Inspirational Woman: Steph Savill | Entrepreneur & Founder of FOXY Lady Drivers Club

stepsavill2751Steph Savill set up the UK’s first motoring club for women after her daughter’s bad garage experience. She wanted to make sure that other Mums and daughters didn’t get treated that badly in future. She runs the UK’s award-winning motoring club for women, FOXY Lady Drivers Club, and a network of female friendly garages, repairers, car dealers and insurance brokers.

Tell us a bit about your background and what you do now

I run FOXY Lady Drivers Club which is a motoring support organisation for women providing a range of advisory services, special offers, inside information and local feedback. I also run the FOXY Lady Approved female friendly garage, repairer and car dealer network that we promote to women.

Before that I worked in the leisure industry. Then I took my MBA (in between my stepdaughter’s bad garage experience and deciding to set up FOXY) which meant I could do some research and get my commercial ducks in a row. I am also a Chartered Marketer, had spent ten years working for a membership organisation and my husband runs a classic car club, was a motoring journalist and previously ran his own IT company. All our skills and experience came together to gave us the confidence to go it alone even though I had never worked in the motoring industry before.

I’d also like to see more women running their own businesses in the motor industry. After all, in a decade or so there’ll be more women drivers than male ones on UK roads and we’ll want service levels to reflect our tastes, not those that men have put up with for years.

What made you think you could do something better for women than exists?

My attitude remains that the industry is run by and for men and in many cases standards are too low. By working with businesses that want to get things right for fussy females we are effectively raising the quality bar for men too. I didn’t for one moment think we couldn’t do a better job; in 2004 we were the only motoring business representing the female voice of motoring so the only way was up!

I still find it shocking that so few female motorists know that UK garages don’t have to be licensed or mechanics qualified to repair or service our cars. The same applies to the sale of used cars where women are far too trusting and often come a cropper. And my blood still boils when I hear of women paying over the odds for a new car because they didn’t know how far to haggle, if at all.

I wanted to name and shame all those unethical businesses that treated women badly from behind closed doors, within the Club. We’re doing this most effectively now; very few businesses are prepared for us to tell Club members and their families that they treated another female motorist so badly.

We’re curious about your choice of name…

The name of a business is SO important. I wanted mine to say what we did but not to be boring. In ten years FOXY has become a feisty female brand meaning ‘savvy and discerning’ which is what I believe women need to be to get a fair deal in the motor industry, even today. We did struggle in the early days with internet searches for ‘foxy lady’ going to unpleasant websites but we’ve left them behind at Google now and whilst some men can get the wrong impression about us, on balance it’s a memorable name that few forget.

How do you decide which garages or dealers to introduce to women?

They have to meet our standards first. We then award them FOXY Lady Approved ie female friendly status. We look for measurable signs of quality, to do with the standard of workmanship, customer service awards and so on. We like to see females in customer facing roles and we’re fussy about feedback ratings, especially where this looks rigged. The garages, accident repairers, used car and franchised car dealers we work with have to meet our standards, get a compliance check every two years, must sign our FOXY Promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell women anything they don’t need’ and have to provide a minimum level of feedback each year to monitor their performance.

How have things changed for your business since 2004?

The number of women drivers in the UK has risen dramatically. Now we account for 40% of all drivers and influence 80% of all new car sales. This means that more businesses are starting to appreciate the value of our business; they want to understand what women want and how they might be seen as more female friendly than their competitors. The Club is now operated on a not for profit basis, funded by subscriptions from the garages, repairers and dealers we work with. We also have a small insurance service on the side where we introduce women to a growing network of FOXY Lady Approved and FCA registered insurance brokers. After the recent EU Gender Directive we find that many women are paying more than they need to for car insurance and most of us welcome a bit of personal service here as an alternative to the comparison websites.

Finally Steph, are there any challenges left for you?

I like a good challenge and I don’t see me ever hanging up my Choos thinking the job is done. I am now turning my attention towards getting more women into the motor industry. In the Boardroom, on car showroom floors and even in workshops. Young women are outperforming young men in STEM subjects at GCSE levels but then they’re heading off into stereotypical careers for women. I suspect this is because they don’t know about other exciting career choices and what they could be missing in the motor industry.

I’d also like to see more women running their own businesses in the motor industry. After all, in a decade or so there’ll be more women drivers than male ones on UK roads and we’ll want service levels to reflect our tastes, not those that men have put up with for years.

There’s still so much to be done.

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