Mark Smith isn't one to look the other way. When he sees a need, he addresses it.
Smith, who owns four Richmond-area Midas car care franchises, uses those businesses to support causes he considers critical. He brings in blood donors for Virginia Blood Services, and he rounds up donations to support FeedMore, the region's food bank.
He started his company blood drives in 2001, his reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He offered free oil changes to every blood donor.
"We got maybe 27, 28 pints of blood the first time," he said. Now, he said, he'll get 400 pints in a drive.
His shops hold five drives a year. "Virginia Blood Services allows you to donate up to five times a year. You never have to pay for an oil change," Smith said.
He said his company's blood drives account for 2½ percent of Virginia Blood Services' annual collections.
Smith's arrangement with FeedMore started in 2002. Once again, he struck a deal with his customers: Instead of paying the standard $16 for a state inspection, car owners who donated $10 to the food bank got a free inspection.
Again, after a modest start, the program took off. "Last year we took in $83,000 in donations," Smith said. "This year we'll go somewhere north of six figures."
His shops remain profitable, he said, because "we do plenty of business." He said his Short Pump Midas at 11463 W. Broad St. generated $3.4 million in revenue last year, the "largest volume of any Midas in North America."
A former Retail Merchants Association Distinguished Retailer of the Year and Henrico Community Leader of the Year, Smith isn't standing still with his community involvement.
Determined to add more fresh food to the FeedMore pantry, Smith helped develop an arrangement with Shalom Farms to bring in 35,000 pounds of fresh produce. His goal is to work up to 100,000 pounds.
And he said in September that he plans to help St. Joseph's Villa with its array of family services. "I'm not sure what we're going to do," he said, "but we're going to do something."
IN HIS WORDS
A small moment in life with a big impact
We have helped the team at FeedMore feed a lot of kids. On a food backpack delivery run I made, I arrived at the first community center where I would drop off some of the backpacks. The bed of my Tundra probably had 160 backpacks in it. One of the kids from the center jumped on the bumper of my truck and ran his arms/hands over as many backpacks as he could touch, letting out one long “WWWOOOWWW!” I drove away wondering when the last time was I had a three-second "wow." When was the last time you had a three-second "wow"?
"Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time," by Howard Schultz and Dori Jones Yang. It's the best example of the power of passion that I have ever read. If your heart owns the belief that you can, you will.
Alternate profession or course of study
Coming out of high school, I wanted to study marine biology but didn’t want the student debt I’d incur for the schools I would attend. To this day, I really enjoy many things in that area.
Something you'd like to do
Take a month off - drive to Cannon Beach, Ore., with Patty and the dogs and enjoy the symphony of the Pacific surf every morning and every night.
When I get asked to speak and have folks come up me afterward with the understanding that they can be all the change agent they choose to be. Once they "Cube their F" - finding, feeding and fueling their passion - they become a part of the solution.
Something that might surprise others
As a kid I was really shy, and when the doors to the stores are locked, introversion continues to be a very enjoyable approach to life.
My father-in-law, Eddie Gozdecki. He had a relationship and friendship power about him that was amazing.
Favorite thing about Richmond region
The people - this is a community that gets it. There are so many folks - small business owners, community change agents, educators - that do so much. It’s a great place to be!
Position: owner, Midas of Richmond
Born/hometown: March 19, 1963; Salina, Kan.
College: Rutgers University (bachelor's in marketing), Northern Illinois University (executive MBA)
Family: wife Patty