From Dreams to Reality: A Family’s Inspiring Journey to Business Ownership

How a Tragic Life Event Acted as a Catalyst for Change for the Guerrero Family

Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Winter 2023


SUMMER AND MARK GUERRERO HAVE DREAMT OF OWNING A BUSINESS since they started dating in high school. As they grew older and started a family, their priorities shifted, and their goal of business ownership was placed on the back burner.

Summer was working as a firefighter — something she had always hoped to accom- plish — while Mark had used his skills as a technician to work at a dealership. Despite his discontentment at work, they were doing what they needed to do to support their family.


The Guerreros' life turned upside down when Summer was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. After recovering from an aggressive chemotherapy treatment plan, Summer gained a new perspective.

“Mark supported me in my dream to be a firefighter,” said Summer. “Following my treatments, I realized the path that I was taking was not our true path. It wasn't our dream. Once I was well enough to think straight again, I realized that Mark had supported me to live my dream and follow a career path I was passionate about, and I wasn’t helping him live his dream. That became our main goal. You realize that life is short, and you have to go and get it.”


This realization prompted Summer to take the first step towards business ownership.

“One day, I surprised Mark at his work,” said Summer. “Mark was at the dealership and frustrated with how things were going, and I said, ‘You know, I think it's time we found a building.’ There was a building we always looked at as we passed by every day. It was a two-bay shop, and we knew that'd be a great startup. I put the money down one day, grabbed the keys, and headed to the dealership. I told Mark to pick up his toolbox and handed him the keys and said, ‘This is your new job.’”

Although this was a huge step forward, Summer and Mark had a long road ahead. They would have to build their shop from the floor up before they could fully open for business.

“When we first opened, there was nothing in this shop,” said Mark. “We had to cash out our 401(k) to purchase everything to get up and running. I felt like we needed to start without any loans right out of the gate. I knew if something happened and the shop didn't do very well, I could go back to working and still maintain what we had taken on finan- cially. We spent the first two months getting the shop set up.”

The first few months were slow. Being first-time business owners, Summer and Mark didn’t know how to manage the work- load and build a customer base.

“We didn't know anything about adver- tising,” said Mark. “We didn't know anything about getting the word out. It took probably three months or so before it was consistent. I learned pretty quickly that we can't do it with just one person. Answering the phone and getting cars checked in and worked on was impossible. We still didn't hire anybody because we didn’t have the funds. Had I known then what I know now, I would have hired somebody — that would have helped bring the funds in much faster.” 

Mark worked long and hard to keep the shop in business, while Summer worked as a firefighter to support them.

“I worked from anywhere from four in the morning until midnight, seven days a week, just to keep work moving along,” said Mark, “I was reaching burnout pretty quickly because it was a lot of work.”


With little energy left and an uncertainty of what to do next, they knew they needed help.

“Within six months, we had exhausted our knowledge,” said Summer. “We didn’t know the next steps. We didn't know how to get employees, the right time to get employees, or how you know that you can afford to add staff. We had so many questions.”

One day, Summer and Mark received an advertisement for a consulting agency.

“We are firm believers that things happen for a reason,” said Summer. “We got a mailer for an industry-specific consulting company. We thought it was too good to be true. It was so amazing that I threw it away.”

After thinking about it, they decided this was what they needed. They pulled the pamphlet out of the trash and called their new business coach.

“If you feel like you have plateaued and don't know what to do next or where to get answers, you know it's time for someone industry-specific to guide you,” said Summer.

It wasn’t always easy to take their coach’s advice. The first few meetings were filled with disagreements. Mark felt he knew what was best for the business and didn’t trust an outsider to guide his decisions. The coach provided useful insight to help guide their staffing decisions, a problem they had been experiencing for far too long. After this advice proved helpful, they built a healthy relationship with their coach and started to see real change in their business.

“If they're not being blunt, then they're not the right coach for you,” said Summer. “Since our first coach, we had some coaches that were not holding us accountable to the degree we needed, so we didn’t progress.”

By 2011, Summer and Mark moved to a six-bay location, and two years later, Summer came to work at the shop full-time.


Summer and Mark hope to continue to grow their business and add additional locations in the area.

The Guerreros credit MWACA and its support for all independent shop owners in the Midwest for continued success. The training and peer support available to inde- pendent shop owners are valuable tools that can help change the industry.

Summer and Mark have been involved with MWACA since 2000, and Summer is thrilled to continue to support the industry through her role as MWACA president.

“I love this industry, and I love the busi- ness owners — they're so smart,” said Summer. “It's crazy to see all the different visions and ideas they can come up with.”

With an insider perspective of the indus- try, Summer understands the impact orga- nizations like MWACA have on its members.

“We do not always get the recognition we deserve,” said Summer. “MWACA does a good job of showing us how to keep going and to be better and to be the leaders of this industry and make changes for the better.”

Whatever your motivation is for becoming a shop owner and growing your business, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Through the assistance of industry experts and peers, the Guerreros harnessed a life-al- tering event as motivation to live their dream and succeed as a family business.