Leading women in carwashing: Ellie Rhodes and Julie Wilkins

Leading women in carwashing: Ellie Rhodes and Julie Wilkins

Getting to know this mother and daughter team.

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 a daughter and mother team: Ellie Rhodes and Julie Wilkins.  

Ellie Rhodes, Assistant Manager, The Tube Car Wash 

MP | How did you get your start and how long have you been in the carwash industry? 

ER | I have worked for The Tube coming up on two years now. This was my first carwash job as I got introduced to it by my mum, who was already working here.

MP | What is the most important lesson you have learned while working in the carwash industry?

ER | The most important lesson I have learned thus far in this industry is the importance of recognition. Not only the recognition of previous damage or safety hazards, but also the recognition of guests and their names. When you are able to talk to a guest or pull up his or her account by name without asking, it shows a level of gratitude to guests for their business and that we really do appreciate them. 

MP | What advice do you have for women getting into the carwash industry today?  

ER | My advice for women getting into the carwash industry today would be not to be intimidated. You don’t need to know the inner workings of a car to work at a carwash. All you need is passion, dedication, a keen eye and to not be afraid of the cold.

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? 

ER | The biggest challenge I would say in this industry as a woman is when customers or vendors come into the building knowing who the boss is. In order to overcome this, simply assert yourself into the conversation. Don’t be afraid to step in or be the first to speak, even if they aren’t looking at you. Give yourself the authority that you have earned through your hard work. Even if you aren’t a manager, be friendly and help the customer out and customers will treat you with the respect you deserve.

MP | What aspect of the carwash industry is most exciting/rewarding to you?  

ER | The most rewarding part of the carwash to me is fixing the equipment. When something breaks and you have the initiative and motivation to fix the problem yourself without asking for help, you make a big impact not only on production but also on what other people see as your capabilities.

MP | What three character traits are most important in your opinion for a woman starting out her career in carwashing? 

ER | Dedication, an outgoing attitude and not being afraid to get your hands dirty.

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? 

ER | I wouldn’t change anything as I came in with the desire to learn, get my hands dirty and do as much maintenance as I possibly could. This has helped me climb the ladder fast at this company and I am very grateful for that.

MP | Did you have a role model or a mentor in this industry? If so, who and how did he or she inspire you? 

ER | My role model here has always been my mum. She got me started here but she’s also one of the hardest workers I have ever seen. She understands my work and is also capable of being my confidante if I feel the need to talk something through.

MP | Where do you see the carwash industry moving toward in the future?  

ER | The carwash industry in my opinion is moving toward being more automated so that people aren’t having to stand outside spraying down cars anymore — it’s all done in the carwash itself. Carwashes will still have employees watching for safety and loading customers onto the belt, but I believe customers, if desired, will be able to get through the carwashes in a timely fashion without having each car stopped to be pre-sprayed. Additionally, if they don’t want human contact, they can choose that option as well and go to the auto cashier terminals.

Julie Wilkins, General Manager, The Tube Car Wash 

MP | How did you get your start and how long have you been in the carwash industry? 

JW | After many years of being a stay-at-home mum to my three children, which I loved, I decided to find a new path and purpose for myself. I quickly found a job in retail and almost instantly I was promoted up to a level of management. After a few years, a colleague of mine had accepted a new job in a carwash and asked me if I was interested in applying as the company was looking for another manager. The carwash was near my home, and I had noticed it being built. It was such a cool-looking building and the name of it was The Tube.

Being born and bred in England and only relocating a few years before, I almost felt drawn in and immediately applied. Fast forward five years and I’m loving every aspect of my job. I’m so glad I followed my instinct. 

MP | What is the most important lesson you have learned while working in the carwash industry?

JW | I feel one of the most important lessons I have learned in the carwash industry is taking care of our customers. Treating our last customer of the day with the same enthusiasm, friendliness and commitment as our first. Making sure each customer receives that personal experience. Greeting customers with a warm, welcome smile, addressing them by name and making sure their needs are taken care of. Ultimately, providing the best customer service. As a carwash we see many of the same people each day; it’s important to recognize them and value their business. 

MP | What advice do you have for women getting into the carwash industry today?  

JW | Don’t give it a second thought … dive right in. If you are outgoing, love people and have a great attention to detail, then this path is perfect for you. I would never have thought I would work in a carwash, but I love it. 

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? 

JW | The challenge as a woman in the carwash industry is the feeling of intimidation since colleagues, sales reps and vendors are mostly male. Know that you have earned the right to be there, and you have earned the right to be respected. Believe in your knowledge and training and don’t be afraid to jump in first and take control of situations or conversations. Actions speak louder than words. 

MP | What aspect of the carwash industry is most exciting/rewarding to you?  

JW | The aspect of the carwash industry that is most rewarding for me is the chance to get dirty and fix a piece of equipment that is out of production. It’s an opportunity to put all my training and hard work to the test and get that equipment back in action. The aspect that most excites me is seeing our customers — human and canine — each and every day. To build a relationship with each of them and see their faces each day is a privilege. We must be doing something right if they are returning day after day. 

MP | What three character traits are most important in your opinion for a woman starting out her career in carwashing? 

JW | Three character traits that are important in my opinion for a woman starting out her career in carwashing is to be outgoing, passionate and personable. 

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? 

JW | I wouldn’t really change a thing. I have loved every step of my career with The Tube so far. To realize and act on situations that you may, at times, wish had turned out differently is how we learn, grow and develop into a better version of ourselves. If I have one critique of myself, it is that I should have been more assertive and not feel intimidated by certain situations. I now know my worth, I’ve worked hard and deserve to be here. 

MP | Did you have a role model or a mentor in this industry? If so, who and how did he or she inspire you? 

JW | My mentor in the industry is Roger Norton, a general manager at The Tube. When I first started at the carwash, I was a supervisor and he was my assistant manager. He took the time to train and guide me through many situations. His expectations are high, as he wants us to reach our full potential. Roger is always willing to help and offer advice whenever needed, and his door is always open. I am now a general manager and Roger is a huge part of my success and I am forever grateful. 

MP | Where do you see the carwash industry moving toward in the future?  

JW | I feel the carwash industry is moving forward and changing with the times. Using more innovative and advanced wash technology. No more prepping with hoses, holding up the lines. Allowing the innovative technology of the wash to do the work for you. This provides each customer with a more distinctive carwash experience. I see people washing their cars for many years to come, and I’m excited to be a part of it.  


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].

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