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8-22-2016 -- Since 1983, Custom Audio in Erie, Penn. has been a successful woman-owned business and boasts 5,000 square feet of space. While Sondralee Orengia founded the company, her original business partner decided it wasn’t for him. “At the time I was going to college studying accounting and computer science and I wasn’t really interested in owning a business or running it,” Orengia said. When her business partner asked for help, she said yes. “I’m from a family of entrepreneurs. I think it’s always been in my blood.” Now, the company has seven employees and one location where Orengia strives to provide the best service possible while staying current with the times.

While she didn’t initially intend to get involved in the mobile electronics industry, Orengia was passionate about music. “I installed my first stereo system in my car,” she said. “I didn’t know anything, but I have the passion for learning. My grandparents were teachers and professors, very highly educated and my mother is as well, and that learning, wanting to learn and enjoying change, that’s what I think drives me. It’s an ever-changing industry and in 30 years it’s changed so dramatically and people have to continue to learn and learn to change.”

Orengia believes in the power of presentation to help draw in customers. “We have a really pretty shop,” she said. Because the business resides in a neighborhood that is mostly middle to upper class, customer expectation is much higher and so is Orengia’s. “The store has a nice presentation when they walk in—clean, organized, the displays work. That’s incredibly important in presentation. I always use the analogy if you go to buy a new car, the car lot doesn’t have dirty cars. They are polished, clean, look good, smell good, run good. You don’t go to a car dealership expecting to see a dirty car.”

While Custom Audio continues to be a successful 12-volt shop, Orengia faces a different kind of daily challenge—that of being a woman business owner in a male-dominated industry. “32 years ago I was at the Consumer Electronics show in Chicago and I was one of the few women there. The only ones there were the girls at the booths in beautiful dresses and high heels and they were eye candy,” she said. “There were very few women in the industry. My mom raised me as a person, not a woman, who could do anything and accomplish anything. That really struck me that there were so few women at the show.”

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