There are many businesses in Columbia run by women, but there’s only one used-car dealership that was started and is owned by a woman. Ariel Beltey opened BeLiva Motor Group, 600 Vandiver Drive, in September of 2001. The business is small, locally owned and family-oriented — so family-oriented, in fact, that the company’s name came from Beltey’s 4-year-old daughter Olivia.
The family nicknamed her “Liva,” and Olivia would say “abi” when she wanted to be picked up. The phrase soon merged with her name to become “Abi-Liva.”
“She would always say this, and we thought it was catchy, so we decided to name the business in honor of her,” Ariel Beltey said.
Beltey has lived in Columbia for 10 years and graduated from MU in 2000 with an interdisciplinary degree in English, Russian and psychology. Before getting into the used-car industry, she was a hotel manager. Beltey says the long hours and hard work in the hotel and restaurant management industry led her to start her own business.
She said her company is unusual because car dealerships are primarily owned and operated by men, and since she felt there was a strong need for a woman in the car business, she was inspired to start BeLiva Motor Group.
Beltey’s husband, Konstantine Beltey, was a biology and research scientist but his love of cars also influenced Ariel to start her business.
“Konstantine was constantly buying and selling cars, so we decided that the thing to do was to open a used-car dealership that was friendly to women — and all customers,” Ariel Beltey said.
Konstantine Beltey was originally involved in the business from a buying and selling standpoint only. He quickly became passionate about the business, and quit his research job to work for BeLiva full-time. Now, he is the buyer and salesman at the dealership, while Ariel handles the behind-the-scenes work.
“I’m now more involved with accounting, and less involved in the day-to-day business,” she said. “This business arrangement is an opportunity for both of us to achieve our dreams and goals. I am currently working on a novel, and can spend more time with our kids after they get out of school.”
Ariel Beltey said that a woman running half of the business adds a softer image.
“We don’t push people into cars or play psychological games,” she said. The couple said they focus on informing their consumers — from details about the car inspection to checking car facts.
“We want to make sure you’re getting a good car, and we want to make sure that we are selling a good car,” Ariel Beltey said. “We help to put the integrity back into the used-car business.”
BeLiva Motor Group obtains and sells off-lease vehicles, and also sells luxury cars priced from $15,000 to more than $60,000, including names such as Lexus, BMW, Porsche, Jaguar, and Mercedes. The company buys, sells and trades used cars and SUVs, so there is a variety of merchandise on the lot at all times.
Beliva is known to have a casual atmosphere, and is strictly walk-in.
“This business is very family-oriented; one of the benefits of the business is that we become friends with our customers,” Ariel Beltey said.
These good relationships are achieved by not pushing customers into purchases they don’t want or can’t afford.
“We treat our customers with the respect they deserve,” Ariel Beltey said. “Our primary goal as a small, locally owned business is to make our customers really happy. We have a lot of repeat customers, and often do brokering for customers’ specific needs.”
BeLiva sells a variety of service packages and also offers repairs, oil changes and brake jobs, which are done by the in-house mechanic. They also do their own detailing.
Another side to the business is eBay sales. The company typically sells the stock that has remained in inventory for more than 30 days through eBay. Ariel Beltey said this is a “great way to keep the stock moving and get new merchandise on the lot continuously.”
She said one of the most important things in life is to follow your dreams.
“The most important aspect of the business is that it gives us both the freedom to do what we love,” Beltey said.