Vivian Liu, 29
Founder and CEO, Mae (Making Auto Easy)
Life Story: From an early age, Vivian Liu had a passion for the testosterone-fuelled world of cars: “In high school, I had a lot of friends who were working in the auto shop, and we would work on cars together and go to the auto show.”
In her fourth year at Western University, studying business, Liu entered a marketing competition called Canada's Next Top Ad Exec, sponsored by Chevrolet; coming out of it, Liu had a job offer in Kelowna, as district sales manager for General Motors. She was 21. “I was given a set of car keys, basically no instructions, and told, ‘Okay, you're visiting these 18 dealerships, and you’re going to learn their business and build relationships with them.’”
Liu thrived in the unlikely environment, coaching middle-aged men on how to sell cars, but ultimately found something lacking: the process for selling to female customers. She says that, while she was with GM, she often had women coming to her with questions about various models or how to negotiate: “I realized that a lot of what I was doing for dealerships was information I could pass on to consumers in a different way.” In 2021, she left the corporate life and launched Making Auto Easy, or Mae.
While there are other online shopping tools out there, Liu notes that most of them focus on the end of the consumer journey: pushing product that dealerships have in inventory, not necessarily the cars that are best for consumers. “I really want to focus on the very beginning of the experience, where we nurture people to understand their options so they’re making an informed decision.”
Bottom Line: Mae offers over 1,500 car combinations to choose from, with six customized recommendations tailored to each buyer’s preferences and budget; customers pay a one time fee of $49 for the service. This year, Liu also introduced Canada's first-ever Women's Auto Show, based in Vancouver—an interactive event that brought 200 local women together to learn everything about car buying and maintenance, which generated over 80 leads and several paying customers. The operation is completely bootstrapped, says Liu, with four team members (two full-time, two part-time).