MINNEAPOLIS -- Cathy Heying is upfront about just how audacious her plan was to change careers. ""I did not have a background in this work at all."
Heying had a career in social work, which gave her a unique perspective to understand something about cars many mechanics might miss. "I just kept seeing people in need. Same need over and over - 'I can't afford my car to get fixed at a regular shop.'"
So Heying went back to school, and got a two-year degree in auto technology at Dunwoody College of Technology. Then she developed a plan to open Lift Garage, which caters to lower income clients who depend on their vehicles.
No car can often mean no job. A job in the suburbs, or a third shift limits opportunities for public transportation.
"You need that vehicle to get the job," explained Marybeth Luing, who found her own wheels in need of repair. "The job wants you to have the vehicle, but you can't afford it without a job."
When Luing's car needed work, she turned to Lift Garage, where clients pay for parts, and a minimal service fee that can save them hundreds of dollar on repairs.
It gave Luing the break she needed. "The difference between paying rent or eating." Luing now has steady work and enough income to price herself out of Lift Garage's services. But there are plenty of others who will benefit.
Lift's waiting list for repairs is about ten weeks long, even after Heying recently opened a fourth service bay.
She's come a long way since her opening in 2013. "We were open one day a week, using only volunteers. And now, four years later, we're open five days a week. We've got four bays and a mobile van, four full-time techs, a part-time tech, and office staff," said Heying.
The garage survives on donations- $15,000 to $20,000 a month just to keep going. "I have a nun who writes us a check for $5 every single month," said Heying. "No amount is too big, I'd just like to point that out," Heying laughed.
With 50 to 60 repairs a month, Heying's idea has turned into a business that has helped thousands of people over the years. None of it would have happened without Heying trusting her gut, and taking a career detour she never expected.
"It just occurred to me that I would regret it more if I didn't try. Even if I failed- if I didn't follow through it felt like the regret of not trying it would haunt me way more than trying it and deciding it wasn't the right thing."