By Maureen Werther
Dawn Morrison, owner of the Kar-Ma LLC, refers to herself as a “motor head” and confesses that she has loved cars her entire life. So, when she experienced what she calls “an early mid-life crisis,” she figured out a way to turn a passion into a viable business.
The Kar-Ma LLC is a mobile automotive maintenance, detailing, and service business, offering monthly “mini” detailing, auto shuttling service to and from the dealership, emergency automotive assistance and more.
Morrison, who has a degree from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communication, started Kar-Ma in 2009. After working for several years in the trade publication industry in Manhattan, she returned to the upstate area sold advertising for Valpak and air time for radio station WGNA. She reached a point in her career where she decided it was time for a change.
The business began informally at first, with Morrison taking care of cars for her friends. It morphed into a membership service, with Morrison charging a flat monthly rate.
“I don’t think there is really anything like the Kar-Ma, at least not in this region,” said Morrison.
She performs a range of services monthly, on any make of model, including checking and topping off fluids, troubleshooting “check engine” lights, regularly checking tire pressure and tread depth, and many other services. She also keeps spare keys so she doesn’t have to bother clients when she shows up to service a vehicle. The spare-key service is also very helpful and cost-effective when clients lock themselves out of their cars.
She arranges for emergency towing and, because she has discounts with vendors, she can pass savings along to her clients.
Of particular value to many clients is the ease with which Morrison navigates the intricacies of the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
“I take these tasks off my customers’ plates and put them on mine,” she said.
Morrison has added “buyer representative” to her list of services. When it is time to trade in a car, Morrison will evaluate the car, research its re-sale or trade-in value and negotiate with dealers on a client’s behalf. Because she also keeps complete records for clients of work that has been done, the re-sale and trade-in processes are streamlined.
Morrison recalled growing up with “crappy cars” that required ongoing maintenance and repairs.
“I still have a passion for rear-wheel drive, eight-cylinder engine cars. There was so much room under the hood,” she said. “My first car was a 1972 Duster and my mechanic was awesome. He taught me everything,”
Morrison even did her own body work and remembers being in the parking lot at Syracuse University patching up body rust and damage to her car.
“It’s really been a journey,” she said.