Dealer Spotlight:
Yemm Automotive – Thriving Amidst Challenges

Sara in front of her grandfather, Dick Yemm’s, 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

Sara Yemm Witherell, a third-generation family member of Yemm Automotive in Galesburg, IL, is no stranger to being different. And embracing those differences is what drives her.

According to various sources, women today make up just 25-30% of dealer principals in the United States. At Yemm Automotive, Sara is the first female family member in management and hopes to be one of a handful of female auto dealership owners in Illinois.

Sara & her dad, Rick

Starting as a part-time receptionist at age 15, Sara has worked at Yemm Automotive for over 16 years. After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University in 2014, she moved back to Galesburg to begin a full-time position in the family business. Her dad, Rick, challenged her to create Service and Sales Business Development departments, which were quickly formed. Sara then began managing the company’s websites, marketing, and advertising, while working alongside dealership managers, finding ways to improve and grow the business. In 2021, she graduated from the NADA Academy.

Today, Sara oversees operations at the Chevrolet Buick GMC and Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealerships. She is an example of the bright future for women pursuing a career in automotive retail.

Sara is also one of a short list of females in the automotive industry with a physical disability. She was diagnosed with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 12, and without treatments or a cure, Sara’s muscles continued to weaken.

Through these physical challenges, Sara embraced her diagnosis, implementing a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association at Yemm Automotive, in addition to raising thousands of dollars for MDA through annual MDA Muscle Walks. Meanwhile, she adjusted to living and working with a progressive neuromuscular disease.

While attending a Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy conference in 2019, Sara met a woman who made her think twice about her diagnosis. Due to new medical discoveries, this woman had recently discovered her diagnosis of Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy was incorrect and was actually an autoimmune condition called Anti HMGCR Myopathy. With treatments available for this newly discovered disease, Sara decided to proceed with testing. To her and her medical team’s surprise, Sara’s results showed she did not have Muscular Dystrophy, but rather, Anti HMGCR Myopathy.

“Anti HMGCR Myopathy, an autoimmune myositis, is a rare disease marked by severe muscle weakness that is thought to be caused by an over-active immune response directed against muscle.” Sara explains. “Recently discovered by researchers, Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy symptoms closely mimic those of Anti HMGCR Myopathy.”

Having the correct diagnosis changed a great deal in Sara’s life. For the first time since her symptoms began as an adolescent, she was able to receive treatment to hopefully slow or stop her muscle deterioration. Today, Sara continues to use a wheelchair for distance, but is able to better manage her symptoms, while balancing her home and work life with enthusiasm and gratitude.

Sara feels fortunate to work alongside a team of 75 employees who are very supportive, assisting her through daily physical challenges. She also leans on her husband and parents.

“It is a blessing to work with my family. Growing up, it was truly special to see the relationship and bond that my grandfather and father shared. The ability to learn from my father, Rick, and our time spent together, is extremely meaningful.”

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