After moving three times in four years, Florida auto dealer finds stability

Celeste Pylko
small business property
Published on June 15, 2022

Waiiti Castillo is a veteran auto dealer and small business owner, but withco’s lease-to-own model is a game changer for her business and its property.

When Waiiti Castillo emigrated from Venezuela 22 years ago, she had no intention of becoming an auto dealer. 

“It’s funny that I ended up selling cars because I’m a woman,” says Castillo, acknowledging that the majority of auto dealership owners are men. In her first foray into sales, Castillo sold watches and sunglasses at a flea market, but eventually, she transitioned to cars. 

“I was pregnant at the time and it was the only way I could work and be with my daughter at the same time—I didn’t want to have to send her to daycare,” she says.
Castillo has over a decade of experience selling cars and employs three workers at her business in Fern Park, FL. Photo by Carlos Amoedo.

Her daughter is now 18, and Castillo has been selling cars for 15 years. In her free time, she helps others in her community with the process of obtaining a license to sell used vehicles—but Castillo isn’t worried about creating competition for herself.

“When you help other people, all that help comes back some other way,” she says. 

Castillo may be proving herself right—after being forced to move locations three times in four years, she has now secured her business’s property in a five-year withco partnership and will officially become the owner in 2027. 

Learn everything you need to know about withco’s lease-to-own model.

“Now that we know that we can stay in this location, it gives us a lot more stability,” she says. 

Below, we hear more about Castillo’s business savvy and how her withco partnership is transforming her business.
Castillo's facility had been vacant for many years before she breathed new life into it, investing her own money even though she didn't yet own the space. Photo by Carlos Amoedo.

How did you find the space that you’re currently in?

I was [previously] in a small warehouse, and then in 2019 the owner of the warehouse sold it and the new owner was like, “Next month, you’re paying double.” So, I’m like, “No, I’m not paying double. Give me 30 days and I’ll move.” So I started looking and looking and looking and looking—I have pictures of what this place was before I got it. It was empty. It was nothing. It was an old building that was locked for over five years maybe. And the outside was just sand and overgrowing plants, and that’s it.

What kind of upgrades did you have to make to the space to bring it up to standard? 

We had to fix up everything from scratch. We painted the office ourselves. The fencing outside—we got wood, cut the wood, made the poles. We had to rent a big drill to dig holes and plant them in ourselves. Then we painted them. We did so much.
Castillo doesn't remember the first car she ever sold, but she says Honda's have long been her most popular make. Photo by Carlos Amoedo.

How did you first hear about withco? 

The original building owner was always very good to work with, and when he wanted to sell the property, he asked if I wanted it, but I just didn’t have the means at the time. He was the one that got in contact with withco. There had been a couple people who wanted to buy, but for whatever reason, it didn’t work out. Then he asked me, “Do you really want the property?” And I said, “Yeah, of course.” So, he told me, “I have found a company that I think can help you.” And that’s how we ended up with withco.

What does your partnership with withco mean for your business? 

I love the fact that I don’t have to worry about where I’m gonna be in the next five years because that’s what happens with dealerships. People keep selling their locations, and then I just have to move again. Dealerships close every day. The first thing people ask when they come here is, “How long you been here? How long you been selling cars?” because they are worried.

Now it’s different because if I know that I can stay here, I know for once I can invest more money in the property and make it even better for me and my employees to work in. I want to put shade over the lot. I want to keep growing and buy better and better cars. At the same time, I know if a customer comes back and is looking for us, they’re gonna find me. It feels like I can finally grow my business the way I want to grow my business.
Castillo in the office of the building she will own in five years time. Photo by Carlos Amoedo.

What have been some of your biggest learnings as a business owner? 

You have to keep learning everyday if you want to stay open. You never know what is going to happen. You have something today; you have nothing tomorrow. You have money today; you may spend it all tomorrow. It’s a roller coaster constantly. It doesn’t matter how organized you are or how much you save. It’s always gonna keep changing. But you have to have faith that what you’re doing is right because otherwise you get scared, and that’s how people lose their businesses so soon. 

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