When Renee Millin started working at North Otago Motor Group in 2014, she knew nothing about cars.
Fast forward seven years, Mrs Millin knows more than most people, working as the company’s business manager and new vehicle sales manager for Toyota.
“I never thought I would sell cars, but it is the best job that I’ve ever had – and I love it,” she said.
Dunedin born and bred, Mrs Millin married an “Oamaru boy”, Greg Millin, in 2013. Living in Queenstown at the time, Mrs Millin working for ANZ bank and Mr Millin for brewing giant Lion, they wanted to buy their first home, something “impossible” for them to do in the resort town.
They narrowed their options down to Clinton, Methven and Oamaru, eventually settling on the latter and making the move in 2014.
Mrs Millin was 27 at the time, and struggled to find work.
“I applied for over 30 jobs here in Oamaru, and I only got two job interviews,” she said.
“Because of my age, and that I’d just got married, [everyone] just presumed that I was going to be working five minutes and then getting pregnant.”
One of the interviews was at North Otago Motor Group, for the role of business manager.
Mrs Millin said she knew “nothing” about cars at the time, but she loved a challenge, and with a background in banking, and promotions and sales in the radio industry, thought she would be a good fit for the role.
While it was not part of the job description, from time to time she would talk to people while they were waiting to see a salesperson.
Then one day, she “accidentally sold a car”.
From there, she started working in sales, as well as business management, and when the company underwent a restructure, she moved into the role of new vehicle sales manager for Toyota too.
Working in a male-dominated industry presented some challenges, but Mrs Millin was enjoying smashing the glass ceiling and said North Otago Motor Group was a supportive, family-oriented company.
Mr and Mrs Millin’s first child, Brooke, was born during Level 4 lockdown last year, and Mrs Millin returned to work in March. She said she was lucky the company understood “what it’s like to be a working mum”.
At present, Mrs Millin is working part-time while she cares for her daughter, who needs open heart surgery. Two chambers of Brooke’s heart have not connected, and doctors are concerned about her weight. The 14-month-old weighs just 7kg.
“She’s hitting all her development milestones – she’s walking, jibbering away – apart from her size you wouldn’t know anything was wrong with her.”
For Mrs Millin, one of the best parts of the job was the connection she made with customers.
When Brooke was born, many of her regulars bought her gifts and knitted baby clothing.
“It’s not just about selling the car, it’s actually about the relationship that you make with people.
“They become your friends.”
And she was happy with her family’s decision to move to Oamaru, instead of Clinton or Methven, seven years ago.
“I was possibly a bit negative, because we were moving from Queenstown to Oamaru, but the best thing we’ve ever done for our family was to move here.
“Oamaru has so much to offer, people don’t even realise how lucky they are to live here.”