In 1990, Kaitlyn Szczupak’s father Scott opened a transmission and general auto repair facility in Portsmouth called S&S Transmissions and Auto Repair.
Growing up in the business, she was in awe of her father’s ability to fix things that were broken and how he made something useful out of something that came into the shop useless.
Kaitlyn fell in love with the automotive industry and, soon after graduating high school, sat down with her parents to discuss her ambitions in life — she wanted to take over the family-business one day.
To ensure she was prepared, Szczupak decided to obtain her degree in business management with a focus on small business. She spent her hours away from school at her father’s shop to gain insight into operating an automotive facility.
In February 2016, Kaitlyn’s father unexpectedly passed away, leaving the family devastated. Gone was her father and mentor. Gone was her mother’s best friend.
When most people reach 20 years old, they are still trying to figure out what they want to do in life, but Kaitlyn did not have that luxury. As her family huddled together to grieve and heal, Kaitlyn took charge. She started by filing the necessary paperwork to become the new owner of S&S Transmissions and Auto Repair.
“As difficult as it was to do, I kept my eyes on my goals and future because this was something I was working towards,” said Szczupak, who on Wednesday was named the 2020 Rhode Island Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the Small Business Administration. “I have the best support system behind me, the most important being my mother, she has been by my side through all of it.”
During the next three years, Kaitlyn gathered all she had learned from her father and stepped into the management role full-time. Through many bumps in the road, she provided stability to an unsteady situation while finding time to finish her degree in 2017.
By 2019, Kaitlyn was ready to expand the business. She identified a space in Tiverton, at 793 Main Road, that would allow her to reach new customer bases while retaining her existing customers on Aquidneck island. She approached New England Certified Development Corporation to secure an SBA 504 loan, which would cover the purchase of the building and necessary repairs.
“Since signing for the loan, S&S Transmissions and Auto Repair has been the busiest it has ever been” Kaitlyn said. “Aside from continuing to service existing customers from Aquidneck Island, I have been able to service new customers from five different surrounding locations, as well as build new business relationships with local repair facilities.”
The move has demonstrated a steady positive financial flow furthered through promotional financing that S&S offers to customers who otherwise could not afford the work.
While Kaitlyn finds herself increasingly busy, she still makes sure to find time to give back to the community. Each year she hosts a toy drive for the three veteran hospitals in the area. Kaitlyn even offers to anyone who donates a coupon that can be used for future service, and all the toys collected go to the children of veterans in need.
As an avid animal lover and self-proclaimed “dog mom,” Kaitlyn also donates to the Potter League for Animals in Middletown.
When COVID-19 hit, Kaitlyn continued to push the business forward. She applied for and received and a PPP loan from Baycoast Bank that allowed her to continue to keep her staff on payroll. Throughout COVID-19, Kaitlyn has continued to serve the public and S&S is taking on new employees to expand their services.
Kaitlyn continues to grow the business all while honoring her father’s memory. While challenges will always present themselves, Kaitlyn faces them head on with insight and wisdom far beyond her years.
At 24 years old, she owns and operates her own successful business truly embodying the adage that age is just a number.