Chaya Milchtein Empowers Women by Educating Them About Cars


When Chaya Milchtein was about to turn 18 years old, she created a GoFundMe fundraiser for herself. “I was aging out of foster care—it was 2013, and I was pretty desperate to find a job,” she explains. One person reached out to her based on the campaign and asked, “What’s going to be the most helpful to you to transition into the next part of your life?” Milchtein replied that she needed a job. 

The woman helped her get a job interview at Sears, and during the interview, they asked Milchtein, “What department do you want to work in?” Her reply was, “Whichever one makes the most money.” And that’s how her career in the automotive industry began—as a service adviser for Sears Auto Center.

Even though she experienced success at her job and was promoted to service manager, she wasn’t interested in moving up the corporate ladder—since she would then no longer work with “real car owners.” Unsure of her next move, she consulted with a career coach who suggested that Milchtein should start a blog related to automotive education. 

Chaya Milchtein reaches a wider audience 

She didn’t love the idea of writing a blog, but having a platform to share her automotive expertise was appealing. Milchtein created her website, Mechanic Shop Femme

in June 2017, and it’s still an excellent resource today.

“I started this blog, and people were really receptive to it,” she says. But she asked herself, “What’s the next step? Where’s this going?” She then posed these questions in a Facebook group for women entrepreneurs who suggested that she teach people how to do car repairs. Since she’s not a mechanic, she was concerned that there could be liability issues if she told others how to do repairs.

When the Facebook members were offering her suggestions, Milchtein was simultaneously helping a friend purchase a used car on Craigslist. “There was a light bulb moment in my head, I was like, ‘I could teach people how to buy a used car,’” she says. 

Milchtein noticed that when people buy used cars they either don’t know what issues to look for, or the person selling the car tries to take advantage of the buyer. Once she realized this problem for car buyers, she decided, “That’s going to be my first class.” But she still had some reservations that anyone would be willing to pay for a class that she taught. 

To gauge interest, at the end of one of her blog posts about oil changes she wrote, “P.S., I’m thinking about teaching a class on how to buy a used car. If you’re interested, send me a message.” After adding that sentence she says, “Within a short time, maybe 48 to 72 hours or so, my nonexistent class was full of people.”

Teaching affordable automotive education classes

Her first class was a success, and she now offers several different automotive education virtual classes. The curriculum ranges from buying a car to vehicle maintenance. In addition to virtual classes, she also teaches in person at colleges and libraries. The reaction to her classes has been positive. One student wrote in a review, “Chaya is informative, engaging and funny. I feel exponentially more prepared to go buy a car than I did before taking the class.”

One unique aspect of her class offerings is the cost. “All of my virtual automotive classes that are available to the public are sliding scale, which means you can select a number in a range that works best for your financial situation,” she explains. 

Most people warned her that this business model wouldn’t work. But she disagrees and says, “That’s something I’m very passionate about.” Even though her goal is to be financially independent and comfortable, she says she only wants to do that, “in a way that allows my community to be able to access the education and the knowledge they need at a price point that they can afford.”

Empowering women through automotive education 

Milchtein thinks that automotive education is important due to discrimination that people experience in the industry. She explains that the discrimination affects everyone. “Helping women have a better experience in the repair shop and helping queer people have better experiences in dealerships and in all these spaces doesn’t just benefit the customer, it also benefits the shop from a business perspective. It helps them build relationships that last longer and ultimately brings them in more money.”

She also says that there is a misconception that women, queer folks and people of marginalized identities don’t want to learn about cars. “People are desperate for this knowledge, but they want the knowledge in a way that respects who they are as human beings,” she says. Besides offering classes and information on social media, Milchtein has written a book, Mechanic Shop Femme’s Guide to Car Ownership: Uncomplicating Cars for All of Us, that is available for pre-order and is set to be released in April 2024. 

If you are thinking of a career in the auto industry, Milchtein suggests first getting a job in a local oil change shop instead of paying for classes. “It will be a very bad experience for you, I can pretty much guarantee that… however, it will get your foot in the door without having to spend thousands of dollars in community college or tech college,” she says. Then, if you want to advance further in your career, she says that most companies will pay for your education.

If you are interested in creating a class Milchtein says, “Turn to the experts,” for advice. “You don’t always have to recreate the wheel,” she says. Another suggestion is that you don’t always need to agree with the advice that is offered to you. “I was told over and over again that I had to niche down. I had to only talk about one thing in order to be successful,” she says. “I’m living proof that that’s not the case. I talk about cars, but I also talk about travel, I talk about being fat, I talk about life and love and everything in between because that’s who I am. If I cannot bring my full self to my work, then it’s just not worth it to me.”

Photo by McKenna Patterson Photography.

The post Chaya Milchtein Empowers Women by Educating Them About Cars appeared first on SUCCESS.

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