Getting your car serviced can be a daunting task, particularly for those with little knowledge of what goes on under the hood. There is plenty of scope to be sold unnecessary extras or to be over charged if you don’t know much about mechanics. And in the sometimes sexist world of automobiles, it is even worse for female car owners. With this in mind, one U.S. woman changed career lanes and the results have been pretty remarkable.
Patrice Banks from the Upper Darby township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, is a 36-year-old female with a truly remarkable story. She spends her days running her own company, but it is not a typical business venture by any stretch of the imagination. That is down to the fact that the target customers are women in what is perceived to be a man’s world.
In fact, Banks’ enterprise is so extraordinary that it has featured in some of the world’s biggest newspapers and magazine titles, from The Washington Post and The New York Times to Good Housekeeping. Her venture has also featured on TV, including Good Morning America, The Today Show and NBC Nightly News, as well as all over the internet. It seems all forms of media just can’t get enough of Banks’ quirky initiative, and with good reason.
But Banks has not always been a business owner. For the first part of her career she worked at DuPont, a science and engineering company, having graduated from Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. She was an engineer and a manager at the firm for 12 years. However, she was destined to run her own show, and one day in 2011 she spotted a gap in the market and decided she would be the one to fill it.
But first Banks would have to retrain, so she pressed the brakes on her previous career and took herself off to Delaware Technical Community College. Soon she added an automative technology diploma to her Bachelor degree in materials engineering. With those kind of qualifications, it was clear that Banks had a penchant for machines. She wanted to combine her technical knowledge with her real-life experience to create a service to improve the lives of other women.
And it was all to do with automobiles. Banks recognized that people, and more commonly women, with little knowledge of car maintenance or repair often found getting a car serviced or fixed confusing or overwhelming. She personally felt she was being taken advantage of every time she took her ride to the shop. It was this that inspired her to do something about it.
And so the idea for her innovative company – Girls Auto Clinic – saw ignition. After technical college, Banks took a job as a mechanic to gain more experience. Perhaps a girl in the garage is not an everyday sight, but Banks’ ambition was even more unusual. As it says on her website, “Despite making up the majority of car owners and licensed drivers, women account for less than two percent of auto mechanics.” Banks’ intended to get a car servicing and repair business that employed female mechanics on the road. She wanted to educate and empower women in simple auto know-how so they would find the subject more approachable.
In Banks’ eyes, the problem with other auto shops was that they alienated women who weren’t knowledgeable about their cars. She felt that her fellow females were getting ripped off or misled by dodgy mechanics, much like she had once been. But Banks would be helping to put a stop to all that when her Girls Auto Clinic opened in Upper Darby in 2016. But, aside from the women mechanics and a female-friendly face, the joint had another awesome feminine twist.
That’s right, Banks’ automobile shop was not just a place where women could visit for a hassle-free car servicing experience. There was also an added incentive for Pennsylvania’s car running females to stop by. Banks really moved up a gear with an extra special element to her business that most women wouldn’t be able to resist.
Instead of the usual nondescript waiting room seen at most other automobile shops, Banks went the extra mile with hers. She wanted to give women an opportunity to enjoy their own cosmetic kind of service while their cars had theirs. This way, both the automobiles and their owners would leave the Girls Auto Clinic in tip-top condition.
Banks introduced a salon called the Clutch Beauty Bar to her car business and people went crazy for it. This meant that while her customers waited for their vehicles to be serviced under the hood, they could sit under a hair-drying hood and have various beauty treatments done. The joint venture offered a truly unique one-stop auto and beauty shop.
The Clutch Beauty Bar could be read both ways – “clutch” as in bag and also in car power transmission. It welcomes customers in with the offer of manicures, pedicures and hairstyling. And the idea proved itself to be a total success. The company’s Facebook page now has more than 28,000 followers.
Not only that, but client feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, as the reviews from the company’s Facebook followers confirm. “I am so glad this place exists,” wrote one particularly delighted visitor. Another said, “My gel manicure was well done… and I got to do it while waiting for an oil change. Two birds, one stone, excellent concept!”
A third satisfied customer wrote how “cute, cozy, and very inviting,” the joint was, but the positive feeling towards the establishment was not just because of the salon services. Facebook followers backed Banks’ business for its straightforward customer service on the technical side too.
One Girls Auto Clinic fan wrote, “This is the first time any mechanic has taken the time to explain in detail what work my car needed, and why. I left knowing what every line item on the invoice meant and could point to where it corresponded to my car.” Another simply stated, “Literally no-one else will be getting my money when it comes to my vehicle but them.”
Banks is sitting pretty in the driver’s seat, having identified a gap in the market and then filling it. Not only do her customers have the chance to beautify themselves, they also get a no-nonsense car service. And delivered by female mechanics who understand exactly what it is like to be baffled by all things mechanical.
Even Banks herself has admitted to being an “auto airhead” in the past. She believes that this makes her the ideal person to create a welcoming car servicing environment for other women. What’s more, she has also dedicated part of her business to educating clients about cars in a more formal way.
Not only does Banks host car maintenance workshops at Girls Auto Clinic, she also runs a blog called #sheCANic. This online resource provides useful vehicles care tips for women. Blog posts have headings such as “The Three Most Important Things To Do For Your Car,” and “I Know You’re Not Ready For Winter, But At Least Your Car Will Be!” The #sheCANic blog, has spread its influence to all the major social media platforms and even book shelves. Banks has published the Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide, which she describes as a “do-it-herself” manual.
All of this has allowed Banks to make serious inroads into the automotive industry. Her achievements have even led her to give a TEDx Talk, “How I Plan to Disrupt the Auto Industry in Red Heels.” This references her distinctive color of footwear and her company logo. The company’s website states that Banks has created a “movement” that is changing women’s relationships with their vehicles.
One of Girls Auto Clinic’s champions summed it up perfectly on Facebook by saying, “This place needed to exist for people who just want good service and trustworthy answers without the hassle.” But it also wants to create females who, in Banks’ words, “[have] mastered the mechanics of ‘yes I can’ and [use] them to get to “yes I did.” It really seems as though Banks has successfully created a haven for women who were tired of feeling out of their depth and wanted to do something about it – girl power!