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In 1995, Rebecca Simon was 19 years old and working as a waitress in Whistler, British Columbia. One day she waited on Jacques Villeneuve, who had just won the Indy 500 that same year. Before leaving, Villeneuve tipped Simon $27, which was also his winning car number. His kindness resonated with her, so Simon started following both his career and the sport.
“That was when I knew that was the path I wanted to go down in terms of work,” Simon says. “As I started to grow in my career and learn business, I was more fascinated about the business side versus the athletic side of racing. It fascinated me how a small group of professionals could take a race to and from each city and create an event that people wanted to go to.”
Her interest in racing led her to relocate from Canada to the United States in the early 2000s. She landed in the Racing Capital of the World and pursued roles with INDYCAR, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and eventually the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). However, in early 2021, Simon decided she wanted to slow down a little bit after taking time to reflect on 2020. So, she left IMS and became a franchise owner for Ace Handyman Services, a subsidiary of Ace Hardware that provides home repair services. (She specifically runs the branch that serves Indy’s northside.) In her role, she manages her franchise and ensures timely and respectful customer service.
We caught up with the racing enthusiast and learned more about Ace Handyman Services, what good customer service looks like, and the downtown Indy space she’s been utilizing the most lately.
Maven superpower: Connecting people. I am just so curious. When people need something, I’m kind of like a walking Yellow Pages.
Why did you decide to open an Ace Handyman Services franchise?
Having worked in the racing community, there’s a lot of brand names. The Ace brand was very compelling to me. It just speaks to credibility and reliability and community because people know it. It’s your local helpful hardware store and, so, the Ace brand was really compelling. There was just the ability to serve the community in a way that there’s a real need for someone to be helpful in a professional, pleasant way.
I knew that there was a need and I could help prove that. That was also a motivator. The other part is that this particular franchise, their leadership, I consider them servant leaders. They’re definitely committed to each other’s success and they are just really a genuine group of people.
Prior to 2020, you had a long history of working in racing. What inspired you to branch out?
The last year has been so challenging for everyone. But I think what it did is it forced a lot of us to slow down. I had a ton of time to reflect on what was important to me and what my values were. I had the opportunity to reflect and really see what opportunities were out there.
I worked with a franchise consultant as well as a business coach to uncover what might be next for me and that slower COVID time really allowed me to do that. I guess I got inspired when I understood that there were options. I recommend to anyone to really not just explore, but use those resources, whether it be a business coach or a franchise consultant. Just start digging around and ask questions.
You mentioned that you worked with a business coach as you decided your next career move. How did that help you?
It allowed me to uncover how to align my personal values with my next role — whether it was to be in corporate or as a business owner. I had not purposefully thought through that before and it really helped me make my decision to invest in myself and the Ace Handyman Services franchise.
Now that you are your own boss, how do you keep yourself accountable?
I now have a responsibility — I have staff members that work not just for me, but with me. That responsibility is motivating enough. I stay grounded in two different ways. Obviously, this is a franchise model, so anytime things might get a little challenging, I recognize that there’s a proven process and a model. I just get back to basics and figure it out.
More importantly, I just recognize that there’s support out there. If I am struggling with anything at any point in my business, I know that there’s someone in the Indy Maven community that would be willing to step up and have a conversation and be supportive in that. I’m not afraid to ask for help, whether it’s with the women in the Indianapolis community or if it’s from my franchise head office. I just stay grounded and know that I’m really not alone.
You’ve been in Indiana for 20 years now. What are some of your favorite places to visit?
There are so many. I love that there’s always something to do in Indianapolis. I’m obviously drawn to local women-owned businesses in particular. Just Pop In is one of my favorite places to go. That’s where I hold a lot of my meetings. Another one of my favorites is Gallery Pastry Shop. I mean, it’s just so funky, chic, and comfortable. And the service is always great. Plus, you can’t get enough of those macaroons.
Being that you work for an Ace subsidiary, do you have any home projects that you’re currently working on?
The irony is that I am not handy. I am not handy at all. I do not want to be handy. I am my perfect client! This is one of the reasons why I bought this business. I can recognize a perfect client just by looking in the mirror. I want the same people to come in and do everything. I am personally not working on any home projects in my home only because I can’t even hire my own guys because they’re so busy!
Customer service is an area you’re particularly passionate about. What does good customer service look like to you?
Being responsive and timely. Even if I don’t have the answer or solution immediately available, at least acknowledge the request or concern. Sunset rule — return or touch all calls or correspondence at least once by the end of the day.
It’s officially fall! Tell us about some activities you’re looking forward to.
Firepit with friends and hoodies!
Name three things you’re loving right now.
I am loving the Skyline Club. The newly renovated space is modern and enjoyable. I enjoy having meetings there and showing off the great views of the city! It is a convenient downtown space to work and happy hour! I also love my book club. We have been meeting every six weeks for over 15 years. It encourages me to read books I would not normally choose. We just read The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen. I have also been loving my Solo Stove – a smokeless fire pit. Bring on fall!
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.