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Kini Sanborn: “Do not be afraid to make change.”

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You could say that Kini Sanborn was born into the car dealership business, and you would be correct. As a little girl of just two and a half years old, she watched her father, Richard Sanborn, Chairman and CEO of his company, break ground on Sanborn Chevrolet in July 1972. Her life since then has prepared her to be President of her father’s company. This makes her one of very few female dealer successors in the country.

Over the years, Kini worked in various departments—Business Office, Parts and Service—where she learned about the various aspects of the business. She went on to lead a successful career in luxury hospitality as an executive in sales and marketing for companies including the Ritz-Carlton in Barcelona, Spain, to Bardessono in Yountville, Napa Valley. 

“I joined the family business at the start of 2018 as my father was looking to work less at age 83. Even though he absolutely loves coming to work still every day, he’d like to know he has a successor in place who will carry on the successful business he started in 1971,” she smiled. “When we discussed the opportunity to be a part of the business moving forward, I found it a wonderful chance to learn the business from my father and to grow the legendary organization that he established over the past 47 years.” 

Maintaining the Legend
A native of Lodi, she is intensely proud to be able to able to carry the torch that her father ignited. “We pride ourselves in delivering honest, personalized customer service. Many customers have been in the ‘family’ for years, and it is a real honor to have this opportunity to nurture those loyal relationships that have been established,” she noted. “The amazing thing for me has been becoming reacquainted with these long-time customers and seeing how these friendships are blossoming into the next generation of Lodi families. Customers stop in to say hello to my father, and in doing so I am now getting the next generation coming to see me to say hello as well.”

Kini attended Lakewood Elementary, Woodbridge Middle and Lodi High. Her family moved to Lodi when she was one so her father could open the dealership. Her parents have been in Lodi ever since. Her step-mom, Jean, has been a lifetime active member of the Lodi Women’s Club; Mrs. Sanborn has always been involved locally like Kini’s father, who is a lifetime Kiwanis member and a supporter of the LOEL Senior Center. Mr. Sanborn spent two years helping beautify Cherokee Lane in the 1980s, and he has served the community in numerous ways over the years.

Kini has four beautiful and intelligent sisters, Michelle, Robin, Lynn and Kimberly. Robin has lived in Lodi for years, and her daughter, Richlyn, also works for the dealership. She has held the position of cashier in the Service Department, worked in the Business Office and was recently promoted to Business Development Manager. Richlyn’s new role oversees the dealership’s Customer Care Division, which is a newly created department as of this year.  

Rich History
Sanborn is the longest standing automobile dealership in Lodi and has been serving the community’s auto needs for many years. “We are a family-run business that really cares about our associates, customers and community. Over the years, trustworthiness is something that has been remembered and passed down within families. Whether it is a young daughter or son getting ready to drive, the family comes back to us knowing we will put that family member into a safe and appropriate vehicle. Or it might be a local farmer who has been buying and servicing trucks from us for years and is passing down their vehicle to others in the organization or buying their top performers a vehicle for their hard-earned contributions. 

“Our customers trust in us to aid them with their specific needs, knowing we will not pressure or push, and that we will be making recommendations in both our interests. At Sanborn, we focus on the lifetime relationship, not a quick sale. Our wonderful team runs our New and Used Vehicle Department, Service and Parts Departments, Collision Center and Quick Lube. A customer in one part of the dealership is recognized across all departments.” Sanborn Chevrolet’s bilingual staff has been an asset to the customer experience and makes everyone feel welcome.

Achieving Balance
Kini’s world is full, and she has identical twin 15-year-old girls, Lorenza and Paolina. They are truly her inspiration as they have a beautiful relationship with one another and are each other’s greatest supporters. “They are kind, outgoing and loving young ladies who I hope one day will want to be a part of our business as well,” she shared. 

She admits one of her challenges is balancing motherhood with a career, but she has always taught her daughters to be leaders, telling them that when you put in the hard work, there are rewards that are both personal and often for a community around you. This is sometimes hard for them to see at their age, but she knows this skill set is setting them up for a successful journey in life. In the free time Kini can find, she enjoys mountain and road biking, snow skiing, weight lifting, CrossFit and taking days in the wine country to explore the best food and wine places in the region. 

Charities personally important to Kini include the American Heart Association and Children’s Hospital. Since returning to Lodi, she has joined the Lodi Chamber Board of Directors and the Tourism VAT Committee. Her more than 20 years’ experience in sales and marketing teams for luxury hotel brands benefits her greatly today, especially the time she spent with various notable Napa Valley hotels and supporting their chambers in regard to tourism. Kini enthusiastically wants to share this background with Lodi; she is proud of this town and wants to assist in furthering its success on the world stage. “By increasing the outside tourism to the area, we will bring in outside dollars that will ultimately allow us to enhance and further develop our charming community,” she explained.

She has joined the board of directors for GOT Kids, Giving Opportunities to Kids, a non-profit that supports local children with field trip opportunities. “The organization ensures continued learning for children and opens new horizons to them. By increasing the number of educational opportunities for our children, we are preparing for the successful future of our town,” she reiterated.

What inspires her every day? “My father inspires me daily with his energy, wisdom and attention to detail. He is showing me, like he always has, you can do what you put your mind to. This new endeavor in the automotive industry is definitely different from the hotel world, but it has many similar skill sets. The number one thing is customer service and really taking care of clients. I’ve learned at an early age to have high integrity in all I do. My father also taught me that transparency and integrity build confidence with those around you; these are things I live by and that I try to instill in my daughters daily.”   

Another inspirational person Kini admires is Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors. Kini appreciates Barra as a leader who has shown she is not afraid to make hard decisions and who’s willing to take on a tremendous amount of scrutiny in a highly political and competitive environment. Kini is excited about Barra’s plans for GM, as it is apparent she is thinking outside the box. “Staying relevant as a brand and a company is critical. I hope to be brave and courageous like Ms. Barra in this changing automobile industry,” she remarked.

What does Kini advise women wishing to follow their dreams? “First and foremost, do what you are passionate about and what makes you happy. Do not be afraid to make change. Change is inevitable. You cannot stop it so find ways to embrace it, understand it, and push forward with it. You will learn going through it, and it will expand your horizons in ways you cannot imagine without taking that first step. You must believe in yourself even if you think those around you do not believe in you. Remind yourself of your strengths, and recognize when you are the only one really holding you back. Look to other strong leaders, men and women, and build a network of talent around you. Stay humble and always welcome two-way criticism, as this is the only way you truly excel beyond where you are now.”