An Outsider's Journey to Body Shop Owner
SHOP STATS: McCormic Auto Body Location: Randallstown, Maryland Operator: Yevgeniy and Anna Vekker Average Monthly Car Count: 65 Staff Size: 10 Shop Size: 10,000 square feet Annual Revenue: $2 million
That’s the case for Anna Vekker who opened McCormick Auto Body in Randallstown, Md., with her husband, Yevgeniy, in 2019. Within a span of six months she went from knowing nearly nothing about the industry to obtaining four platinum I-CAR certifications, joining multiple volunteer organizations all while playing a pivotal role in opening and maintaining the success of the shop.
“[Yevgeniy] came to me one day and he said, ‘Look, I want to open up a big auto body shop, a certified shop,’” Anna says. “I said, ‘Well, if we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it right.’”
Getting Her Start
Setting aside a career working with children with developmental disabilities, Anna immediately jumped into training with the goal of learning everything she possibly could about an industry that was completely new to her.
It wasn’t without uphill battles, but her ambition got her through all of them as she helped the shop become I-CAR Gold Class Certified while earning numerous distinctions of her own in the process.
She became Platinum certified in the roles of finish, structural technician, non-structural technician and estimator. Wearing all those hats is a challenge for even an experienced technician, but for Anna her drive pushed her to excel in all four areas.
To make things even more difficult, Anna became an expert in all of these roles in just six months while she was pregnant.
“I had to do steel welding and aluminum welding while I was pregnant, with a baby kicking in you in full gear,” Anna says. “Being from a different industry, it was a challenge for me. But I’ve never met a challenge that I couldn’t tackle.”
While Yevgeniy had previous experience running a very small body shop, and is a Platinum-certified technician himself, the trials of opening a larger shop was a burden for both Anna and her husband. But with Anna’s added skills, it became smoother.
Yevgeniy credits Anna’s smarts and her go-getter mentality, so the challenge of completely changing fields wasn’t going to stop her from rising in the industry. Going from novice to expert in six months is a task that weighed on the two of them, but Anna cut through that.
“There were a lot of challenges, especially for her—she came from a different industry,” Yevgeniy says. “This is not easy to do.”
Anna plunged herself into classes to get herself certified and flew through it in the short time period. It was stressful, Yevigeniy says, just due to the sheer volume of classes and hours that needed to be put in. But becoming certified was only the start of their challenges as Anna and Yevgeniy were tasked with moving locations and expanding the location as well.
The mantra for Anna and Yevgeniy was that they were going to “do it right” with the new shop. Despite the challenges, they succeeded in their goal in a market that Anna says was vulnerable and unregulated as many shops didn’t follow correct OEM procedures.
“I knew that if I didn’t become Platinum then that would be a very big hindrance in the future of our business,” Anna says. “So, I stopped at nothing, it didn’t matter, I put on my gloves, my welding gear and I went to weld, why not?”
After obtaining the initial Gold Class certification shop, McCormick Auto Body was able to start becoming certified with other OEMs.
They’ve racked up a sizable list of certifications and are still trying to add more to pair with all the distinctions and standards they’ve already met. Some of those certifications include Nissan, Infiniti, Hyundai, Kia, Alfa Romeo and General Motors.
”That Gold Class really paved the way to getting all these other certifications,” Anna says.
Anna says she learned in her time training that the collision repair field needed more people who did things the right way and put in the work. She did those things to help McCormick Auto Body advance.
Becoming An Industry Figure
Piggybacking her research and motivation into expertise was something she had help with, as Anna credited Jamie Shewbridge, a teacher Anna met while taking I-CAR classes. Anna says Jamie helped her as an industry veteran introducing her to the right people.
“She is such an amazing teacher that I followed her everywhere I went,” Anna says. “As my stomach grew, so did my knowledge because I followed her from class to class.”
Shewbridge helped her through her exhausting six months and the two have stayed in touch and have collaborated as a part of a volunteer organization.
The connection and her success led Anna to becoming the Baltimore Volunteer Chair for I-CAR, helping host fundraisers for schools that have an automotive collision program. The committee also finds new hires through community outreach.
“The automotive industry, it’s old school,” Anna says. “People don’t learn the trade anymore, so we’re really trying to promote the industry and find new individuals to get into the street.”
Anna is part of multiple other organizations to help better the automotive world, including Women’s Industry Network (WIN) and the Automotive Service Association (ASA). She is also going to the Automotive Management Institute to become an Accredited Master Automotive Manager (AMAM), which would improve a growing resume.
“I like to be a part of different organizations,” Anna says. “Just to promote the industry and really learn about what it has to offer.”
Yevgeniy echoes her thoughts and had the same goals when he started the new shop with Anna. The mindset has made it easy for McCormick Auto Body to thrive as Anna focuses on growing and bettering herself and the organization. Her commitment to diving headfirst into a new challenge is something she’s happy she did. Anna says she saw an opportunity and didn’t let it go.
“We wanted to make a difference in the industry,” Yevgeniy says. “A lot of people here are interested just to be here. We’re here to do it right.”
Training and dedication paid off and Anna is continuing that dedication in hopes to make a difference with the help of Yevgeniy.
The small shop that needed to grow in order to get different certifications has Anna to thank for growing into a successful shop. Her contributions landed her as a highly qualified professional, ingrained in the industry through volunteer work all in six months work.
“I’m very ambitious and I like a challenge,” Anna says. “I saw an opportunity and I knew if we didn’t do it now, we couldn’t move forward.”