Norwich to get female friendly garage?

Kim BriscoeA female mechanic who set up her own garage is hoping to breathe life into vacant city centre premises.Kim Briscoe

A female mechanic who set up her own garage is hoping to breathe life into vacant city centre premises.

Caroline Lake, who runs Caroline's Cars at Ashwellthorpe Industrial Estate, harbours a dream of opening her second branch in Norwich and has entered a competition to win �50,000 to fund the expansion.

The 39-year-old opened Caroline's Cars in June 2006, wanting to establish female-friendly garage services, as well as training and advice delivered by female mechanics.

Since then the business has gone from strength to strength and it has always been her dream to open a second garage.

So when she heard about a Barclays bank competition offering great business ideas �50,000, she knew instantly she wanted to enter.

Miss Lake said: 'I first heard about the competition when I saw it mentioned in an email sent to me by a women's networking group.

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'Winning it would mean I can open the new branch later this year. I have most of the business plan and have talked with suppliers and about leasing equipment, like ramps.

'I've even found the perfect premises. It's in Oak Street, used to be a garage, and has been empty for a couple of years now. It's huge and a good location near to the city centre.

'Even before I opened my first garage, I always planned to have more than one. I'd also love for it to be a franchise and one day have one in every town.

'You have to learn the ropes first, which I have done over the past four years and now I feel ready to open a second site.

'I employ two female mechanics as I always wanted to encourage more women in to the trade and I now run workshops for women.

'I'm trying to change the way garages see women, not just as customers, but also those working in the industry.'

The aim of the Barclays Business Take One Small Step Competition is to find people with ambition, passion and, most importantly, a great business idea.

The bank will be giving �50,000 to boost 10 business ideas, as well expert advice from a local business manager.

Miss Lake said about 250 businesses in the region had entered the competition, and judges will be compiling a shortlist of three by May 23.

The three companies will then have to canvass for votes between June 7 and July 4, with the one with the most votes winning the �50,000.

Miss Lake said: 'If we don't win then this puts us further back. I do want to do it, but it will mean I have to go cap in hand to my bank manager to borrow some money.'

Do you have a story about your business? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email