Irma Elder turns hardship into entrepreneurship has 400 employees nationwide

Irma Elder experienced her moment of truth 26 years ago when her husband died. The young woman was left with her three children and the auto dealership she and her husband had been building since the late 1960s. She could have sold it and moved on. She chose to take the reins herself and become a player in the car sales business.

It’s a decision that ensured the economic future of her growing family and the community. Ford signed off on her takeover of the dealership. She bought another dealership, and then another. Today the Troy resident’s business, Elder Automotive Group, employs 400 people across the U.S.

“There were many nights when I thought I was crazy,” Elder says. “I thought I would wake up and quit the next day. But the sun came up and everything turned out fine.”

That was far from a sure thing for Elder. She was born in Mexico to Syrian immigrants before eventually moving to the U.S. and taking citizenship. English became her second language and building successful businesses became her career. The recent economic downturn caught her by surprise, but she has faith that it’s nothing her country resiliency and penchant for hard work can overcome yet again. Who can argue with a philosophy that took a widowed immigrant and her family so far?

“I never thought of myself as having done something extraordinary,” Elder says. “I have always thought I survived.”

Source: Irma Elder, CEO of Elder Automotive Group
Writer: Jon Zemke