Lilly Jimenez does not have the typical resume: Vietnamese refugee, telecommunications executive, stay-at-home mom, community volunteer, and general manager at Classic Chevrolet OKC in Oklahoma City. In each role, she dedicates her all, because work ethic is her family legacy.
Lilly, her husband Dorian Jimenez, and their business partner Tom Durant bought the dealership in June 2023 as part of the General Motors Minority Dealer Development Program. Since then, Lilly has taken on a range of operational roles.
“If the floor is dirty, I’ll sweep it,” she said. “That empowers a lot of people around the dealership because they know I’ll do whatever it takes. And I like that, being hands on and impacting everybody in the dealership.”
But Lilly dreams big – with good reason.
“My goal is to have a dealership in my name,” she said, so that one day her grandchildren can point to it and say, “That’s my grandmother’s.”
Lilly and her brother were raised by a single mother during the Vietnam War. Her father, a soldier in the American Alliance, was killed by the Viet Cong six months before she was born. When Lilly turned 12, her mother found her an escape: swimming alone at night to a boat that would take her to the Philippines. She was caught and jailed by the communist police twice before she was successful.
After living in a Philippine refugee camp for a few years, the Red Cross found Lilly a foster home in Texas, where she was reunited with her brother and later, her mother.
Lilly took full advantage of the opportunities she found in the U.S., earning a full-ride scholarship to St. Mary’s University and a decade-long career in telecommunications. When she and her husband decided to have a family, she stepped back from her job, which required frequent travel, to raise their two daughters.
Lilly ensured her daughters were active in their community, especially with the Girl Scouts and The Gatehouse, a Dallas-area nonprofit supporting single mothers. Every experience came with lessons –some of which showed early signs of the car dealer in Lilly, waiting to come out.
“Selling Girl Scout cookies is not about the money,” she said. “It’s about empowering the girls. It’s about sales. It’s about leadership.”
Meanwhile, Lilly’s husband, a general sales manager at Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine, Texas, was sharing his daily challenges and successes at the dealership with her, and she began to wonder – “Can I be a part of this?”
The answer was yes.
Unlike her telecommunications career, working at the dealership does not require travel. Her schedule and routine are regular, which is better for her family life. But the skills she developed in her previous career – customer service, relationship-building, and work ethic – all translate into her dealership work.
“I have always worked harder than all my male bosses. I was there before they got there. I stayed after they left,” she said. “Every day I’m learning. I am loving getting my team to get ahead of the game.”
For Lilly, it all comes back to her family – the legacy she gained from her mother and the one she hopes to pass down.
Lilly’s mother wanted her to establish her life before marriage, so Lilly’s American citizenship certificate and her college diploma are both in her maiden name, which serve as an inspiration to her daughters.
One of her daughters, Dominique Jimenez, wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a dealer.
She said, “Without [my mom’s] inspiring story, I would not be the person I am today, and I am so thankful for the hard work my mother has gone through to provide a life for both my sister and me.”