The women interviewed for this special series share their stories. The goal of this interview series is to not only share the stories and experiences of these market leaders, but also inspire more women to join this fun, exciting and growing carwash industry.
This month, let’s meet Brenda Jane Johnstone, publisher/national sales manager, Convenience & Carwash Canada/Women in Carwash™.
MP | How did you get your start and how long have you been in the carwash industry?
BJ | This is my 22nd year working within the carwashing industry. I also worked for another magazine selling advertising space.
MP | What is the most important lesson you have learned while working in the carwash industry?
BJ | Over the 22 years that I’ve worked within the carwashing industry, I’ve learned that tenacity is very important. When I attended my first carwash trade show, there were few women working in the industry. I learned early on that women were not really welcomed and to me, that was a challenge to learn more, be better and not be deterred. I spoke with as many people as possible and would ask them questions and listen to their answers until I understood. One gentleman had to repeat his explanation three times until “my light” came on. He was thrilled to have explained his topic so that I understood. This taught me that, in general, people love to talk about their products and are happy when someone asks them about it and then really listens to understand.
MP | What advice do you have for women getting into the carwash industry today?
BJ | I believe that women have a lot to offer, and think that women, in general, need to speak up more, be concise and if you know it, say it. Don’t be afraid to let your opinion and thoughts be known, and ask questions. Don’t assume you know, and don’t let others assume you know. Ask and then listen.
MP | What are some challenges you have overcome as a woman in the carwash industry that you’d like to share with other women in hopes of helping them to overcome similar challenges?
BJ | I believe that we, as women, can go as far as we choose to in this industry. It is no longer a male-dominated industry, as more and more women are joining companies and many are assuming management roles. I think that it’s really important for women to not play the girl card. Dress appropriately and don’t use the old “sex sells” attitude because in the long run that doesn’t work and becomes detrimental to everything we’ve all been working toward, namely acceptance and respect.
MP | What aspect of the carwash industry is most exciting/rewarding to you?
BJ | What’s most exciting to me now is the excitement building around our Women in Carwash™ conference. At a recent trade show I had so many men in the industry come up and literally shake my hand and thank me for starting the conference. Women who hadn’t heard about this conference were so excited to learn about it. It’s very rewarding to see how so many are embracing what we’re offering. It makes my heart smile.
MP | What three character traits are most important in your opinion for a woman starting out her career in carwashing?
BJ | The most important character traits for women starting out in the carwash industry are: be direct and straight-forward; ask questions when you don’t know; and stand up for yourself.
MP | What would you have done differently starting out in the carwash industry if you could go back to the beginning? Or, would you not change a thing?
BJ | I wouldn’t change anything. I believe that the people who I’ve met through the years and the things that I’ve learned have all led me to where I am now. The Women in Carwash™ conference came about as an evolution in the carwashing industry. As more and more women join the industry and set it as their career choice, it only made sense to offer a conference where community and learning bring so many great women together to share and grow.
MP | Did you have a role model or a mentor in this industry? If so, who and how did he or she inspire you?
BJ | I don’t know that I really had a specific role model in this industry, but there are a few good men out there who became really good friends and who taught me and introduced me around to help me get my foot in the door, such as Ian Burton of Istobal USA and P.D. McLaren. Unfortunately, P.D. McLaren passed away a few years ago.
MP | Where do you see the carwash industry moving toward in the future?
BJ | Well, let me start this answer with comments from two men at a recent trade show. This will tell you that there is still much to do.
Standing in my booth, a gentleman stopped, looked at the Women in Carwash™ sign and said, “Oh, women in carwash. This makes me think of girls with wet T-shirts.”
The second comment from another gentleman was, “Oh, are you the company that sends girls for the carwash openings?”
So, where do I see the industry heading? I see where there will be much fewer sexist comments and derogatory remarks made to any woman working in a carwash. I see that women will become the norm working at any wash, whether it’s detailing, performing maintenance or maybe selling memberships.
My father and mother raised me telling me that if I set my mind to it, I could do anything I chose to do. But, I had to do it right or not at all. I think that the women entering the carwash industry are doing so because they want to and they want to learn. It isn’t just a job to them; this is their chosen career and the good men out there will take them, teach them and help them be their best. It will benefit every owner to mentor all employees, boys and girls. We can all do what we set our minds to do.
Melissa Pirkey is the CEO/president of Melissa Pirkey Insurance, dba Car Wash Insurance Agency. If you are interested in sharing your story in an upcoming issue, please contact her at (214) 998-8960 or [email protected] or email PC&D’s Rich DiPaolo at [email protected].