Written by Lauren Taylor
Mirrors Driving School, located in Bishop Auckland, is celebrating it’s 11th birthday on 15th June 2020. The family run business was established back in 2009 by local lady, Karen Smith, to which her son, Dan Smith, joined the team in 2018; the only mother and son training team in the area!
Karen is a grade A DVSA ADI (Car) and has been a member of the institute of advanced motorists for 26 years. Dan became a fully qualified DVSA ADI in 2018 and joined his mum in the partnership of Mirrors Driving School. The pair both drive Audi A1s. Karen has an Audi A1 30 TFSI Sport called Merlin, and Dan has an Audi A1 1.6 TDI Sport called Oscar.
Last year, Mirrors Driving School proudly won Bishop Auckland’s best small business award. In February 2020, the team were asked to give an informative talk to 2505-Bishop Auckland Squadron – Royal Air Force Air Cadets to learn about being safe on and around the roads.
Earlier, speaking to Karen in an interview, I asked her a series of questions in order to help you get to know herself and the business better. These were:
Why did you decide to become a driving instructor?
“it was something I has always wanted to do. I had always loved to drive but I didn’t find the learning process easy at 17. I became an advanced driver at 24 years old”.
Where did the name ‘Mirrors’ come from?
“Mirrors refers to the Mirror image of my twin sister Louise. When I trained as an instructor, my sister was a massive part of my training, and one day I said if I qualify, I’m going to call my driving school Mirrors!”.
Did you face any difficulties along the way?
“Oh yes! The training is very complex, as it should be! Part 1- theory, part 2- driving test, those were easy enough, but the part 3 is where we demonstrate our ability to teach someone to drive. The training, I felt was very poor. Surprisingly, you’re not trained to teach people as you would imagine, your shown how to pass the test. I quickly recognised that there wasn’t any similarity with the Part 3 pre-set tests and a ‘real life human’ in the seat! I hated the training and doubted myself a lot along the way. I never thought I would qualify. It was expensive too and of course you had to get a car! All before you even qualified or not!”.
How does it feel to be a female in such a male dominated occupation?
“At first, I felt frowned upon, I felt laughed at, almost as if my male counterparts didn’t think I had it in me. I did my talking on the road and now 100% accepted”.
How many cars has Mirrors had and what were their names?
“2008 – Little star
2010 – Arrow Redford
2014 – Angus
2017 – Oscar (Dan’s Car)
2019 – Merlin”
How did you feel when Dan joined the team?
“Ecstatic! He is where he belongs now”.
How does it feel to be the owner of such a successful business?
“I don’t think of it like that. I don’t ever take it for granted. Our customers are 100% our focus. Their success is ours! They make Mirrors Driving School the success it is today”.
How does it feel knowing that you are making a difference to people’s lives helping them learn to drive?
“Learning to drive is a life changing experience and incredibly emotional, for some. I love being a part of their experience. To watch my learners progress, each and every lesson gives me immense pleasure. Watching them master something that has previously eluded them is just great! But to watch them float my car out of and back to the test centre is both amazing and nerve wracking. My emotions are all over the place! I love it. I’m very, very privileged”.