Brakes for Breasts’ Continued Growth
In late 2014, Ratchet+Wrench profiled the work Ohio shop owners Laura Frank and Leigh Anne Best were doing with their then-fledgling organization, Brakes for Breasts. Established in 2011, Brakes for Breasts raises funds for the Cleveland Clinic Breast Cancer Vaccine Research Fund by partnering with industry vendors and shops to offer free brake pads or shoes for the month of October, then donating a portion of each brake job to the fund. That fund supports Dr. Vincent Tuohy, who leads a laboratory team creating a vaccine that, thus far, has been 100 percent successful in preventing breast cancer in laboratory animals.
Since that 2014 profile, the organization has continued to grow to more than 138 shops in 34 states and two countries, which combined have raised more than $750,000—making Brakes for Breasts the Cleveland Clinic’s largest third-party contributor. In 2019, as the organization nears its 10th anniversary, Best says it will pass the $1 million mark.
Ratchet+Wrench recently sat down with Best, marketing director at Mighty Auto Pro in Medina, Ohio, to discuss the growth over the years and how shops can get involved before the month of October.
Why was this the cause that you chose?
Brakes for Breasts started after Laura’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. sSe wanted to make a difference and spread the word to people, particularly since ovarian cancer is linked to breast cancer and pancreatic cancer.
When Laura and I came up with Brakes for Breasts, there were two things that were super important. As we began this journey, we will always donate 100 percent of every penny we raise. We’re essentially two volunteers; our budget is literally zero dollars. We’re as grassroots as we come.
We had to find the right benefactor for our funds. We did a ton of research. We found Dr. Tuohy in our own backyard—and that’s the beauty of it. We get to see what they do on a regular basis. When we do that official check presentation, we’re in their labs, among their team, we’re talking to them. We have direct access to Dr. Tuohy. If we want an update, we just call him and we talk. How many times do you donate money to where you get that kind of closeness with the recipient of your funds?
How did you determine this was the best way to go about making the most impact?
It’s a win for the customer because they get free brake pads. Vendors donate brake pads, but they get our service for the month because you are committing to your vendor to order all parts for each brake job and any other parts required for that vehicle. And then the shop donates 10 percent to the Breast Cancer Vaccine Fund.
The other reason it works so well is the turnkey nature. On our website, it’s done for you. We have all the marketing materials you need, which is extremely helpful for a lot of shops that aren’t great at it. We have scripts on the website of how to get vendors on board. We have a flyer they can hand directly to the vendor, press releases, you can order all the materials or logos.
Can you talk about growth over the years?
The first year, we had five shops. It was our shops and a friend down the street. But, we raised $10,000. That was pretty exciting. That’s when we thought, “This could be something.” Then, we got so many shops on board. It took on a life of its own.
The second year, we had all of this marketing done for shops.
Every year, we add something more to make it easier to participate. When you talk about the transitions, we used to print the sign-off form and fax it in. They would send the check to us but make it payable to the Cleveland Clinic vaccine fund. I would then photo copy each check, log it on to an Excel spreadsheet and give our contact this huge pile of checks. It was nuts! That’s when we decided automation was our friend.
We’ve acquired many more skillsets since we started this. When we need a website, we’ll ask people we know. Laura learned how to do Wordpress sites. We’ve had a lot of wonderful people volunteer their services. We’ve maintained that since 2011.
But perhaps the best thing that’s happened is Dr. Tuohy’s continued passion and dedication to make this vaccine a reality. We are so very close to bedside trials after 13 long years.
If another shop owner has a passion and wants a project like this, what has been the key to being able to do this?
Bar none, the support we get from our industry is amazing. It started with repair shops but it’s morphed into the support of our industry supporters and vendors. So many people have reached out to help us spread the word—Laura and I just coordinate. It’s their support that makes it happen.
You’re both still heavily involved in your shops. What does a project like this do to the culture at your shop?
Our whole staff gets behind it. We have a goal and they’re telling me all the time, “We only need this many more.” It brings a lot of energy to the shop. It’s always interesting watching when we discuss Brakes for Breasts with our team; you can see the team members that have been there since the beginning jump in and take ownership. They’re so excited. They remember when it was our shop and a neighboring shop. They have a sense of pride and ownership in it.
When you look at not just our shop but also our facebook page—it’s the bomb. When you see all the shops and their teams, it’s very inspiring.