Leading women in carwashing: Isabel Garcia - Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Leading women in carwashing: Isabel Garcia

Garcia is the Carwash College coordinator for Sonny's the CarWash Factory.

Isabel Garcia
Isabel Garcia, CarWash College coordinator, Sonny’s The CarWash Factory

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 Isabel Garcia, CarWash College coordinator, Sonny’s The CarWash Factory.

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

IG | A little over two years ago, a friend called and said she was working for a carwash company and that they were hiring. I needed the job, so I applied even though I didn’t know anything about the carwash industry … I started as a temp but worked my way into being a full time Sonny’s employee after a couple of months. Looking back, I was very fortunate to get that call. Who knew the carwash business was so big or that I’d enjoy it this much?

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

IG | Don’t take things too personally. The industry is growing and changing so fast, we have to be flexible as roles change and expand. Relish the challenge. Remember, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity for growth. 

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

IG | Be patient. There are opportunities everywhere in our industry, but you still must work hard to take advantage of them. Work with enthusiasm in whatever role you’re currently in and you will be noticed.

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? 

IG | Walking into Sonny’s, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was offered to attend some training classes to get me better acquainted with the industry, which I took advantage of. If offered, I’d recommend getting to know as much about the industry as possible. When you understand that, gender is irrelevant. It’s even more empowering when you see someone was expecting you to fail and you surprise them, just like that, you’ve changed their perspective. I’m hopeful that this will have a ripple effect, making it less daunting for women to enter the industry as more of us are paving the way.

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

IG | Being the main point of contact for Sonny’s CarWash College (CWC), I get to talk to many people and watch the students as they progress through the classes. I get to witness strangers become family after only a few days of learning, sharing ideas and experiences together. That part is fun. I also have the pleasure of meeting potential investors at seminars who come back a year later as students. I get to see their journey. I also attended my first ICA show this year in Nashville. It was an eye-opener as to the size and scope of the business.

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

IG | Be true to yourself first; speak up — you know more than you think. If you don’t understand, ask and be willing to learn; and don’t be afraid to be seen.

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? 

IG | I wouldn’t change a thing. Without my strange and unexpected beginning, I wouldn’t be the woman I am now.

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

IG | Yes. I’ve been lucky to have many. I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with Bob Fox, senior vice president of CarWash College and tech support at Sonny’s. He’s been in the industry for 37 years. He owned and operated his own carwash and he worked in sales and consulting at Sonny’s before coming to the College. He is a true expert in the field and has been very patient teaching me about his passion. He’s not only taught me how the carwash equipment works, but he’s also opened a road for me to shine, grow and bring my own ideas to the mix. He constantly seeks my input.  

The instructors of CWC have also become mentors. I admire how much they know and their ability to teach others. They
always seem to teach something new to each class, even to those who have been in the industry for many years. 

Lastly, Paul Fazio and Kati Pierce. Two of the biggest names in the industry and I still can’t believe I’ve had the honor to sit at the same table as them. Paul is a rare CEO — one who knows your name. He really cares about his people. Kati is a great inspiration to women in our industry. She has the courage and conviction needed to be at the top and run the largest supplier in the industry. Another very knowledgeable woman who patiently took me under her wing at the beginning of my career at Sonny’s and continues to teach me is Kathy Inman. I can confidently say that without her guidance I wouldn’t be where I am. Additionally, I’m left in awe by the passion the people working at Sonny’s have, and that’s one of the things I love most. 

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

IG | From a supplier standpoint, we see more exceptional growth both short-term and long-term.

From a personal perspective, I see more opportunities being created for women to enter the industry and make a career out of it. If you’re a woman considering a career change, give the carwash business a look, as there’s something for everyone. I’m living proof that women, even without a carwash background, can become very successful, and we’re just getting started. 

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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