Women of the Industry

Apr 1, 2024 | Toolbox

Among the automotive recycling industry are dedicated professional women who make significant contributions to the success of the business.

By Coleen Krause

Pete Elenbaas (who Amber fondly calls Grandpa Pete), with her grandmother Laura, started Pete’s Auto Parts in the 1950’s when he was struggling to make ends meet as a farmer. Pete started towing, ended up with a motley collection of vehicles, and the rest is Pete’s Auto Parts history.

The first employee Grandpa Pete brought on board was Laura, who did the title work and accounting for the business. Pete’s Auto Parts has a long history of employing females in all areas of the business including accounting, sales, human resources, and management. In the past, they also had successful shippers and delivery drivers who were female, as well.

Amber Kendrick
Owner, Pete’s Auto Parts 
Hudsonville, Michigan

Amber’s father, Ron, bought one half of the business from Grandpa Pete in the 70’s and the other half in the 80’s. On January 1, 2016, Amber bought the business from her father. Ron taught her that other recyclers are not competitors, and that the aftermarket and OEM parts were the real enemy! He was quick to team up with other recyclers as a founding member of the Midwest Automotive Recyclers Group (MARG) which eventually became part of Team PRP. Now in retirement, Ron still serves on the Automotive Recyclers of Michigan board of directors and volunteers in the industry.

“Ron taught me to look to other recyclers as resources and said, ‘a rising tide raises all ships.’ When the other businesses around us in our industry get higher quality, we all win, that when other recyclers are doing well, it’s good for us too. There is plenty of room in the market for us all to succeed,” says Amber.

“After I bought the business, my team and I worked hard to ramp up the operation, processing more cars than ever before. After working out the kinks and learning how to operate lean – at the time dismantling 2,500 cars a year – as a management team we realized we were working a lot harder for not a lot more money. We decided to scale things back and try to find a sweet spot in terms of units processed and focus on the most efficient, most profitable business model with our land and circumstances. This has been a great learning experience as we continue to grow sales and nurture profits while processing less vehicles and putting our efforts into developing a high functioning staff,” explained Amber.

Pete’s Auto Parts is a true legacy family business with both Amber and her husband, Andy, working together with both Jessi, General Manager, and Craig, Buyer/Production Manager. Jimi, Distribution Manager, is also married to Audrey, Office Manager, and some of the staff are childhood friends.

As for being a strong woman in an industry dominated by men, Amber says, “Even after 17 years in the automotive recycling industry, watching women thrive, and with six women currently working in my own business, I make an effort to check my own biases when hiring. These biases are engrained in our culture, and I take a step back and focus on talent and work ethic regardless of gender.”

“My hope for the future is that women in recycling will be so commonplace, it won’t be special or different to see a staff with many female workers,” she continues. “The ones I know, you can tell they have earned their place through consistent, concerted efforts, and refuse to accept the status quo!

“The culture is changing, and I think we will see more women in physically demanding positions, as well as management positions, but the only way we can get there is if we are giving women a chance. At times, we must work a little harder for our success, but there are many more doors open than there ever have been! I appreciate LARA for giving me the opportunity to connect with professional women recyclers.”

Contact Pete’s Auto Parts at petesauto.net or email amber@petesauto.net.  

LARA – Ladies of the Automotive Recyclers Association seeks to promote automotive recycling as a career choice to women and open pathways to enter and thrive in a fulling career within this business community. LARA also provides networking and educational events, usually held at the annual convention of the ARA. If you interested in participating, contact staff@a-r-a.org to find out more on LARA.

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