Rayhanneh MazinaniRayhanneh Mazinani


Interview: How one woman blazed a trail in the male-dominated automotive industry

  • Rayhanneh Mazinani tells Car Dealer how she fought professional adversity to succeed in business
  • Her vehicle sourcing firm Trayd was started in 2021, since when it has enjoyed a turnover of nearly £7m
  • She tells how stock profile is changing – and why she’s steering clear of EVs at the moment

Time 7:51 am, April 20, 2023

A West Yorkshire woman is blazing a trail in the vehicle sourcing sector after a radical change in career path and battling against a male-dominated industry.

Rayhanneh Mazinani started her professional life as a sales manager at Debenhams and then with Benefit Cosmetics after gaining a BSc in economics and management in 2014.

But she soon began to grow dissatisfied with her job – and after a few years working in car sales, where she said she found her gender meant she had more to prove, she founded vehicle sourcing and supply firm Trayd in 2021, which has since enjoyed a turnover of almost £7m.

Talking about her pre-automotive career, she said: ‘Retail is typically quite a demanding sector and it’s very underpaid, so although it was leadership and management roles that I had, they were really, really underpaid.

‘At that point in the job there was no progression, there was no incentive to stay, but I was wanting to carry on moving up.

‘Someone said to me, “Try selling cars – you can make a load of money selling cars”.’

So Mazinani traipsed the length of Gelderd Road in Leeds with her CV in hand, asking every dealership for a job.

She didn’t have a driving licence at that point, but still got a couple of job offers with the proviso that she pass her test – which she did within six weeks. And that was it!

‘I fell in love with the motor trade,’ she said. ‘I found it really tough actually – it’s quite a harsh environment compared to other industries.

‘It’s a lot tougher but it toughened me up, which I’m really, really pleased about – it’s one of the best things that ever happened.’

However, she still found herself struggling to progress – as well as finding she had more to prove being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

‘I was absolutely desperate to progress, chomping at the bit but it just wasn’t fast enough.

‘If I’d applied for a sales manager job they would look more favourably at a man with 20 years more experience.

‘Time in service is a big thing in the motor trade but it’s not necessarily that important.

‘So from there I decided to set up on my own. I’d always wanted to own my own business but I didn’t have the confidence – my main concerns were will I give up? Am I strong enough?

‘I had no money. I didn’t know if I was ready to do it. I lacked a lot of confidence. So it was a big leap of faith. I handed my car back. So I didn’t have a car temporarily. It was quite tough, but I’d become so unhappy in the job that I was in.

‘I now have a really good relationship with the men that I work with. It was actually harder being a sales exec.

‘It’s harder to compete with a man than it is to work opposite a man.

‘I am generalising here, but in a dealership setting, which is really unique and kind of ancient in some ways, it’s quite hard to compete against a man because you do have more to prove.

‘They think you sell cars because, for example, “Oh he bought that car because he liked you.”

‘They kind of take away any intelligence, any strategy, or any kind of all the other things that make you a good salesperson.

‘That was what it was like. You do have to prove yourself.

‘But now, working with men, I really enjoy it. I work with some really talented, really knowledgeable men, who are really good at what they do. They’re really inspiring, and it inspires me.

Qashem Miah, head of business – Volvo, Marshall Motor Group, and Rayhanneh Mazinani at Marshalls Volvo Derby

Rayhanneh at Marshalls Volvo Derby with Qashem Miah, head of business – Volvo, Marshall Motor Group

‘And I don’t think there are many females who do what I do. I don’t think there are many female suppliers. I don’t know of any. I’m not aware of it. There might be but I’m not aware of them.

‘I don’t want to use that as a USP because it makes no difference if you’re male or female, but it’s quite nice.’

Mazinani wasn’t interested in running her own dealership – vehicle sourcing was where she saw her future.

To help her on her way, she received assistance from business support programme Ad:Venture, which gave her access to a business adviser who offered guidance, practical advice, connections and help in accessing grants – something she found invaluable.

Comparing the vehicle sourcing sector to car sales, she said: ‘I prefer to deal directly with businesses. The process is so much more swift and it’s easy to do.

‘You can still build those relationships, but in terms of time and money you can generate more money within a shorter space of time dealing business to business than dealing with the general public.’

And for Mazinani, it’s definitely more about the business than the cars themselves.

‘The car kind of becomes irrelevant when you’re in this industry – it’s all about the selling.

‘It’s about your personal skills, how you deal with people, how you’re sourcing cars, how you make sure you’re buying at the right price, how to sell at a high price, how to add value.

‘And relationships are really important, making sure you deliver on what you promise people.

‘There are a lot of issues that buyers have in the market now. There are so many buying channels: you’ve got traditional auctions, you’ve got private customers, you’ve got part-exchanges, you’ve got trade-to-trade buying platforms – there is so much choice.

‘But it’s still quite a complicated job. There are still issues with cars, there are still problems with poorly described vehicles, there are still fees, and also the prices fluctuate continuously.

‘So whenever you find somebody who can supply you with vehicles who you know is reliable, does the job, the cars are as described, they do all the buying process for you, you just pay for it and you trust them, you work well with them, it just makes life so much easier.

‘And that’s kind of how the business has grown and built – those relationships and delivering what you say you’ll deliver in what is quite a complicated market to buy in at the minute.

‘But the good thing was that because I had dealt in the retail side I know what dealers do when cars come in, I know they have to prep them, they have to put a warranty on them, it has to have a service history, etc.

‘Because I knew all of that, it helped me in this role, because I know what I need to look out for, I know what a dealer will spend on a vehicle once it comes to them.

‘So it was important to know every aspect of the business so that you can meet your customers’ needs properly and that you understand your customer properly.’

Ian Langton, production director at GB Railfreight, and Rayhanneh Mazinani at GB Railfreight's head office in Peterborough

Ian Langton, production director at GB Railfreight, and Rayhanneh at GB Railfreight’s head office in Peterborough – she supplied the firm with trucks and vans

She added: ‘It’s a fascinating market. It’s not just a case of supply and demand. There’s so much going on in the used car market. It’s the biggest purchase after a house, and because of my background in economics I do find it genuinely fascinating and am really passionate about it.’

How had she been finding things with the well-documented supply problems because of Covid and the war in Ukraine?

‘What it does is it changes the stock profile, or the kind of stock that dealers are looking for.

‘At the moment, a lot of dealers are doing really well with cars that are that little bit older, say in the three-to-five-year segment, with slightly higher mileage. That’s kind of the sweet spot.

‘So month to month it changes, and it is affected by these things. How many new cars are coming through? What’s available? All these things affect it.

‘And it does change what I look for, because I need to make sure that I can supply them with the cars that they will sell really quickly – that’s really important.

‘But it also changes in the finance as well – interest rates, that has an impact on the kinds of cars people are buying, what price range, what age, so again that has an effect on what the retailers are selling, which will have an impact on what I need to supply them with.

‘Because the cost of borrowing is much higher than it has been, it’s changing the kind of cars people are buying, especially with the cost-of-living crisis.

‘So they might be going for cars that are less expensive because their monthly payments have skyrocketed.

‘And because dealers are maybe selling more of the older vehicles or the cheaper vehicles, then the knock-on effect of that is that I need to sell them vehicles that are within that kind of range: a little bit older and a little bit cheaper – interest rates, supply, demand; they all have an impact.’

She’s especially found that when it comes to electric cars. ‘All of a sudden, no dealer wants to buy an electric car, so then I no longer buy an electric car, so it all kind of filters through, and it is really interesting.’

Rayhanneh Mazinani with laptop

Rayhanneh Mazinani has built up a business that has enjoyed a turnover of almost £7m in two years since it started. (Image: Roth Read Photography)

Mazinani added ‘A lot of people supply cars, but to be really good at what you do and to really make an impact and deliver and build a business, you have to have that passion and understanding of the industry.

‘And when you have that knowledge or that understanding, people definitely want to buy from you, or buy from you even more, because there’s that confidence there that you understand what you’re selling and why you’re selling it, and I think that’s really important.

‘if you know how to buy a car and you’ve got your buyer there you can make a good profit on a vehicle if you know what you’re doing and you can do it quickly.

‘If you can do it without fuss and if you know what you’re doing, you can make a lot of money without having to work for anyone else.

‘But I think first of all it’s understanding how complicated it is for your dealer group to buy cars – it is quite a difficult process still, so if you make it easy for people to buy from you then that in itself is a big incentive.’

Mazinani has found others inspiring but she in turn is now being described as a ‘pioneer’ and ‘inspiring’. So what advice would she give to others – especially women?

‘My advice would be that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve but you need the confidence. It’s all about the confidence.

‘It can be really intimidating going into a big place and sitting with directors or CEOs or heads of business and standing your ground and being able to confidently tell them what you can deliver and what you do.

‘It does require some confidence, but everybody starts in the same place and there is an opportunity there for anyone who wants it.

‘So it’s really about self-belief, being confident, and feeling like you deserve to have some success in your life and you deserve to have an opportunity as much as anyone else, and that’s really important.

‘I do see a lot of women who lack confidence and have a little bit of self-doubt, and I think if you can find a way to unlock that and really believe and show that determination, you can absolutely achieve anything.’

Her website is currently being built, but Mazinani can be contacted via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayhanneh/.

She is full of praise for the platform.

‘The whole business to start with has been built on the LinkedIn platform, which sounds a little bit crazy, but LinkedIn is such a powerful tool for businesses.

‘It’s so underrated, but it gives you the power to talk to people that you want to talk to without being there but be really specific.

Alan Thompson, business engagement executive at West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, and Rayhanneh Mazinani

Rayhanneh has a meeting with Alan Thompson, business engagement executive at West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce

‘As a platform, it has such huge potential, especially in the motor trade, because although there are thousands of people in it, everyone knows everyone, so it’s really important to be a part of it.

‘Initially, LinkedIn for me was about finding ways to source cars and then finding people to buy cars from – it was as simple as that.

‘And then from the LinkedIn platform, I attended networking events. I now go to dealers, or get recommendations, or speak to more and more people.

‘I live in Leeds but I work all over the country – Scotland down to London, Portsmouth, everywhere.

‘Large plcs down to small independents, it doesn’t matter – the common denominator is they all need good stock, whether that be cars or vans, and I also do a little bit with private companies, supplying them with vehicles.

‘So as a starting point, LinkedIn was fantastic. It was everything. It’s built my business for me, and now I can do all the other things.’

Looking ahead, Mazinani wants to expand Trayd even further – ‘but not too big because I want to maintain the quality’ – while in the short term she is seeking more sources of stock.

‘But ultimately, I think I would like to do a little bit of consultancy at some point, and maybe a little bit of public speaking is something that I’d like to be good at. But that is way, way, way ahead! I can dream, anyway!’ she laughed.

Main image: Roth Read Photography

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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