At TomboyX we're all about the tomboy do-it-yourself attitude, which is why we want to shine light on a women-owned business in Pennsylvania called Girls Auto Clinic. Founder Patrice Banks created Girls Auto Clinic to educate, empower, and cater to women by offering automotive and repair services, resources, and products. This isn't your typical auto repair shop. While you wait on an all female staff to take care of your car, you get taken care of with manis, pedis, and blowouts. Read our interview with Patrice, and learn more about her journey developing her business.
Can you give a quick summary of your background?
I grew up in the Philadelphia area, graduated from Lehigh University in 2002 with a degree in Materials Science and Engineering, and went to work for DuPont. I worked at DuPont for 12 years, but I always knew it wasn’t my legacy.
What did you want to be when you were in high school?
I wanted to be an engineer. I was always interested in understanding how things worked and understanding how to build things better.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I was tired of feeling powerless and uneducated every time something went wrong with my car. I started looking for female mechanics in my area and saw that there was such a shortage, despite the amount of female drivers and spenders in the automotive market. When I really saw the gap in the way the industry catered to the majority of its customers, I knew there was something I could and needed to do to fill that gap and empower women through their vehicles.
Has the idea changed over time of what you wanted your business to look like?
Nope, the vision - To educate and empower women through their vehicles - has always been the same. I think it is important to have a broad vision, because there can be different processes and approaches to accomplish the same overall intention.
What was something crazy you did to achieve your business goal?
Everything. You have be crazy to be an entrepreneur, you kinda have to be out of your mind to even keep track of everything that needs to get done, and then you have to do it too. There are so many highs and lows, where you are incredibly excited, then incredibly stressed, it takes a certain type of person to handle those extremes.
Are there any businesses or business owners you looked up to as you were developing your business?
I was and am inspired by Oprah, Sarah Blakely, Melissa Miller, and Myleik Teele.
What is a common misconception people made about you as a female business owner?
Many people would think that I had to conform to the rules to even survive, that I wouldn’t be successful if it didn’t follow “the way that things are done”.
What is the best part about having your own business? What's the worst part?
The best and worst part is that you are responsible. It is great that you don’t have to answer to anybody and you can really do everything as you see it the best way to do it, but all the responsibility falls on you, and you also have to be ready to answer for every one of those decisions.
How did being a woman help and/or hinder your drive to create your business?
It helps because it forces me to be constantly looking for ways to grow myself to be better to compete. Being underestimated as a women gives you the feeling that you have to to get to a higher level, but that is what drives me, constantly getting better.
What else are you working on right now?
SO MUCH! But the biggest announcement is the release of my book, The Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide. It is being published by Touchstone Books, and will be released on September 19th, 2017. We are so excited and working hard to get this information into the hands of every female driver in America. The book is full of information about how your car works and how to care for it. My team and I are planning a book tour along the East Coast doing workshops, talks, and book signings. This book is something I have been working on for a few years, and I am so excited to finally see it out in the world.
What advice would you give someone thinking of starting their own business?
Believe and know that you can do it. Don’t let people stop you. Find someone who believes in you who will mentor you, they are out there, you just have to keep talking to people until you find them. Don’t forget what you are here for, if people give you problems just remember you aren’t here for them. Never lose confidence in yourself. Know - like you know the sun’s going to rise - that you can do it.
You can learn more about Girls Auto Clinic at http://girlsautoclinic.com. What has your experience been like at your local auto shop? Tell us in the comments below.