Breaking Barriers: The Latina Entrepreneur Driving Change in Iowa’s Towing Industry Central Iowa’s

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Photo by Jennifer Marquez/Hola Iowa
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First Latina-Owned Towing Company Caters to All

By Christina Fernández-Morrow, Hola Iowa

Stephanie Rodriguez grew up around cars. Her family owns and operates Cotofo’s Auto, a car repair shop on the east side of Des Moines. She spent years working alongside her dad and brothers and noticed that some customers had no way of getting their car to the shop for repairs. It gave her an idea and in 2018 she opened Iowa First Call Towing. “It was always upsetting when they had no way to get their vehicles to us,” recalls Rodriguez. “They would call to see if we knew any tow business that could help them in Spanish. There were not a lot of options. Towing companies had limited service or ran for certain hours.” She decided to stand out. First, she made sure to have comprehensive insurance coverage to protect her and her customers. “There were other towing options, but a lot of them weren’t insured and you want to have liability when you’re towing someone’s car.” Next, she tackled reliability, making sure to run a 24-hour service. The name comes from the idea that her business will be the first thought when anyone needs towing services. Rodriguez wanted her company to be easy to remember for both English and Spanish speaking customers, having seen the difficulty some monolinguals had recalling her family’s repair shop. 

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As the sole female employee, Rodriguez does not shy away from the day-to-day operations of running a tow company. Whether it’s jump starting a dead battery in the dead of winter or winching and extracting a vehicle stuck in a ditch, she’s out there getting the job done. She knows how to attach cars to the truck, load them, and navigate through side streets and highways towing cars safely to their destination. “It took practice, especially driving it through the streets,” recalls Rodriguez of her first few times operating the tow truck when she first started her business. Today, there are 4 employees who share the responsibilities.

Photo by Jennifer Marquez/Hola Iowa

She enjoys working with customers, most of whom are surprised to learn that she is the owner. “They did not want to understand that I was the one in charge and I was able to help out more than the men,” she says. After a few minutes of interaction, customers relax because they can tell that Rodriguez knows what she’s talking about. “I’m used to people being surprised that I’m a woman, a Hispanic woman,” she says with a smile. It’s clear she enjoys smashing stereotypes and proving them wrong. 

Being the only woman in a room full of men and cars doesn’t intimidate Rodriguez. The petit entrepreneur has big plans for her business that include expansion to other states. Since her company is only six years old, she knows there’s time for growth. “I haven’t thought much about passing it on,” she says when asked about whether another Latina might be the next CEO of her business. “I would like to keep it woman owned. We need more women out there to prove we can do anything.” Given how much she has already done to even the playing field in her industry, there’s no doubt Rodriguez will find another fierce and fearless female to take the reins when she’s ready to tackle new adventures.

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JEFAS Magazine is a collaboration of writers, photographers, social media managers, editors, translators, and designers from across Illinois, Iowa and the Midwest – all of whom are Latinx. It is the first magazine created by the Latinx community, for the Latinx community that focuses on how they are boosting the economy, giving back, and filling the gap between what is needed and what is available in the state. 

To see the locations where you can find the magazine visit @JEFASMagazine on Instagram and TikTok

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You can find the digital magazine here:

https://holaamericanews.com/jefas-latinas-in-business-magazine-may-2024/

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