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Success Stories

Client Spotlight: Stefanie Bruinsma, Founder of AutoCate

Stefanie Bruinsma is empowering women to be confident car owners through AutoCate, a membership-based platform that aims to answer any and all automotive questions to drive equality in car maintenance.

April 8, 2024

Stefanie Bruinsma fell in love with cars at just 12 years old. But when she decided she wanted to be an automotive engineer, she was met with statements like, “People who go into engineering have family in engineering.”

Thankfully, her high school shop teacher showed faith in her, giving her challenges and opportunities to grow, but she was still met with a lot of pushback and discrimination being a girl in auto. From co-op to graduation, Stefanie went on to work as a technician at multiple dealerships, but no matter where she went, there was no women’s bathroom, selection for women’s workwear was terrible, and she felt like she needed to hide her femininity.

“I’m sad to say I assimilated. I got quiet, muted…I knew that to ‘sit down and shut up’ was the only way I was going to make it through as a woman in automotive.”

Fostering a deep love of learning

When Stefanie got accepted into Engineering at the University of Waterloo, she had her mind set on going worldwide as some “crazy-cool automotive woman”—and then she found out she was pregnant. Her mind shifted from planning the future to just trying to make it through each day, working various part-time jobs while a busy full-time student and mom.

Through radical perseverance, Stefanie earned her degree and, discovering an itch to keep learning, went on to complete a Masters in Business and Entrepreneurship. It wasn’t long before she started noticing and grieving the lack of female entrepreneurs, and it was that recognition that put a fire in her to put on what would become her signature lipstick and bandana to fix cars online. What started as a social initiative became Miss Mechanic—and then AutoCate.

“AutoCate exists to teach people what they need to know about their cars so they can advocate for themselves with confidence. Women are charged up to 30% more for auto services, with unnecessary payments adding up to $12 billion per year for North Americans. I’ve had the privilege of teaching people about their cars in the garage and have seen the magic that happens when a woman, who has accepted her place in the world, sees that she can do something that is considered way beyond her abilities. She ends up feeling like, ‘What else can I do?!’”

Educating through AutoCate

Stefanie had the perfect mix of experience in automotive and entrepreneurial education to turn helping people who needed car confidence into a business. After lots of research, pitch competitions, and help from co-ops, AutoCate’s website portal is now in beta, ready for sign-ups. Customers of the platform will receive dedicated one-on-one automotive support, maintenance history tracking, monthly virtual workshops, and access to community forums.

Stefanie was able to make the business her full-time focus as of January 2024, with a team of “Cates” behind her—hard-working female mechanics and single moms who volunteer or work part-time for the organization. Stefanie’s transition to full-time has come with more opportunities for public speaking and workshops, including the Women’s Auto Show, which covered everything from carseat safety to seasonal driving. Another workshop is coming up on April 20, with tickets on sale now.

Crucial support from the AC

“A year ago, my sister was hospitalized with stage-4 cancer. It was obviously a tumultuous time, and everyone at the AC was so supportive and empathetic. I really felt the mentors’ efforts to help us make sure AutoCate survived that tough season. I find they’re all so founder-focused; the community at AC:Studio becomes like your personal cheerleaders. And the funding gave us the kickstart that we needed to build something—we wouldn’t be where we are today without it.”

“I guess I’m going to have to get loud”

AutoCate is a voice for women in auto and female drivers everywhere, and they’re not backing down. “If someone really messes up your car, there’s nowhere you can go,” Stefanie says. “There’s no union or mechanics’ body—no accountability. We’re hoping to help solve that.”

AutoCate is there for both the woman who never took a shop class and the man with a language barrier—really for anyone who wants to have confidence going into a car appointment that they’re not getting swindled or deceived. Stefanie is working passionately day in and day out to realize a world in which everyone has the fortitude and know-how to care for their car and where the automotive industry is inclusive and equitable for all.