Simone Aptekman ’15 seems an unlikely source for information about the aftermarket auto-care industry. But she knows it well. In 1991, her parents, both Russian immigrants, founded Hi-Gear Products, which manufactures auto-care products developed by her father. When Aptekman was 14, tragedy struck her family when her father died suddenly. But her mother kept on with the company, which continues to thrive. Feeling strong bonds to the business, Aptekman and her brother, Daniel, MSM’16, plan to join Hi-Gear soon.
Do you speak Russian? Yes, in the home we spoke Russian. It wasn’t until I went to first grade that I really started speaking with other kids. I didn’t understand sarcasm until I was 12 years old, because there isn’t sarcasm in Russia. People just say what they feel. In the U.S., sarcasm is a huge convention as humor, and no one in my family understood it.
What did you learn from your dad? I think empathy. I’ve always been sensitive to people’s situations, and I think that has to do with my father because he was very generous. When the business was just starting, he was donating a lot of the money to Russian orphanages, and they would send him letters and Christmas cards. That sense of empathy is so important, because everybody is dealing with something in this life.
What have you learned from your mother? That’s a little tougher, because she’s taught me a lot. I think it is a work ethic. She gets a task, and she doesn’t put it off till later. She does it right away. I see how effective that is, and I try to do that, too.
Are you close to your brother? We’re very close, but we’re very different. He’s very smart, and I think he only speaks when he knows that he’s right and he’s calculated everything. Whereas I like to talk through people’s problems. I’m just more talkative, I guess. We both work really hard. It just comes out differently.
What do you do for fun? My sophomore year I started modeling in Boston. It’s mostly runway shows. I have really close girlfriends that I’ve met through the industry. Everybody is so nice.
What’s the best advice you’ve received? Not to overcommit. Life kind of just gave me that advice. When I was in Russia in August for a family wedding, I suddenly realized that I’m about to go back to school. I’m in all these organizations and always running around, and I never take a moment and exhale. So I’m focusing on things I actually like, and then I do them better.—Donna Coco