Two pharmaceutical and technology executives are pursuing entrepreneurship in a high-demand industry with the opening of a new Mr. Transmission/Milex Complete Auto Care location in the rapidly expanding Research Triangle Park area of Durham, North Carolina.
The Mr. Transmission/Milex co-branded franchise is co-owned by Elmer Gilliam and his wife, Rebecca. As a former electrical engineer, Elmer Gilliam gained management experience as a consultant for a wide variety of companies. Rebecca Gilliam manages teams at United Therapeutics, a biotechnology company. The new location marks the second Mr. Transmission/Milex shop in the Raleigh-Durham area for Moran Family of Brands, one of the nation’s leading general automotive and transmission repair franchises.
Impressed with the bu provided by Moran, as well as its extensive history in franchising, the Gilliams inked a deal to open a co-branded unit in 2018. Unfortunately, finding a location for their auto shop was challenging, and the outbreak of COVID-19 delayed their opening plans.
RTP Provides Opportunity for Growth
The new auto repair shop is close to where people work and part of an innovative and expanding area. Research Triangle Park is home to 170 companies, 39,000 full-time employees, and 10,000 contract workers. Developed in 1959, the area is one of the world’s largest research parks, with 7,000 acres. Part of its success is its ability to tap talent from local universities in Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh, such as Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University. Some of the corporations with locations in Research Triangle Park include Apple, AgBiome, Cisco, and Fidelity Investments.
“We want to provide outstanding and honest service for car owners in the area and also be an engaged member of the Durham community,” said Elmer Gilliam.
Pandemic Prompts Roadblock for Opening
The couple decided to take over the space of an AAMCO facility in the spring of 2020, right at the height of the pandemic. While Moran had the systems in place to facilitate opening during this unprecedented time, starting a business during a pandemic proved to be challenging. Many of the key players they needed to get their business up and running were working remotely to stay safe. The new business owners had to communicate via phone or email with various city and state officials when applying for business permits, making it difficult to get questions answered.
“When you are unable to talk to someone face-to-face and are just sending them an email, they won’t be able to recognize what your needs and concerns are,” said Elmer Gilliam. “And as a new owner, you don’t know enough to know the proper questions to ask.”
Finding reliable staff was also challenging during the pandemic. People who had stable jobs were reluctant to take the risk on a new shop. Prior to opening, Elmer Gilliam was able to secure a highly qualified chief technician, as well as a reliable center manager, to ensure the business runs smoothly. He is currently looking to bring on additional staff members as they add new customers.
“The Gilliams have faced a number of challenges with the pandemic over the past year to open their business, but they have picked a great location, and we feel they will be extremely successful in providing quality car care for residents in the area,” said Peter Baldine, President of Moran Family of Brands.
New Shop Caters to Diverse Customer Base
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Gilliams opened their new shop in October. It features six car bays inside an air-conditioned garage that is approximately 4,800 square feet. Rebecca Gilliam will continue her role as a pharmaceutical executive while helping hone the new location’s marketing and back-office operations. Elmer Gilliam will focus on the auto shop’s business operations full time.
The new owners are making it a priority to ensure their auto repair shop caters to a diverse customer base. As a woman, Rebecca Gilliam acknowledges that bringing your car in for service and the possibility of a major repair can be intimidating. Her goal is to make their shop a place where females can feel comfortable.
“I want women to have a positive experience from the time they come into our lobby,” she said. “It is important for them to know that they are getting quality work at a fair price. I also want them to feel comfortable enough to ask all types of questions about their cars. Our customers will feel like they had all their needs addressed, and they are comfortable with any service their vehicle receives.”
To learn more about business opportunities in the aftermarket auto industry, visit Moran Family of Brands to be connected with one of our franchise business consultants.