Leading women in carwashing
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Leading women in carwashing

Editor’s note: Professional Carwashing & Detailing (PC&D) is excited to announce a new content series in partnership with Melissa Pirkey to share the stories and experiences of leading women in the carwashing industry. We will continue featuring these inspiring stories in upcoming issues. 

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The women interviewed for this special series share inspiring and exciting stories. The goal of this new 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 Veronica Attlee and Valerie Sanchez. 

Veronica Attlee, president of Attlee Realty, LLC, and CarWashTraders.com

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

VA | My entry in the carwash space started, I believe, around 2012 when I was approached by Keith Stewman, who is now with Sonny’s but at the time was director of business development with Big Man Washes in Texas. His request for me was to help them advise and guide new investors on qualified locations for carwash development and then assist them through that process … and so it began. Since then, we have continued to grow in this space and, with the help of an extraordinary team and national strategic partnerships, we are also heavily involved in the corporate investment arena, including advisory services, sales and acquisitions of existing carwashes, chains, and brands across the nation. 

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

VA | The staggeringly rapid evolution and transformation of the carwash industry has been a lesson in itself. Complacency has had no place here so the important (continuous) lesson has been to actively engage in progressive and forward thinking, with a readiness to evolve. 

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

VA | The thought to apply here is that carwash customers are not just men, so the contribution by women is absolutely essential. The representation of the needs of both customer types will ultimately lead to a much more successful outcome of the industry as a whole. There are so many segments of the carwash industry to get involved in, from on-site carwash services, administration, management, ownership, development, investment and everything in between; so, regardless of your skillset or professional goals, there is opportunity and your contributions are needed.

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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? 

VA | Entering a predominantly male environment can cause some trepidation and make one feel that, as women, we need to do more and work harder, but in hindsight it’s really important to exchange those ideals and fears by learning, gaining knowledge and getting involved. Ultimately, by learning and participating you gain knowledge and experience which, in turn, allows you to share and become an important and respected contributor in the industry. 

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

VA | The rapid and exponential growth that we are experiencing in this industry is unparalleled to anything I have ever seen or experienced first-hand. And, with that comes change, relearning, rethinking and remastering your trade. That for me is what has and what continues to make this industry so exciting and rewarding. 

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

VA | I’d say (1) to be open-minded — open to listening, learning, relearning and changing; (2) being team-centered — together we all achieve more; and (3) customer-focused — it begins with the customer and can very quickly end with the customer. 

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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? 

VA | We are who we are because of our experiences and how we grow from them. Being a product of that today, I wouldn’t change anything. 

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

VA | I would say that by example, both Wes Dawson (Big Man Washes, Texas) and Keith Stewman (formerly Big Man Washes) in their own respective ways were instrumental for me when I first got into the industry — from the perspective of integrity, knowledge and a true intent to share and help people in the industry. In fact, I was fascinated by the entire industry because of the people working in it and their openness and willingness to cross the competitor aisle and help one another. Hopefully, the growth and evolving corporate nature and consolidation of the industry doesn’t depart from that too much.  

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

VA | From being a fragmented owner-operated industry to what we are seeing today in corporate acquisitions and consolidation of the industry, as well as the major drive in new construction development, I think that carwashes are going to be plentifully convenient in the near future.

Valerie Sanchez, director of new site operations, EZ Express Car Wash

MP | How long have you been in the carwash industry? 

VS | I began my carwash career at Sonny’s The CarWash Factory seven and a half years ago in the marketing department. Through various roles, I learned so much about the carwash industry from the supplier/manufacturer side of the equation. Recently, I made the transition from being on the supplier side to being on the owner/operator side of the industry, working as the director of new site operations for EZ Express Car Wash, which is an up-and-coming national brand. I am excited for where the industry is headed, with so many great innovations and opportunities ahead of us. 

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

VS | Although there are a lot of moving parts in the carwash industry, a key to operate and sustain a successful carwash is to exemplify a great corporate culture for your employees and your customers. It’s a symbiotic relationship; happy employees help keep customers satisfied by providing excellent service and satisfied customers help employees to stay happy. This way, you help keep the balance intact.

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

VS | Remain cool under pressure and lead by example.  

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?

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VS | Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed. There are times where you need to be willing to take risks. Every once and a while, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Speak up if you have something of value to contribute.

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

VS | Since I’m a people person, I find connecting, interacting and building relationships with employees and customers to be very rewarding. 

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

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VS | Three character traits that are most important in my opinion are: (1) to have grit — the ability to persevere; (2) to be grounded — stay calm and connect to the core of who you are; and (3) to be a team player — creating an environment where everyone feels they play a role in the process. 

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? 

VS | I wouldn’t change a thing since I have had several roles over the years which led me to learn about so many different facets of the carwash industry and ultimately to where I am now. 

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

VS | Operators are now focusing on creating a memorable experience and we’re doing more with technology than ever before. As we will still have our local mom-and-pop carwashes, over the next 10 years, you’ll see more national brands emerge. I feel the presence of these new brands will enhance the industry and hopefully change some of the long-standing stigma. That should really help our businesses and mindsets evolve. 


Melissa Pirkey is the carwash division vice president and vertical leader of Assured Partners/Midlothian Insurance. If you’re interested in sharing your story in an upcoming issue of this publication, please contact her at [email protected] or email PC&D’s Rich DiPaolo at [email protected]

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