Volume XIII | Issue 2 | Fall 2012
Ford Opportunity Scholar Zach Edwards used a work bench for a desk until he had to make room for more auto repair jobs. “So I moved my office onto the second floor overlooking the shop,” he says Photo: Tim Bullard

Scholarship profile

Scholar-entrepreneur achieves business success

Zach Edwards knew he was taking a chance launching a new business in the middle of a recession. He found the confidence he needed in his education. “Having a business degree just gave me so much confidence,” Edwards says. “I knew that when I put together a business plan it was going to be pretty accurate.”

In 2004, Edwards found himself a single parent with an associate’s degree from Rogue Community College and the desire to design cars. He’d just gotten fired from his job at an Ashland auto dealership. “I have never been fired before, but it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” says the Ashland resident.

Edwards has seen a doubling in business revenue every year

He enrolled at Southern Oregon University and, midway through his first year, was named a Ford Opportunity Scholar. The Ford Opportunity Scholarship Program is designed for single parents who are heads of household and who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

In 2008, he graduated from SOU with a business management major and a minor in economics. As he was finishing up his degree, his sister died of brain cancer, and Edwards says her death inspired him to reprioritize his life. “She motivated me to take better care of myself, which allowed me to be more successful as a business owner,” he says.

Edwards did a lot of homework before he invested his time and dollars. “I knew that the trend was going to be that people would stop buying new cars and instead fix up their old ones. And that’s what happened — car sales fell through the floor.”

That was in January of 2009. Today, Ashland Automotive has two mechanics, a service writer and plans for its own building. Edwards has seen a doubling in business revenue every year. He is now able to step away and take the occasional vacation, as well as spend time coaching his 12-year-old son’s baseball team. He was there last spring when his son pitched a no-hitter in the district championship.

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