“She is very meticulous about things,” Everett said. “She likes to keep the store neat and very structured. I’m good at explaining, but she helps me break it down even further. Through my experience and what she has learned from me, it all worked quite well. We usually rank within the top 25 stores in Illinois.”
In August, Brown will celebrate two years as a business owner and hopes to soon add on a body shop and car wash.
“The lot next to us is empty. It’s the perfect place to build a state-of-the art car wash. There’s another lot behind us where I’d like to build my auto body shop. I’ve already made that first step by obtaining the Midas.”
Brown said she’s found creative ways to transfer her nursing skills to her new vocation.
“I didn’t have time to be a nurse and a business person at the same time. I’m transferring that compassion for my patients to the people who need me here.”
Before her time as a nurse and entrepreneur, Brown served in the military as a pharmacy specialist at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Her father, Henry George Wilson Jr., a Vietnam veteran, was the inspiration for her to join the army. Military service was also a way for Brown to fulfill her dream of furthering her education.
“My father served two tours of duty in Vietnam,” Brown said. “So I just had this idea: I called this recruiting officer and said I was looking to join the army because my dad was in the army.
My dad didn’t want me to join and told me he’d pay for my education. But I said that I had to do this myself. You want to say that your accomplishments came from your own self-esteem and your own abilities—not anyone else’s.”
Having already earned a pharmaceutical certificate, Brown continued to study science once joining the military.
“My passion—for reasons I can’t explain—was medicine. I like serving people.”
Brown said her service in the army was a fulfilling experience.
“You are training to protect your country—which is unlike any other job in the world. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
After leaving the military, Brown continued her education while working. Having previously earned a science degree in biology/premed from Texas Southern University, Brown completed a second degree in nursing at Eastern Illinois University in 2007.
“When I first started my education, it was difficult because I didn’t have all the financial means to do what I wanted. Achieving those degrees proved to me that no setback could deter me from my goals.”
Brown said there are always more goals to accomplish and, with every new goal, she learns great lessons.
“You have to have tough skin in this type of arena. Everyone wants the American dream. One of my reasons for wanting all of that is because I have that compassion and caring to help people. The learning lesson is to stay disciplined and focused. It’s important to believe in yourself and to know this is something you can do.”