Balancing a passion for everything on four wheels with her vision of going to law school, Nour Habliza continues to drive full speed ahead towards her future.
As an undergrad at Western, Habliza refused to let the pandemic get in his way: He found a new way to keep his dreams on track, and this summer completed the last half- credit of his BA in Political Science and Government from King’s University College. He looks back over the course of these four years.
“I loved my first year at Western. Hanging out with friends on campus, balancing a crazy amount of study, hitting the gym, and spending endless hours in Weldon [library]said Habliza. “But in the middle of the second year, the second half, the pandemic hit and we all had to pivot. It wasn’t easy, but I got a bit lucky as some interesting doors opened up, which I’m very grateful for.
One of those doors was a rental opportunity: a small, single-bay machine shop on Brydges Street in London, Ontario. When a friend’s brother said he was available, Habliza jumped on it and started his own car repair and sales business, Royal Auto Group of London, in August 2020.
The business was a natural offshoot of his lifelong love for cars. From playing with Hot Wheels® as a kid and increasingly sophisticated video simulation games as a teenager, he could hardly wait to buy his own real wheels at 16. The first turned out to be a junker he couldn’t fix, but he learned a lot.
“When I was 17, my dad knew I was really into cars,” Habriza said. “My dad said if I fixed cars and sold them I had to do it right, I had to pass my professional sales certification, which I did. I even got a job in sales cars for a few months, which gave me great skills, but I knew it was time to focus on my ultimate dream of college and becoming a lawyer.
The money for the company came from an earlier twist of fate. Shortly before Habliza found the location of his shop, he had a serious accident, from which he drove away, but his car was written off. When the insurance settlement kicked in, he realized he didn’t need to buy another vehicle at the time because the world was in lockdown due to the pandemic.
“I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, so I decided to invest the money instead. I don’t know if it was luck or my crazy trading skills on Wall Street, but regardless, I was able to earn a decent amount and it helped my business grow,” Habriza said.
He started out by hiring a full-time mechanic to do the repairs, while Habliza ran the business and sold cars from his small office in the store. This office ended up doubling as a classroom, because by then university studies had gone entirely online. He dealt with clients by appointment only, which allowed him to work around his class schedule.
“When the world started to open up a bit more, I was lucky again because most of my in-person classes were from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.,” he said. “As soon as I finished work at 6 p.m., I closed the store, walked downtown, and walked up Richmond Street just in time for class.”
Habliza has found a niche in the competitive car repair and sales market by reaching out to his comrades. He was able to add five part-time positions — one mechanic, two salespeople and two body specialists.
Arrived from Egypt to Canada as a toddler, Habliza is quick to thank his parents. “They give me all the help I need. I owe them a lot for their confidence in me. I am what my family calls a son of the country, a son of Canada.
When not at the store, Habliza can be found on the doorstep of the gymnasium at Regina Mundi Catholic College in south London. This November will mark the start of his sixth year as head coach of the school’s junior men’s basketball team. As well as being a coach, he enjoys mentoring the team, helping the young men “develop character, confidence, discipline and sportsmanship”.
Habliza now has her eye on the next set of gates in her life plan: those of Western law. In his store, he finds himself on the books – studying for the LSAT – with the hope of qualifying for law school entrance in September 2023.