As told to Shaun Ryan
Molly Austin is a local businesswoman and the go-to person for anyone wanting to know about Jeeps. She also has a deep appreciation for wildlife and is very involved in mission trips.
Tell me about Happy Trails 4×4. What kinds of services and products does it offer?
Happy Trails 4×4 started out as a Jeep specialty shop focusing on restorations, custom builds for the local Jeep dealerships as well as retail customers. We do everything from your basic maintenance needs to extreme modifications. We have recently added education and hands-on training to our lineup. We help educate our customers and others that want to learn about taking their 4×4 vehicles on offroad adventures.
Tell me about your background. How did you develop an interest in this type of work? What kind of education did you need to become a Jeep specialist?
I have always had a passion for the automotive industry! When I was in high school, I worked for an automotive shop that focused on sports cars (not Jeeps). Back then I learned about Ford Panteras, and today I am teaching about the relationship between tire size and gear ratios. My educational background was hands-on for the automotive side of things. As for the business I graduated from Georgia Southern University with a bachelor’s in business management and finance. For me, the business side of things just comes naturally, and I love it.
I see you are a board member for the Wildlife Rescue of Northeast Florida. Can you tell me about your role and your interest in this cause?
My love for animals runs very deep! I have been on the board of directors for the Wildlife Rescue Coalition of Northeast Florida for 13 years. We support the local wildlife in our area. Our goal is to ensure respect for all wildlife through education and conservation while providing orphaned, injured and displaced animals with a second chance at life. I have played several roles throughout the years, but mostly I have fostered orphans, released the rehabilitated and attend board meetings. Our local animal control relies on us to help release captured wildlife since they cannot even bring them inside. I have picked up many racoons and opossum sitting in the summer heat in a cage outside of animal control offices in our area. We make sure they are released to a safe open environment where they have room to be wild. This organization is so important to our community, yet most people never know until they need us.
I also learned that you were a lead sponsor of the Run with a Mission race in February. What can you tell me about Faithful Servant Mission and this event in particular?
Happy Trails 4×4, one of my companies, is the title sponsor each year for Run with a Mission. This is a race held each year now for the last nine years to support Faithful Servant Missions, a locally based mission. I personally fell in love with this mission in 2014 when I was blessed to be a part of a women’s focused team. The driving mission here is to improve the spiritual, educational and physical health of those we serve. Breaking the cycle of poverty through education and growing relationships with Jesus Christ. I have seen firsthand that it truly works!
You have also led mission trips to Costa Rica with Faithful Servant Mission, and you even provide a weather tracker Jeep. How did you get involved in this effort, and what can you tell readers about your experiences with it?
Yes, I have led several mission teams to Costa Rica over the past eight years. I have also joined other teams there to keep the momentum going with the community we serve.
This weather tracker Jeep was here is Jacksonville. We built this Jeep initially for one of our local dealerships then the news team purchased it to be upgraded for the weather tracker. Over the years of its service in our local community we have done lots of upgrades to accommodate all the equipment that is required. Our staff at Happy Trails 4×4 loved seeing all the technology on board!
What do you like most about living in Northeast Florida?
I love Northeast Florida because of its Southern charm!
How do you like to spend your free time?
Free time for me is so precious and limited so I try to make the most out of it. That usually means packing it full! I am a member at the Jacksonville Clay Target Sports and love to go shoot with my husband and recently the Belles with Shells, a ladies’ group that meets each month to shoot and network. I really enjoy spending time at home with my family and animals the most! We are growing our animal family a little at a time. We recently added two precious baby ducks that are growing very fast.