By Jamie Oleka

Meet Kamrin Aplanalp, a passionate 28-year-old woman with a love for cars that runs deep in her veins. As she anticipates the arrival of their first child in May, she reflects on the journey she and her husband, Michael, have shared—a journey intertwined with their love for each other and the automotive world. In this exclusive interview, Kamrin shares the unique story of how their love and shared ambition led them to build a life together and thrive as business partners in the European auto repair industry.

Kamrin and Michael’s story began in high school, where a chance encounter in the peer advocates class sparked a friendship that would evolve into something much more. After years of separate paths, they reconnected in 2018, got married in 2019, and embarked on a new adventure—the purchase of MV Automotive, a European auto repair shop. Their decision to blend their personal and professional lives was bold, especially amid the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working together in an autobody shop requires a delicate balance between personal and professional dynamics. Both owners of the shop, Kamrin handles internal financials and systems, while Michael, a skilled mechanic, focuses on repairs and SMOG. Their teamwork has transformed the struggling business into a thriving enterprise and solidified their roles as both life partners and successful business owners.

Managing the complexities of a small business during a pandemic was no small feat. Kamrin reflects on those early days, “We took a significant gamble financially. The business wasn’t doing well, and the former owners lost interest in continuing to build it. But we saw an opportunity to turn things around, and with our house savings, we took a risk and bought MV Automotive in July 2020.” Despite the hurdles, being labeled an essential business allowed them to continue operations during COVID lockdowns, providing a lifeline during those challenging times. In their first year of business, they generated more revenue than in the past 17 years of the shop’s life. 

Navigating the male-dominated auto industry as a female has its hurdles, but Kamrin has earned respect through her knowledge and passion for cars. The couple faced challenges when they first acquired the business, but their grit and commitment to learning and growing together propelled MV Automotive to new heights. Their success is not only measured in revenue but in the tight-knit team of seven, they’ve built.

Kamrin acknowledges her unique position as a woman leading the financials in an industry predominantly driven by men. “Auto repair is strikingly male-driven. It’s rare to have a female interested. I don’t know many females in the industry,” she admits. Despite the challenges, Kamrin has found that respect in the industry comes from knowing your craft. “If you know what you’re talking about, you’ll gain customers’ respect. Otherwise, you can lose it. Sometimes, as a male, even if they don’t know the auto repair industry in-depth, they still have respect.”

Having grown up around cars and with a learner’s mindset, Kamrin quickly gained the trust of her customers. “I like to work with people and get to know them. I’ve gained their respect by knowing the industry well. If you have a learner mindset—understand why the car broke down, what happened, and how to find solutions—you earn credibility.”

Looking ahead, Kamrin and Michael envision personal and professional growth. Kamrin’s goal is to balance motherhood with remote work, while they dream of owning the physical space of their shop, traveling, and semi-retiring by the age of 36. The couple emphasizes the importance of being on the same page, aligning goals, and enjoying intentional time together at their favorite place to relax, Disneyland.

Reflecting on their journey, Kamrin offers advice to other couples considering working together or starting a business: prioritize clear communication, aligned goals, and intentional time for each other outside of work.

“Ensure there is clear communication amongst each other, aligned goals, and a path forward,” she advises. “Make time with each other to unwind and be intentional about spending time with each other outside of work.”

She emphasizes that while the journey may be challenging, the rewards are worth the dedication and hard work. “It is hard, but it does get better. Put your all in it for the first few years, and you’ll get rewarded. Staying on the same path together, communicating well, and ensuring you’re on the same page.”

Kamrin’s journey into business ownership may not have followed a traditional path. “I didn’t go to college, and I’ve never done any business classes. I came into owning a business blindly and learned along the way.” The couple’s commitment to a learning mindset, adaptability, and investing in a business coach has allowed them to overcome obstacles, exemplifying the resilience required to succeed in the fast-paced auto industry. Kamrin and Michael Aplanalp’s story is a testament to the power of love, shared ambition, and the ability to overcome challenges as a couple. Their journey in the auto industry serves as an inspiration for those seeking to blend their personal and professional lives, proving that with determination and a supportive partnership, anything is possible in the fast lane of life.

Jamie Oleka, a wife, girl mom, and a passionate advocate for debt free quality education, has extensive experience in K-12 and nonprofit management having most recently served as a Managing Director at Teach For America. Jamie holds a Masters of Education in Instructional Accommodations from Francis Marion University, Masters of Arts in Teaching, and Ed.S. in K-12 Administration from the University of Louisville.