Balancing a passion for anything on four wheels with his vision of attending law school, Nour Habliza continues to drive full speed ahead toward his future.
As an undergraduate at Western, Habliza refused to let the pandemic get in his way: he found a novel way to keep his dreams on track, and this summer completed the last half-credit for his BA in political science and government from King’s University College. He looks back on how those four years went.
“I just loved my first year at Western. Hanging out with friends on campus, balancing a crazy amount of studying, going to the gym and spending endless hours at Weldon [library],” Habliza said. “But in the middle of second year, second semester, the pandemic hit and we all had to pivot. It wasn’t easy, but I was kind of lucky because a few interesting doors opened, for which I am very thankful.”
One of those doors was a rental opportunity: a small, one-bay mechanic shop on Brydges Street in London, Ont. When a friend’s brother said it was available, Habliza jumped at it and established his own car repair and sales business, Royal Auto Group of London, in August 2020.
The venture was a natural offshoot of his lifelong love of cars. From playing with Hot Wheels® as a child and increasingly sophisticated video simulation games as a teen, he could barely wait to buy his own real wheels at age 16. The first one turned out to be a junker he couldn’t fix, but he learned a lot.
“When I was 17, my father knew I was really passionate about cars,” Habliza said. “My Dad said if I was fixing cars and selling them I should do it right, that I should go for my professional sales certification, which I did. I even got a car sales job for a few months, picking up some great skills. But I knew it was time to focus on my ultimate dream of university and becoming a lawyer.”
The money for the business came from an earlier twist of fate. Not long before Habliza found the location for his shop, he had a bad accident, from which he walked away, but his car was a write-off. When the insurance settlement came, he realized he didn’t need to buy another vehicle just then as the world was in lockdown due to the pandemic.
“I knew I wasn’t going anywhere so I decided to invest the money instead. I don’t know if it was luck or my crazy Wall Street trading skills, but whatever, I was able to make a decent amount and that allowed me to get my business going,” Habliza said.
He started by hiring a full-time mechanic to do repairs, while Habliza ran the business and sold cars from his little office in the shop. That office ended up doing double duty as a classroom, because by that time university study had moved completely online. He dealt with clients by appointment only and that allowed him to work around his class schedule.
“When the world started opening up a bit more, I got lucky again since most of my in-person classes were from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.,” he said. “As soon as I finished work at 6 p.m. I closed the shop, raced through downtown and up Richmond Street just in time for class.”
Habliza found a niche within the competitive car repair and sales market by catering to fellow students. He’s been able to add five part-time positions — a mechanic, two sales people and two autobody specialists.
Having come to Canada from Egypt as a toddler, Habliza is quick to thank his parents. “They offer me any help whenever I need it. I owe a lot to them for their belief in me. I am what my family calls a son of the country, a son of Canada.”
When he’s not at the shop, Habliza can be found at the doors of the gymnasium of Regina Mundi Catholic College in south London. This November will mark the start of his sixth year as head coach of the school’s junior boys’ basketball team. As well as coaching, he enjoys mentoring the team, helping the young men “develop character, confidence, discipline and good sportsmanship.”
Habliza now has his eye on the next set of doors in his life plan: the ones to Western Law. While in his shop, he finds himself back in the books — studying for the LSAT — with hopes to qualify for entrance to law school in September 2023.