Dawkins earned a B.S. from Colorado State University in Fort Collins in 1988. She started her career as a designer with Herman Miller in Denver, Colorado, before returning to Co’s International Motors, the dealership founded in 1972 by her father, Co Van Herwaarden, in Greeley, Colorado.
“I grew up in the automotive dealership. I answered phones, filed and even washed cars. I thought I wanted to do something else, but the family dealership became my home and my passion in 1994.”
Dawkins worked her way through each department, learning all aspects of the business. When her father decided to retire in 2004, she took over operations at the BMW store, which eventually moved to Loveland, and she has since added MINI of Loveland to her dealership group.
“I couldn't have gotten to where I am today without the support of my father, and I am grateful that he had the foresight to bring his family to the United States to realize the American dream. He started his own business as a mechanic and added the franchise we have today. I am proud to keep his dream alive – and thriving.”
As a woman dealer, Dawkins has encountered her own set of challenges, but has found the experience very rewarding. She has relied on her peers for guidance, particularly her NADA 20 group, and as an active member of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, where she has served as secretary (2016), treasurer (2017), vice chair (2018) and chair (2019).
“As a part of our state association for a long period of time, I had the opportunity to work on projects that allowed our dealer members to improve profitability and strength as a franchise within our state. In my leadership roles, I found it challenging and frustrating to try and align our needs with the agenda of our state legislators. I feel proud that our voices at least were heard.”
Dawkins believes that it important to give back to her community through donations and by encouraging her employees to get involved. “It is so important to me that we participate in local organizations by volunteering to really understand how we are affecting those in need. It is tremendously rewarding and emotional.”
To that end, she has partnered with the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the BMW Car Club of America to set up the Tire Rack Street Survival teen driving program, an immersive experience that consists of classroom learning and hands-on driving exercises. “Our staff and car club members ride with the new teen drivers and teach them reaction and avoidance maneuvers. It is an all-day affair and it is amazing to see the positive difference in our teen drivers at the end of the day.”
She also is a sponsor of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County and collects toys for the children at Christmas. In addition, she supports the Food Bank for Larimer County by packaging foods and raising funds through the group’s annual Corporate Food Fight, during which local companies compete against each other by coming up with unique ways to raise the most money for the organization.
“I believe I bring a different perspective and a caring atmosphere to our customers and my employees. And being a successful woman car dealer in our community has given me the opportunity to give back.”
Dawkins was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Tim Jackson, president and CEO of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. She and her husband, Kenton, have two children.