Ten years before Katie Inge was even born, her father was laying the groundwork for the business that would eventually become hers.
A.J. Inge started working for Maaco in Richmond, VA, before he was transferred to a manager position in Chesapeake. He bought the franchise on Smith Avenue in 1983.
Maaco, which started in 1972 in Wilmington, DE, provides auto paint and collision repair at more than 500 locations nationwide.
Katie, now 24, bought 10 percent of the business in 2015 and became her father’s partner. While he still comes in to the office a couple of times each week for an hour or two, Katie is the primary go-to person.
“I’m so proud of her; she’s passed my expectations,” A.J. said. “She works very hard. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
When Katie was a teenager attending school at Hickory High, she began accompanying her father to work.
“He gave me an option to do whatever I wanted to do (for work),” Katie said. “I decided this is what I wanted to do.”
It started with simple tasks---sweeping the floor and taking out the trash. Before long, she was working her way up and learning “the back of the shop,” too.
“He made me learn all of the back of the shop … sanding, taping and all the steps in order to get the cars ready to be painted or the body work on them to get them fixed,” she said. “He’s hands-on, so he taught me everything.”
In 2013---after two years of night classes while working full-time in the shop---she earned an associate degree in business management from Tidewater Community College.
Wise beyond her years, Katie said she knows the importance of an education and said it helped her with the front end of the business.
Being the only female in the shop seemed tough at first, but Katie said she earned respect and credits a great team of about 18 employees who not only work well together, but also play together.
“We go out on fishing trips and picnics,” she said. “It’s very family-oriented here.”