WIN Celebrates 20 Years of Collision Repair Progress
Cheryl Boswell walked through the door of her first Women’s Industry Network (WIN) conference, 10 years ago, and thought to herself “Now, this is a welcoming place.”
No one was rushing to sell Boswell products. Rather, everyone wanted to find ways to help each other excel in the collision repair industry, creating an industry event focused not on sponsorships but on networking.
Boswell signed up for a committee at that first meeting and has been a believer in the organization ever since.
Recently, she took on the role of the chair of WIN.
“There’s been a lot of support among peers that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t a part of WIN,” Boswell, a marketing, training and social media expert, says. “It’s not just professional growth but also a personal support network, as well.”
WIN has become an organization that has not only recognized industry members like Boswell but countless others through The Most Influential Women (MIW) awards. The MIW awards have been around since 1999 and recognize women who have enriched the collision repair industry with their leadership, vision and commitment to excellence.
In 2013, WIN acquired management of MIW and has continued honoring women for their work.
Not only has Boswell taken on the role of chair, MIW is also celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
“As a working mother, a lot of times for me, WIN is reaffirming,” Boswell says. “ I’m meeting amazing women doing fantastic things in the industry, and in all types of roles.”
FenderBender recently sat down with Boswell to find out more about WIN and the impact it has had over the last two decades.
What has the growth been like for WIN in the last 20 years?
We have over 500 members and the conference has grown over time. This year, we had our biggest numbers. We had 220 attendees and a number of new attendees. Our goal is that we have a bunch of new attendees, too, in regional network meetings. That way we’re able to touch members in different markets.
We had three regional networking meetings last year in different markets. And, because of those meetings, we’ve had new sponsors, as well.
Our conference is the big event every year. We keep that momentum going by wowing people when they attend. We try to engage them right from the beginning.
How many shop owners are in the organization?
While we’re inclusive of every segment of the industry, we want to be very conscious of the balance. We are constantly looking at segmentation. We’ve always said the voice of the collision repair shop has to be represented.
A couple years ago, when there was a lot of consolidation, we put programs together to recruit shop owners. We’ve been trying to grow the segment for repairers. We’ve always had participation from larger companies.
Our boards have done a great job and represent all different segments of the industry. This year, there are seven new board members. A couple of those represent body shops. We also lowered the cost of the conference this year in order to make it more affordable for more people to attend. After doing that, we saw that people were registering earlier than previous years. I can even say that, for my company, that was an important step.
What is your overall vision and mission?
We want to make sure we have a clean mission and vision. The mission is centered around, why do we exist? We want to drive industry sustainability by developing women through connection and networking.
Our vision is focused on asking, what are we creating? We’re creating the network that drives the future of collision repair by attracting women into the industry.
Right now, we’re all struggling as an industry in terms of how do we drive new talent to collision repair? How do we touch on this early so people know it’s a viable industry? In Atlanta, for example, they have the Maxwell School High School of Technology. Students from that school can leave early and learn at collision repair schools. Whether it’s men or women, we need to figure out how to generate more interest and get the word out.
What is the future of WIN?
The future for WIN is the Most Influential Women (MIW) awards. We’ve recognized about 70 women over the years. We hand out the Cornerstone Award and the MIW Award. The MIW Awards just had its 20th anniversary. These are women being recognized as change makers in the industry. They’re well-rounded and have made a difference.
We also want to focus on recruiting people into the industry. Our goal is to continue to grow. We need to figure out how to change the perception of the industry so that kids aren’t having their dreams squashed early. We have scholarship winners who have been the top of their class but they come to the conference and say they’re about to drop out because the way they’re being treated by their peers. The conference can change that perspective and help them realize that they can have a career here. They can grow. They can clean a shop, run a shop or work with a paint company.