Meet Ashley Butler - Vehicle Care RockStar

Meet Ashley Butler – Vehicle Care RockStar

This shop owner puts her chips down on reinforcing work and life skills.

Ashley Butler, franchisor of Ice Cold Air Discount Auto Repair in Tampa, Florida, enjoys a good game of poker. But for her, gambling isn’t just for cards: It’s for life too. Sometimes she wins, and sometimes she loses — but those wins have led her to some big opportunities. After all, not many communication majors graduate college and jump right into purchasing a business — let alone an auto repair franchise. But Butler did just that. Though she started out as a franchisee, she’s now the Beyonce of the company, running the world as the franchisor. But what’s even more impressive is that her days as an entrepreneur began even before graduation.

To learn even more about Butler and her journey to becoming a franchisor, watch this video!

Run the World

Butler’s entrepreneurial mindset developed from a young age. Growing up, she lived with her mother and sister with the support of their community: Butler’s grandmother “Nana,” her aunt Margie, her aunt Michelle and her aunt Marquetta — or “Aunt Quetta,” as Butler calls her. Marquetta was Butler’s first impression of what an entrepreneur could look like. At the time, she worked in women’s fashion, mainly maternity wear, and has now positioned herself in Atlanta real estate.

When Butler began attending the University of South Florida (USF) to get her bachelor’s in communication with a concentration in interpersonal and organizational communication, she got her first taste of entrepreneurism. In her junior year, she answered an ad in the university newspaper looking for workers to earn “$500 a week.” That job was for a Texas-based telecom company.

Butler developed a team of students at USF for the company, and even parents joined in. They built a team in Texas as well, and then Butler got the opportunity to live in Germany for a semester, organizing a European team. Through this job, she met Marc and Wendy Poling, who offered her a position as chief operating officer for their family-run dry cleaner business, Mango Cleaners, in Steffens, Florida. This job afforded Butler the ability to own her first home at the tender age of 20. But she received far more from the Polings than just a job.

“A lot of the ways that I present and sell my value has come from Marc and Wendy and just learning that you want to be Nordstrom’s. I mean, you don’t want to be Walmart, per se. They both have customers, but the level of service that I want to bring is the Nordstrom level. I would not have been in the financial position to buy a franchise at 22 years old if Marc had not been mentoring me from 19 to then to buy a house, own a house and understand what equity was.”

Ice Cold Air Discount Auto Repair, Tampa, Florida
One of the Ice Cold Air Discount Auto Repair locations in Tampa, Florida.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Yes, you read that right — Butler bought into the Ice Cold Air franchise at just 22 years old. To do so, she sold her shares of Mango Cleaners back to the Polings and accessed the equity of her home. But running a business is expensive, and one of Butler’s greatest challenges at the time — aside from jumping into a completely new industry and having to learn it from the ground up — was relearning how to manage money and her finances.

“In business, you know, you can run out of money quick: That’s the blood and the lifeline. I ended up borrowing money the wrong ways, I’ve wasted so much good profit just paying interest. And I would say that was a big lesson. That was tough. I knew that I had to get better financially if I was going to make it,” Butler confesses.

Knowing firsthand how difficult a struggle it is to get an education and start a business, Butler was determined to help other underprivileged youth gain access to these opportunities. As a result, she helped found the Black Leadership Network at the University of South Florida, which creates programming as well as scholarships and endowments for black students. Butler’s goal is to help all youth understand that they have the opportunity to receive a higher education, which is one of the main reasons she is a proud member of the Florida College Access Network board of advisors.

Of course, Butler also strives to help her own employees develop soft skills, such as money management, in order to help them achieve their goals — which, she says, in turn helps Ice Cold Air achieve its own.

Ashley Butler is a firm believer in higher education and helps underprivileged youth realize that such paths are open to them.

Life Is a Gamble

In January 2023, Butler transitioned from franchisee to franchisor. Her goal is to grow Ice Cold Air to 40 locations in Florida by April 2033. To do so, of course, means growing and retaining a large team of technicians. However, that doesn’t intimidate Butler. In fact, her favorite part of the job is leadership development. Certainly, she wants her staff to grow in technical skills and bay management, but the most rewarding part of the job for her is showing her staff how they can build up their personal assets and grow their own aspirations. She wants to help franchisees move from being shop folks to business owners with succession plans for their own legacies. In other words, she hopes her professional legacy is “leading and co-creating the most blue-collar millionaires in Ice Cold Air’s history.”

To do that, she has given her staff “permission to succeed.” That means giving them permission to fail as well, she notes. As such, she invites her franchisees, employees, teammates and directors to bring issues to the forefront, and Ice Cold Air has adopted a system where the leadership team solves issues every week.

In addition, Butler brings in guest speakers from such places as life insurance companies and banks to talk to staff about how they can build better life plans. According to Butler, her team members have been refreshed by these speakers, saying they’ve never worked for employers who cared about them or what they wanted out of life.

Ashley Butler

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