All in the detailing: Onika Waldron wins international Detailer of the Year

Owner of MaComère Mobile Detailing Services Onika Waldron busy at work on a vehicle's interior. -
Owner of MaComère Mobile Detailing Services Onika Waldron busy at work on a vehicle's interior. -

WHEN Onika Waldron was in her early teens she loved watching her father cleaning his grey car. That appreciation for a well-cleaned car would inspire her to get into the detailing industry and her winning the International Detailing Association (IDA) 2023 Detailer of the Year award, and becoming vice president of the IDA Caribbean Chapter.

The Diego Martin native chatted about her career and the struggles she faced as a female detailer during a recent interview with Newsday.

She explained that growing up she enjoyed watching cars go from dirty to clean after the various steps.

"A magnificent difference. It piqued my interest. And it was something I could see myself doing."

She was not a "traditional female" who liked being indoors but preferred to be outside, and cleaning cars provided a "good excuse."

Waldron began her journey into auto detailing, which is the process of keeping a vehicle in the best possible cosmetic condition (as opposed to mechanical) via meticulous cleaning and other activities, by watching hours of tutorials on YouTube. And she put what she learned into practice via trial and error.

She started by working on the vehicles of neighbours and relatives and would get additional jobs via recommendations. She would work on weekends and holidays but clients were "far and few in between."

"Months would go by and I would not have anything."

In 2014 she met someone who commended her detailing work and advised her to set up social media pages. She started her Facebook page in April 2014 and this April will be celebrating ten years.

Her business, MaComère Mobile Detailing Services, is under her family's MaComère limited company which also includes car rentals, plants and landscaping, and egg production and retail. She said her elder brother was responsible for the name "macomere" which means "godmother" in French Creole.

"So he wanted to symbolise there as this trust and confidence another female would have in you."

She does all aspects of detailing, including interior, exterior and underwash, and how much work she would do on a car depends on the job. After a consultation, she and the client will agree on what is to be done, whether full detail, full interior, full exterior, paint correction and other services.

"It's a lot of work. If it's the whole vehicle, it can take you two to three days."

Her longest job took a week and entailed full interior and exterior.

SQUEAKY CLEAN: Owner of MaComère Mobile Detailing Services Onika Waldron cleans a vehicle's tyre. -

Waldron recalled that it was not easy as a woman entering the male-dominated field of auto-detailing. Back around 2019, she contacted male detailers for business and received a variety of responses.

"When they would hear (I am) a female some would shrug. Some would disconnect the call. Some would tell me, 'I am not giving you any information.' And some would comment, 'This is good. You can be an example. You can encourage other females to come out and know that they can do this work and it is not done by males only.'

"And...some of those same people who would have encouraged me, when I started doing well, they turned their backs on me. So I don't know if that happened because I am female or it is just the normal human jealous nature. I can't say which is which. But those were the experiences that I had and I am still having up to today."

Joining the IDA

Despite the negativity, Waldron persevered and continued to seek avenues to improve herself in her craft. In 2022, while in England doing a certification in detailing, sanding and advanced polishing with UK detailing academy brand called Flex Polishing, she was advised by the administrators that her skills were very good and she should take the International Detailing Association (IDA) certification exam. She had previously discovered the IDA, the US-based industry association for professional detailing operators, suppliers, and consultants, during her YouTube research and decided to take the exam.

"The worst thing that could happen is I don't pass."

She did the two-part IDA examination process in May 2022 and described it as difficult. The first part was to be a certified dealer was a multiple choice exam with ten sections of 12-15 questions each. She had to answer questions on exterior cleaning, interior cleaning, types of cloth, types of brushes, water and other areas. One especially difficult aspect was auto detailing policies which were US-specific and the laws are different in Trinidad and Tobago. Waldron said the IDA was looking to address this aspect as an international body.

She completed the tricky multiple-choice exam and then moved on to the practical exam to have her skills validated. The exam had her working on a vehicle for two hours, specifically the engine bay, in nine-degree weather. While she worked she was asked various detailing questions, including ones unrelated to what she was doing at the time. She had to correctly name every apparatus and correctly use the terminology in every sentence.

"It was stressful."

Waldron said she also had to remember to slow down her speech because the administrators had difficulty understanding her Caribbean accent.

When she found out she had passed the exam she was so happy she was speechless.

Onika Waldron with her International Detailing Association certificate. -

She reported to her knowledge she was the only female IDA-certified detailer in Trinidad. She said the associated costs were an obstacle for some local detailers and she had to pay US$400 when she was certified and an IDA membership of US $100.

Waldron said she has learned a lot since she joined the IDA in 2022 through the monthly seminars, connections and experience.

Last year the IDA Caribbean chapter was formed and Waldron became the vice president; the president was Katherine M Mayo from Puerto Rico. She said initially she did not want the post because it was a lot of work.

"Sometimes when duty calls you have to accept it."

Waldron recalled after she took up the position she received a message from a detailer who did not understand how she got the post as that person had been in the IDA longer than her.

She said she was glad she accepted the position as it has given her a lot of exposure, allowed her to do a lot of networking, and she had learned a lot about her craft.

"In this industry, you have to keep educating yourself. Things change rapidly. What was okay in 2014 is done away with in 2024. You will be a laughing stock if you still try to use it."

The Caribbean chapter consists of Barbados, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Trinidad and Tobago and the board is seeking other regional countries to join. Last September, the IDA held a meet and greet in Chaguanas to encourage people to become detailers and join the IDA. The next meet and greet is scheduled for March.

The award

And it was through Waldron's association with the IDA that she won the Detailer of the Year award. She explained that annually there are different awards and a request was sent out for nominations last October. She was anonymously nominated by one or more people and on December 21 she received an e-mail congratulating her on being one of three people nominated for the award. The nominees then faced a two-week voting period and Waldron recalled she put in a lot of work promoting and marketing herself during that time.

Waldron attended the IDA Annual Business Meeting and Awards Ceremony on February 2, 2024, at Mobile Tech Expo in Kissimmee, Florida, and when she heard her name called she was "speechless."

"Three weeks after receiving this award and I am still out of words. My body has not yet caught up to the reality. 'Here Onika. It paid off. You did this. You won the award.'

"It is still a fantasy in my head because it is very, very, very difficult being a female in this industry. And I can only speak about where I live but I am sure it's the same everywhere."

She expressed her thanks to everyone who voted for her.

"Trinidad and Tobago did me proud and my other supporters. And I am forever grateful for that."

For 2024, she is hoping to win another of the IDA annual awards.

Since the announcement of the award she remained in Florida and had jobs daily.

"I am supposed to be on vacation."

She also received messages from people back home asking when she is returning so she can detail their car. She explained that with the award, people would be more trusting of her service and more comfortable in hiring her.

Asked what makes Mobile Detailing Services stand out, Waldron paraphrased the person who anonymously nominated her for the IDA award.

SANDING DOWN: Owner of MaComère Mobile Detailing Services Onika Waldron applies a sander to a vehicle. -

"They have never met another hard-working person as Onika in their life. She is personable, she is very educated, she is 100 per cent punctual and she just stands out. And that is me in a nutshell. What you see is what you get."

She said, for example, if she does a consultation and realises what the client wants cannot be done she will be upfront with them.

"I am not going to sell you dreams. Because at the end of the day, it is my reputation on the line."

She stressed the main issues with her are money and trust, which goes with the name MaComère.

And what advice would she give to women considering this field?

"Be assertive and straightforward. The sad truth is there is no space for mishap because you will be eaten alive. However, when you do have a mishap, just be prepared to solve the issue and be aware that there is scrutiny to follow.

"Being a female in this industry has its own advantages. Use it in the right and proper way. Patience and consistency go hand in hand. Always remember that."


"All in the detailing: Onika Waldron wins international Detailer of the Year"

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