Karmala Sutton discovered personal and professional inspiration at an early age; a foundation that's propelled her to wide-ranging successes inside and outside the dealership.
On Thursday, Ally Financial and the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD) honored Sutton, the dealer in training at Honda of Kenosha in Bristol, Wisc., with the first-ever Ally Sees Her Award during NAMAD’s 2018 Annual Membership Meeting in Chicago.
Officials highlighted Sutton received the award in recognition of her success as an auto retail leader, her dedication to giving back and her commitment to building the next-generation of minority dealers, who are underrepresented across the country.
“I’m humbled to be recognized for doing things that I'm passionate about,” Sutton said upon learning of the award. “I’m committed to the auto industry and look forward to working with NAMAD to help my peers succeed. Without giving back to improve the lives of others and make the communities where we live and work better, success is hollow.”
Inspired by the Association of National Advertisers #SeeHer campaign to elevate women in media and marketing, Ally created the award to recognize promising, young women leaders in the auto retail industry.
As part of the award, Ally will make a $10,000 donation to the charity of Sutton's choice: CRU Agape Center, a Chicago based non-profit that works with local churches and community centers. Sutton has earmarked the funds to help the homeless and children in communities troubled by violence.
“Being from the Chicago area and having the NAMAD meeting here in Chicago this year, it made sense to have the donation make a difference here in the city, especially in the communities that need it most,” Sutton said.
Her dedication to giving back to the community can be traced back to values instilled in her by her church and a high school mission trip to Ghana with Opportunity International, a micro finance not-for-profit that helps economic development in poor areas throughout the world. During her college years, she became involved with Locks of Love, giving her time and even her own hair to the non-profit.
Through her dealership, Sutton has led efforts to benefit Toys for Tots. She also has volunteered on NAMAD NextGen’s executive board for four years, serving as president for the last two years. NextGen helps prepare aspiring auto dealers to succeed in the industry.
Sutton has been an influential voice in NAMAD’s efforts to mobilize the sons and daughters of our current dealers and also shed a bright light on our current up and coming minority managers who will be our future dealers, according to NAMAD president Damon Lester.
“Her commitment to helping her peers become strong dealers who carry our industry into a bright future is an inspiration,” Lester said.
Sutton began her automotive career as a co-chair of the Northwood University Auto Show of the Palm Beaches while attending college. She graduated from Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2010 with a bachelor’s in business administration and an associate degree in hospitality management.
After graduation, Sutton worked as a buyer for CarMax, where she honed her skills and found a love for the automotive retail industry. She then went to work at her family’s Honda of Kenosha dealership as the pre-owned manager. As the dealer in training, Sutton works beside her father, Nathaniel Sutton, owner of Sutton Auto Team, to understand the business. Sutton Auto Team has two additional dealerships in suburban Chicago.
“We’re excited to honor Karmala with the inaugural Ally Sees Her Award. She embodies the hard work, determination and leadership potential that this award was designed to recognize and we look forward to all she will accomplish in the years to come,” said Jacqueline Howard, senior director of corporate citizenship at Ally. “Her enthusiasm for giving back also makes her a beacon of caring in the community, which is fundamental to being a strong dealer.”
Howard added, “At Ally, our motto is ‘Do It Right,’ which means supporting dealers who are often the backbone of their communities and are helping move the industry forward. It also means promoting diversity and women in leadership. The more young women and girls see leaders like Karmala, the more they are empowered to rise to become leaders themselves.”
In addition to supporting Sutton's chosen charity, Ally will make an additional $5,000 available to charities selected by NAMAD members.
During the annual conference, Ally will give $100 gift cards to 50 NAMAD members, who can use the cards to make donations to the charities of their choice.