Ever meet someone and instantly recognize a personal drive that is truly impressive (pun intended)? Well when I met Leslie Vander Baan, I saw a woman trying to have it all and doing one heck of a job. She was a new mom, a business owner and loving every minute of it. It’s not every day that you meet a mom at a neighborhood Halloween party and ask them what they do and their answers is – I started a car dealership. I think I stopped dead in my tracks and was a slightly intimidated. I probably muttered, “I’m in marketing and going to go get some more wine.” What thirty-something rock star owns a car dealership? And daddy didn’t give it to her either. We’re not talking Harrelson or Hendrick and you will not hear her say – Tell them Jennifer sent ya!
Leslie and her husband have always purchased their vehicles from private sellers to avoid paying full retail at a dealership (a very smarty money saving idea), but didn’t like the experience and set out to change things one seller at a time. Please meet Leslie Vander Baan.
Leslie Vander Baan founder Automotive Consignment
Married to: Mike for 10 years
Mom of 1
Years in Charlotte: 9
Smarty ‘hood: South Charlotte
Tell us about Automotive Consignment, the company you started.
Automotive Consignment provides a solution for the typical headache and hassle that one experiences when buying or selling a car on your own. We handle everything from the listing of the vehicle to the test drives as well as all of the title work when a vehicle sells.
What inspired you to own your own car dealership?
I had always wanted to go into business for myself; I just never imagined it would be in the car business! Several years ago we were trying to sell a car on our own and found ourselves sitting on the sidewalk while the family we were trying to sell our Jeep to took our vehicle for a test drive. We thought for sure this was totally crazy. Here we were letting total strangers drive off in our car while we waited, hoping they’d come back with our car. Buying and selling on our own saved us money, but proved to be a very inconvenient and time consuming process. I was hesitant to meet strangers at my home or let someone take off in my car to test drive. There was also the matter of payment and title. When I sold a car I was leery of accepting a bad check, and when buying a car, I became concerned about the title I was receiving. After that experience we thought there had to be a better way to buy and sell a vehicle individual to individual.
What is the best piece of advice for someone shopping for a car?
Have a vehicle mechanically checked out prior to completing the purchase. Spending a few dollars up front for this inspection could ultimately save you from spending thousands later.
What tips do you have for other mompreneurs trying to get started?
Set boundaries before you start, not after you need them. Realize things can’t happen fast enough for a business owner so pace yourself and don’t set overly aggressive goals that you have to kill yourself to meet. Don’t forget what makes you… you. Schedule times of self renewal before you need them. Don’t sacrifice all of your favorite personal commitments for the business. It’s ok to go out with friends, send personal emails during the day, read a fun magazine at night. It’s ok to have fun despite the struggles of starting or maintaining a business.
Stop feeling guilty- whatever you have to do, figure out how not to waste a minute of your free time/ personal time feeling guilty. Find an outlet to blow off steam- Cut loose in whatever way gets rid of the tension we hold in our bodies. You’ll be thankful for the fun the next day! Also, take the personal experience of other women to heart. Despite having read a lot of start-up articles I thought I was ready, because for me, it was going to be different. This blind enthusiasm worked for a while but eventually leaves you drained. It’s important to plan accordingly before you’re too burnt out to do anything about it.
What is one piece of advice you would give to new moms?
Don’t put pressure on yourself to get back into the swing of things so quickly. Accept that becoming a new mom involves a period of transition and surrender. It takes time to “get back to normal”- a new normal that is.
What is your favorite family time activity?
We love to be outside so walks in the park would be right up there at the top of our list.
Favorite mommy-time activity?
Enjoying some wine, getting a massage or taking a yoga class; all are great in my book.
Favorite lunch spot sans kids?
You can’t beat the salads at Crisp and I’m hooked on Basil.
Favorite place to score kids clothes and shoes?
From other moms and Isla’s grandparents.
Favorite place to take the whole family to dinner?
Mexican Joints. I feel like the baby talk and toys adds to the fiesta.
Best book you’ve read lately?
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Somethings Gotta Give.
Best birthday party you’ve attended/hosted?
I rented a house in Hilton Head for my husbands 30th. We had friends and family fly in for the island themed bash which included a steel drum band and drinks out of coconuts.
Favorite date-night spot?
We love experiencing new things so any place I haven’t yet tried.
Minivan or SUV?
SUV although I’m usually spotted in a wrapped advertising van for my business.
Favorite Smarty phone app?
I love my wireless Google Sync. It connects my blackberry, apple mail and Gmail all together and I don’t have to do a thing! Brilliant.
Favorite CSP article so far?
I loved Me, Myself and I, the piece on being a working mom. It had me rolling. I was laughing and identifying all at the same time. I also love all of the pieces that give me an operations manual of sorts. I’ll take all the tips I can get. Susan’s piece on preschools was so helpful!
Best kept secret in Charlotte?
Afternoons at the white water center- rafting or not! Walking, hiking, zip lining, biking or a beer at the restaurant’s patio overlooking all the action.
I could not live without my…
Husband. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful partner in life.