Jerry’s Abra in Minnesota Boasts Legacy of Women Leaders

The facility is owned, managed and staffed by multiple generations of women.


As International Women’s Day is celebrated March 8, Jerry’s Abra, located in Mankato, MN, serves as a role model for traditional male-oriented business who want to attract and retain great women. Under the leadership and guidance of one of the collision repair industry’s legends, Geralynn Kottschade, Jerry’s Abra has provided a vibrant culture and environment for several women to enter and grow in the field for many years.

Jerry’s Abra opened Oct. 15, 1971, and today, the facility is still owned by Jerry and Geralynn Kottschade, who just retired. Their daughter, Laura, has become the second-generation owner. The family works side by side with 35 well-trained, dedicated and conscientious co-workers.

Laura carries on the Golden Rule business philosophy the Kottschades built their business on -- treat your customers and business partners like you would want to be treated. Jerry’s Abra has gone through many changes over the last few years but has continued serving the community. And Laura's mother’s legacy of championing women in the industry continues, as well.

Leah Slette grew up around the automotive industry and put that experience to work in dealerships before joining Jerry’s Abra.

“My dad was a frame and alignment specialist in the auto body world,” Slette said. “An opportunity presented itself on the dealership side where I was working in the warranty and service departments for years before switching to the other side of the automotive world and following in his footsteps. It's empowering, for the most part, having knowledge within an industry that used to be viewed as more of a man’s line of work. Sometimes you'll still get a male customer that will only work with a male as they feel they are the only ones that know what they're talking about when it comes to cars and trucks. But I feel like having women behind-the-scenes and as the customer-facing representative of the business is very rewarding and a comfort to people.”

Kylie Slette, Leah’s daughter, followed her mother into the industry.

“I had been out of school for about six months and wasn't sure what I wanted to do,” said Slette. “My mom also happens to work at Jerry's Abra so she is the one who introduced me to the field. My favorite part about working here is the team of people. We have fun while working together, everyone is here to help each other out when needed, and I am always learning something new.”

Heather Hoffman was inspired to join the industry by her father, and aims to change the industry little by little.

“I grew up in the shop with my dad, it's always been second nature to me,” said Hoffman. “I may not be back working on the vehicles but even just being in the environment is nice! I think I give things a lot more thought and pay attention to a lot more details than a male would. Females do pay attention to detail a lot more than males and we are a lot better at multi-tasking. I think having more women involved in the industry will help change the stereotypes little by little. Women are just as strong and just as good to work in a more ‘male-focused’ job. Women are fully capable of doing this job!”

Gwen Oldenburg has become a role model for the men with her attention to detail in the detail department.

“I was looking for a job with more consistent pay and hours,” said Oldenburg. “The detail position at Jerry's Abra really fit what I was looking for. I really like the schedule and that I'm able to get direct feedback from the owner about my performance and what is going on in the shop. I feel that I'm often a bit more organized than the men in my bay. I also sometimes have a different viewpoint of why/how a vehicle came to be in the condition it is in. I tend to be more detail-oriented about how the final product looks and think about how the customer feels when they get their car back.”

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