A common stereotype that most women are too familiar with is that they do not know much about cars. It is also not uncommon to hear a woman being taken advantage of when visiting an auto mechanic’s shop. The mechanic will try to quote all these extra expenses to take advantage of a woman. It can be frustrating to feel that you have to take with you a male companion to the auto repair shop for a mechanic to take you seriously. One woman named Patrice Banks got tired of being treated like she did not know anything about cars and decided to open her own auto repair shop.

How It Started

Every time Patrice thought of going to an auto repair shop, she felt helpless. She dreaded being taken advantage of because she was a woman, and when she looked for a female mechanic, she did not have much luck with that. At the age of 36, Patrice, a Philadelphia native, quit her work as an engineer at DuPont, where she had worked for 12 years to become a Mechanic. This drastic decision was made in 2011, and by 2013, she launched her own Auto shop called Girls Auto Clinic that only employed female mechanics. When Banks quit her job where she was earning a six-figure salary, she joined night classes. She says she felt weird being the only female in a class of 19-year old boys. She was 31.

Once Patrice got her mechanics’ license, she started providing workshops to women on car maintenance. Each workshop is about $25, and they run from April to November as they are held outside and the other months are too cold. Patrice teaches women about various things, including different machine tools and the various functions they perform, like turning, threading, boring, and facing. She also teaches how one can distinguish the different types of fluid based on color and why an oil change is important.

Ensuring Customers Are Comfortable

People, particularly women, come to the shop with their guard up. That is not unexpected. Most people actually take time before finding a mechanic they can trust. That is why each year, approximately $60 billion worth of vehicle maintenance goes unperformed. Most people only tend to their car when the situation has become dire. What Patrice does to help them lower their guard is to first listen to them. Being present in the conversation and ensuring that customers do not feel stupid about asking any questions goes a long way in making them comfortable.

Combining The Auto Shop With A Nail Parlor

When Patrice and her friend used to work at DuPont, they used to have a specific auto repair shop where they would take their cars during lunchtime. In that period, they would have lunch, get their cars checked, and even squeeze in some time to have their nails done. So, when starting her own mechanics shop, a brilliant idea came up. Women consider taking their car to a mechanic as a chore but will always look forward to things like going to the spa, getting their nails done, and taking care of their health. But if someone can find a place where they can get their car checked and get their nails done simultaneously, that would incentivize more women to visit the shop.

Finding Partners

Once the business started gaining some footing, a few women would reach out, wanting to join the business. In the process, Patrice had found some great partners to work with. While statistics show that almost 70% of partnerships fail, Patrice says the goal is to find someone that shares the same vision and passion. Susan Sweeney is a certified mechanic that joined the Girls Auto Mechanic and soon will be joining the new GAC shop opening in a new location. Another technician by the name of Cirina Johns also moved from New Jersey to join the GAc community as a female mechanic.

Patrice aims to help as many women as possible and ensure the next generation of women do not just see a mechanical career as something for males only. She wants to challenge as many negative gender norms regarding women and their knowledge of cars.