What’s fueling you out of bed every morning? Does it feel like your tank is on empty? Do you find yourself in the same auto-pilot mode from one workday to the next?
Patrice Banks did.
The engineer at DuPont, one of the biggest science and engineering companies in the world, was living the professional life of any college graduate’s dreams.
“I had a great career. I made great money. But I had no passion for my job,” Banks says.
A daughter to a single mother, Banks says she was raised to be an empowered woman. She sought and achieved success in her life, and yet, she still felt powerless: every time she sat behind the wheel of her car.
Navigating her happy place
“My story starts out with me being an auto airhead,” Banks laughs.
The automotive industry, in addition to being one of the last frontiers of the male-dominated workplace, remains largely a mystery to many women. Women admit to knowing less about cars than men, according to a study by USA Today, despite making 85 percent of the car purchases in the country.
Unwilling to accept her position among that majority, Banks set out on a path to empowerment, which coincidentally enough, meant giving up her hard-earned career, high-paying salary and company-provided healthcare.
“I was a smart girl, but I didn’t know how to be a smart consumer.”
Banks went back to school, enrolling in introductory auto-mechanic classes. She bought an old car, “just for the experience of fixing it up again.” The only girl in her class, she gained the support of her peers, but wasn’t being taken seriously with local shop owners. Though Banks offered to work for free, three mechanics turned her services down. She eventually found a place to put her lessons into practice and grow her confidence, at Guys Auto Clinic in Philadelphia.
So, the idea was born.
An auto clinic for women, by women
“I’m creating a company for myself, one I would have liked to use.”
Girls Auto Clinic opened in 2012. The following year, Banks began holding workshops for women on basic skills needed to understand and maintain a vehicle. They were instant hits, selling out within hours. Demand for Banks and her insight into this mysterious world of automobiles went from 0 to 60.
In the city of brotherly love, Banks is showing women some much needed attention. The women and men who work at Girl’s Auto Clinic are providing the resources that were hard to find when Banks went looking just a few years prior. An important part of teaching women what they’re capable of, is showing them they can do it.
“You have to hire women when your number one customer is a woman,” she says, passionately.
Empowering drivers everywhere
Now, Banks is about to launch a book to reach women across the country with empowering lessons under the hood. The Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide, a pocket-sized do-it-herself reference to cars, is now available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. So, by the time the holidays arrive, her advice is sure to be riding shotgun with women from coast to coast.
“Now I’m waking up every morning with passion,” she says of the gutsy move to leave her stable life, one she worked hard to earn, only to start all over from scratch. “That’s what we should all be working for.”