Laissa Sanchez, 35
Managing partner, Alpine Buick-GMC South
As a college intern pursuing a career in broadcast news, Laissa Sanchez became the face of Alpine Buick-GMC in Denver, appearing in TV commercials and infomercials that aired on the local Spanish Telemundo channel.
Fast-forward 15 years and Sanchez is managing partner and general manager of Alpine Buick-GMC South in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"What I thought started as a one-month, one-time gig ended up being a 15-year gig," Sanchez said.
Sanchez, who has a bachelor's degree in journalism and with a minor in marketing from Metropolitan State University in Denver, said she realized during the filming of those commercials that she had a passion for auto retail.
In 2011, she officially went to work for Alpine Buick-GMC in Denver after appearing in the store's commercials for years.
"I started in sales, and I worked myself up all the way to GM," Sanchez said. "I worked in every position. I was in finance, used-car manager, new-car manager."
Years later, dealership owners Ivette Dominguez, an Automotive News 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry honoree in 2020, and Mike Drawe, gave Sanchez her big break: They offered the then-general manager the opportunity to become a managing partner in a new store. Sanchez and Dominguez acquired Alpine Buick-GMC South in November 2018.
With Sanchez at the store's helm, vehicle sales more than tripled in 2019 compared with 2018, she said.
The sales gains led the store to the No. 1 spot for both GMC and Buick in its region in 2019, an achievement the store has maintained, Sanchez said.
Last year presented new challenges. Amid the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, vehicle sales at the dealership were prohibited. So Sanchez helped create an online showroom for vehicle purchases and a no-contact service concierge program.
"We rose to the occasion and used technology to our favor, and we became a full-service online dealership," she said.
Sanchez now aims to spend more time in the community and working with charities. She'd like to encourage more women to work at dealerships and more students to pursue auto retail as a career path.
"We need to make the auto industry more appealing to these new generations," she said.
— Melissa Burden