Today, November 23rd marks the 10 year anniversary of the Grand Opening of our Scottsdale location. It was a day of excitement and great anticipation for Rich and I. We received well wishes from good friends and new acquaintances and embarked on a journey that we could never have anticipated.
We started DrivingMBA in response to the horrific number of teenage car crash deaths that were taking place in our own community. The Scottsdale Unified school district was hit particularly hard in 2002 and 2003 and by the time the idea germinated and we opened our doors in November 2003, nine students had lost their lives in Scottsdale Unified alone. We didn’t know any of the victims at that time, but over time we have come to know and care very deeply for those that have lost loved ones. One in particular comes to mind, Lisa Johnson, the daughter of Jeanne Fletcher. She died in a car crash in January 2003. It was that crash that accelerated our belief that something different needed to be done. I didn’t know Lisa, nor her mother at the time of Lisa’s death, but I met, and have come to consider Jeanne a very dear friend.
When we opened the doors in 2003 we only offered training on the simulators as we saw ourselves as a complement to traditional driver training done in classrooms and in-vehicle. We learned, however, very quickly, that if parents couldn’t get the “whole package” through us, it was going to be an uphill battle. Beginning in early 2004 and through 2007 we partnered with two different driving schools and learned a great deal about the industry. Suffice it to say, it was an eye-opening experience. By November 2007, due to a whole host of circumstances DrivingMBA became a full service driver training facility, meaning we offered permit classes, simulation labs and on-road instruction. That was the birth of the services we provide today.
This journey has been a roller coaster ride of learning, experience and most definitely emotion. We had many moments when we asked ourselves, do we throw in the towel or do we move forward, as these past 10 years have not been easy. Every time we thought we weren’t going to make it, someone or something happened that kept us moving forward. First and foremost, our very dear friends, Charlie and Laura Sobczak made a huge sacrifice and sold their dream home to invest in DrivingMBA. We are forever grateful to them as they are our partners, but more importantly our dearest friends.
We have had many people come and go over the years who have either given us a hand or provided valuable insight and lessons. Some have been an inspiration and others a disappointment, but all along the way we continued to learn. We have been and continue to be blessed with wonderful employees, either instructors or administrators that have made DrivingMBA what it is today, a school dedicated to the development of safe and responsible drivers. I highlighted one such individual in our October Newsletter, Art Eckstat. In this reflection I would like to acknowledge another, Kathleen Ryan, who has been with us from the beginning. Kathleen started with us as an instructor in the Beginner simulation lab and her invaluable insight and knowledge has provided the framework for the curriculum in both the Beginner and On-Road programs. Kathy is particularly gifted with a deep understanding of special needs and she is the reason we have been able to work with students with Aspergers and other challenges. We are forever grateful that Kathy came into our lives and continues to grace us with her knowledge and presence.
I have, over the years, been thinking about writing a book but the inspiration for the direction isn’t quite there yet. This year in particular, I have found myself very reflective and emotional about where we are and where we still want to be. We started this business with a deep desire to make a difference. We know we have made a difference in many of our student’s lives. We know this because of the many stories we have heard over the years from parents and students. It still is our dream to expand and change the way we prepare novice drivers for the road not only here in Arizona, but in the United States. Unfortunately, this business requires a huge capital investment and we haven’t found the right people yet, but we haven’t given up either.
Thank you to everyone that has supported and believed in DrivingMBA. If not for all of you, friends, parents, students, colleagues, we would not have survived.