Kristin Varela is a 30-year old mom of two daughters (ages 4 and 6).
She grew up with brothers, so having girls was sweet revenge. Kristin
has a BS in Zoology with a Spanish minor. Before starting Mother
Proof, LLC she was a stay-at-home mom. Before becoming a mom she was a
researcher and Spanish translator for a human resources firm. Now, she
is the Chief Executive Mother of MotherProof.com
ASK PATTY: How did MotherProof.com start?
Kristin: Mother Proof was born out of necessity. When my daughter started preschool, I began searching for a new family car to accommodate carpooling (I had an Outback which would only fit my two daughters, but no more). My first step in the process was to narrow down my options by researching them online. I was appalled by the lack of information in 'typical' car reviews that was pertinent to me in my everyday life as a women and mother. Car reviews were geared toward car buffs and gear heads, excluding the vast majority of the car buying public - average consumers and also women.
ASK PATTY: What are the challenges for you as a women working in the automotive industry?
Kristin: My biggest challenges aren't specific to the auto industry, but rather to business in general. I had all the cards stacked against me: No business experience, no marketing experience, no automotive knowledge, no journalism experience. There was a huge learning curve for me to ride. I've been lucky enough to hook up with incredible cooperative networkers willing to pitch in and help me learn the ropes. The automotive industry has been incredibly enthusiastic about what Mother Proof is working towards. I have to say, I thought we would have been met with more resistance, but quite the opposite is true.
ASK PATTY: Can you tell me a little bit about your job as Chief Executive Mother with MotherProof?
Kristin: It’s a little like being the Chief Executive Mother at home, overseeing a bit of everything. My main focus is on providing our readers with entertaining, useful and unbiased reviews from their perspective, in their own voice. This means that my team of mom-reviewers and I are always driving test cars in our everyday lives as moms (kids and all in the back), writing reviews, attending media launches, networking, seeking out new business development prospects, maintaining the website, syndicating our column, invoicing, billing and list never ends. All this while juggling family life with two young daughters (ages 4 and 6)- no day care or nanny around here.
ASK PATTY: What if any are the big changes you are seeing today in how vehicles are being marketed to women?
Kristin: The fact that women are the largest percentage of car buyers is becoming common knowledge. The manufacturers have picked up on this and are not only marketing cars more towards this segment, but also designing cars more towards this segment (I.e. Volvo's YCC, and Chrysler's new Yes Essentials stain and odor resistant fabric that's perfect for families with small children likely to spill milk from leaky sippy cups). Its not perfect yet, but they're definitely going in the right direction. The problem is that this mentality has yet to filter down to the majority of car dealers. It’s the 21st century and I was recently told to return to a dealership with my husband before we spoke about financing. Its ridiculous!
ASK PATTY: How has the buying experience changed for women since informative site like Edmunds or MotherProof launched?
Kristin: Education equals empowerment. The more the consumer knows as she enters the dealership the less likely she is to be blown off or taken for a ride. Mother Proof makes this education process less painful (and even entertaining) by speaking to our readers in a casual tone, as if we're girlfriends just chatting over coffee.
ASK PATTY: In your experience, what seems to be the top concern or need for women and moms when they are researching/buying a car?
Kristin: Well, safety is always huge. But there's plenty of information out there to be found about vehicle safety. Most women we've heard from feel overwhelmed by the whole car buying process. It’s a huge decision, and people simple don't want to make a $30,000 mistake.
ASK PATTY: Tell me about your most recent personal experience buying a vehicle. What vehicle did you buy, and why did you buy it?
Kristin: I still own the same old Outback that I had before Mother Proof's inception, although its quite neglected just sitting in my garage while I test drive other cars. I haven't driven my poor old car in probably two years. I bought it through a broker (a much less painful experience than a dealer) and was convinced by its AWD (I live in Colorado, so this is a necessity), fuel economy, leather seats (easy cleanup of kiddie-spills), and its feeling of "sticking to the road like glue" - a huge change form the big SUV I was in previously.
ASK PATTY: What is one piece of “good” advice you would give women before they buy a new vehicle?
Kristin: Don't get sucked in by the stereotypes, "I'm having baby number three so I have to buy a minivan or a Suburban." Families come in all shapes and sizes, as do family cars. There's a perfect car out there just waiting to make your daily life easier and more efficient, its just a matter of finding it. Research, research, research, and test drive as many cars as you can to decide for yourself which features are most important to you. Also, try to finagle 24 hour test drives so you can make sure the car fits into your life the way you'd like it to.
ASK PATTY: If you could give the manufacturers one piece of advice, what would it be?
Kristin: Read Mother Proof reviews to see how real women react to your vehicles.