Interview by Maura Keller
At the ARA 79th Annual Convention & Expo, Theresa Colbert was named ARA Member of the Year thanks in part to her long-standing efforts of establishing and growing her recycling facility, Recycled OE Parts, as well as her commitment to the industry through her job at Car-Part.com. We connected with Theresa Colbert to get further insights into her role in the industry and what keeps her motivated.
Automotive Recycling magazine: What inspired you to start a recycling facility after so many years of directly working with recyclers at Car-Part?
Theresa Colbert: It was COVID, actually. My daughter was going to beauty school and they closed indefinitely. My son was a pipe fitter working on a hospital job and everyone was sent home. We decided, as a family, that opening a yard would be a good fit for us. We have all been in the automotive industry in some capacity and felt that our skills would complement each other. We all LOVE the industry and our fellow recyclers in the industry! There just seems to be so much potential for yards if you are willing to work hard and learn new things.
AR: What have been the challenges in getting started?
TC: Deciding what to have for dinner. I am not actually joking. As the “mom” and business owner I am still in charge of groceries and meal planning and most of the cooking. Trying to balance my Car-Part job, my mom job and my business owner job is probably my biggest struggle.
Honestly, I want to have my cake and eat it too! I love ALL of my jobs and want to keep them all. And sleep is overrated.
AR: How has ARA helped you get going? Has it been through the association’s mentoring opportunities or from the information provided from the association? Or a combination?
TC: It has really been through the resources ARA has giving us. For example, in working towards our CAR certification, we thought it was SO scary but after attending ARA classes, we realized that we can be certified and it wasn’t scary at all! It actually made us realize: Hey, we can do this!
AR: Who is helping you (I know you are a superhero, but everybody had a ROBIN to their BATMAN)?
TC: Marty Hollingshead from Northlake Auto. Except HE is Batman and I am Robin. It’s more like he is Mr. Miagi and I am the grasshopper. He has taught me so much and shared so many things with me. He has also told me when I am doing something wrong and told me to “suck it up buttercup” when I have bad days. He tells me to “stay the course. Put out a clean product, at a good price, with good descriptions and great customer service” – which we really try to do. Our parts all go out the way WE would like to receive parts – very clean and as described. We like to say that we may be a small yard but our parts are mighty!
AR: Are you specializing in certain vehicle makes/models or how are you choosing cars to part out?
TC: We do a lot of research before we buy cars as we are on a budget. But, we have a lot of software tools and data that we use so it’s not a “guessing game” when we buy those cars. In reality, we will buy anything that we think we can sell parts off of. But the data does take the guesswork out of it.
AR: What are your goals for the next few years?
TC: We really want to become better recyclers. We feel that being good stewards of our environment is not only our livelihood but our responsibility. Obviously, we would like to make more money. But we feel that laying a solid foundation for a successful, long-term business is what we need to focus on right now. If they chose recycling as a career; I want my great grandchildren to be part of this business in years to come.
AR: Working with recyclers all these years, what have you learned from them that has helped you start your company the “right” way?
TC: So many things! I have learned how to set up shelves, what products clean parts best and so much more I could not list them all. One important tidbit I’ve learned is if we have an employee doing something wrong it’s not his/her problem. It’s a training issue on OUR part. Sometimes that one is hard to remember. Also, people have told me what NOT to do, which is much more valuable is some instances.
AR: What else do we need to know about the company?
TC: That the Good Lord has truly blessed us. I don’t have words to explain how much my friends and family have meant to me these last couple of years. My husband has been a rock (even when I work late and miss curfew and the dogs bark and wake him up).
My son and daughter have really stepped up to take on added responsibilities as they come up. As a small, family start-up we all wear several hats. Our employees pitch in and help wherever we need them. You never hear “that’s not my job” at Recycled OE Parts!
I have so many friends that have offered everything from advice, to sending me parts and even offering to help me take out an engine over the phone when COVID hit us. I think this is the only industry where the “competition” helps you become better.
AR: What is one “fun fact” that you’d like to share about yourself or your business?
TC: In our “spare time” we also rescue dogs. Come to find out, when you move to a farm in Missouri in the middle of nowhere people think it’s okay to dump dogs they don’t want by your house.
We now have nine rescues. We moved here three years ago with one dog.