The Path Less Traveled

June 26, 2019

Shelby Haney chose the trades over college and never looked back.

“I know a lot of people feel they need to go to college,” says Shelby Haney, speaking to FenderBender on a rainy Tuesday morning in April.

“I disagree. There are plenty more paths available. If not here, I’d definitely be in a shop working and painting and crafting with my hands.”

Haney isn’t the only woman in paint and refinish who feels this way, but she is one of the youngest. At 19 years old, Haney has been with D&S Color Supply (south of Cleveland) for over one year, working both in the office and the field as an outside sales assistant.

“My dad was very excited,” Haney says.

“He wasn’t into auto body—he’s more of a woodworker—but he thought it was great. Mom was a bit nervous—she thought I was crazy! But I decided to take the plunge. I knew in my heart it’s what I wanted to do.”

If there are more young professionals out there like Shelby Haney, the future of this industry is very bright indeed.

From Cosmetology to Mixology

Haney didn’t instantly gravitate toward paint. She chose to into the trades instead of college utilizing her school’s career center. She started in cosmetology.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” she says.

“I grew up in nearby Medina. At the career center, I picked cosmetology at first. After just one week, I knew I had to get out—I couldn’t stand my coworkers!”

After speaking with her counselor once more, she found the automotive industry. As an artistic person—she practices oil painting and sketching—her eyes were opened to just how many artistic outlets there are in automotive. She soon realized she had made the right choice.

“I knew in my heart that’s what I wanted to do,” she says.

Haney is a part of a small team of other sales assistants in automotive refinish and industrial at D&S. She enjoys assisting customers, conducting meetings, and coordinating material and supplies between vendors and clients. She also enjoys a fair share of reporting and product research. 

“It’s a big learning experience,” she says.

A Jane of all Trades

Before her time at D&S, she worked at Schaed’s Auto Body (now a Gerber shop) for almost two years, where she apprenticed in the shop doing paint and prep as well as some estimating and office work. Then she found D&S, and though she enjoyed the paint work for its artistic angle, she was surprised to learn the office suited her better. 

“It worked out really well that I could use what I had learned in school to help my career at D&S and get me to where I am now,” she says.

Haney enjoys seeing and visiting her customers, walking into shops around the state and seeing how their paint products are being used. Haney manages a small territory of her own and is learning what it takes to be a career territory manager. 

“For now, I’m picking the pieces I like, seeing what I don’t, and am becoming my own person,” she says. “I’m young and it’s crazy that D&S gave me this great opportunity so young; they see past what many employers say: ‘We won’t even talk to you unless you have a college degree.’ I was very lucky and fortunate.”

Haney is wise beyond her years, and her exposure to a historically male-dominated industry has helped her find her voice in it as well. She volunteers at the same career center that led her to D&S and always asks about how many women are enrolled, and how she can help open their eyes, too. She wants to share her experience.

“When it comes to technicians, I see a lot of shop owners giving young people opportunities,” she says. “It’s hard for owners to find young talent; it seems a lot of people try to go the college route and just get desk jobs when there are so many different trade positions, and not just in auto body.”

Haney sees the barriers to employing women in the trades as coming down a bit. She understands the value that women have to offer this industry in the 21st century.

“Shop owners are more interested in hiring women because they have a special touch with customers, different organizational skills, and attract more women customers. It’s not so intimidating, and the shop entrance will feel more comfortable for everyone,” she says.

Looking ahead, Haney is thrilled about her decision to pursue paint. 

“I’m working toward my own territory and doing more internally,” she says. “We have big things coming—I can’t go into too much detail!—but we’re working with PPG and 3M and looking ahead to more.

“You gotta do what your passionate about. That’s what’s important.”

The Painter's Playbook is presented by PPG and SATA/Dan-Am Co.

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