Leading women in carwashing
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Leading women in carwashing

The women interviewed for this special women in carwashing 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. 

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This month let’s meet Alicia Baker and Jensi Sanders. 

Alicia Baker, Site Manager, ZIPS Car Wash

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

AB | My first job at 16 years old was at a Dr. Huggs Car Wash, a full service carwash in Buffalo, New York, as a part-time attendant. I worked my way to manager by 18 years old, multi-site manager by 20 years old, running two full service tunnels and two self-serve locations, and ultimately, general manager by 23 years old. I have now been in the industry for 12 years. 

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

AB | I’ve learned that hard work pays off. It may not always be easy, but if you work hard at something you love, the opportunities are endless.

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

AB | My advice would be to just try. As a female in a male-dominated industry we can easily be overlooked for projects or positions just because we’re female. Don’t be afraid to step up to the plate and take a swing. I’ve had the honor of mentoring other young women in the industry and I’ve really had to push them to experience other opportunities within the industry. Some of my best employees have been females, and I just know they will do great things in their lives. 

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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? 

AB | I am going to be honest, it’s not easy being, sometimes, the only female in a crowd of men talking carwash shop talk. I have always struggled receiving immediate respect from male colleagues, but one of my mentors told me, “You have to earn respect in any industry you’re in and to do that just be yourself and show everyone what you can do.” There will always be someone who doesn’t believe in you, but believe in yourself, teach yourself and be better for yourself. Not for anyone else. 

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

AB | Hands down my favorite part of the carwash industry is the people. I have met so many amazing people over the years; even the people I have never met in person have been so open about the industry and any help I’ve needed along the way. The carwash industry is very competitive, but also brings a lot of camaraderie that you will not find in other industries. 

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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AB | First, we are in the people business, we just happen to wash cars. Be prepared to give the best customer service experience you ever could imagine. Customers like when their vehicles are washed but you can really blow them away with the experience, and that starts with you. Be truly passionate about what you are doing every single day, keep at it and never give up. This industry can be exhausting and stressful at times but being dedicated year after year will set you apart from everyone else. And finally, work on your critical thinking skills. If you’re prepared to solve problems quickly when you walk into work every single day, you’re going to be a rockstar. 

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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? 

AB | I would not change a single thing. My start in the industry was tougher than most. Working for a small family-owned business, it was difficult to be able to get anything fixed or ordered or permission to add labor hours. But, it absolutely showed me the amount of work ethic and dedication that is needed for this industry. Looking back, I never knew I could accomplish so many things at such a young age. 

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

AB | It is always great to have a mentor who sticks with you for years and years, but in my case I’ve only known him for a little over a year. Brandon Berry has taught me so much over the last year and a half that has absolutely changed my career and pushed me into high gear. He has taught me how to be a better leader and not just a great manager. I did not realize what a huge difference I can make in my team when my mindset switched to being a leader instead of a manager. He has been able to be very honest with me and pushed me out of my comfort zone many times, which helped me realize that I need to stop trying to earn respect and let it happen naturally just by being myself. 

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Lastly, he showed me how important company culture is to employees. I never knew a company can be so amazing to their employees and make money at the same time. Company culture is huge for employee morale, which seems like a no brainer, but there are companies out there that treat an employee like just a number. Each one of us have felt like the most important employee to Brandon, and even though we are not working together anymore, I will always look back on the lessons and advice he gave to us. 

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

AB | I believe the industry is just starting out. Soon, the carwash industry will have the greatest job opportunities available. It is nearly impossible to find someone who thinks, “I want to work at a carwash for the rest of my life.” And, I was there too about seven years ago. We all see our classmates and friends graduating with teaching and nursing degrees, and that tends to make you feel left out. But, I promise you, this industry will teach you more things than you could ever imagine. It easily creates a well-rounded individual who can work with people, work with your hands and be a leader. I have loved my last 12 years in this industry and I look forward to my next 20 years. 

Jensi Sanders, Partner, MIRACLE Car Wash Advisors

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

JS | I began working in the carwash industry nearly two years ago, but prior to that I worked in the legal field for almost a decade, part of which was spent assisting various carwash organizations with their acquisitions. Through this, I was introduced to Thomas Coffman, a long-time broker within
the industry, who was looking for someone to assist him with managing the daily business operations of his former company, Miracle Real Estate. Fast forward to October 2021, and we launched MIRACLE Car Wash Advisors.
It’s been a fun experience and process getting things off the ground, and we’re very excited about the future.

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

JS | There is no substitute for knowledge and expertise. The carwash landscape is constantly shifting and the market is constantly evolving, so staying up to date on all of the action is paramount to best inform and advise our clients through transactions.

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

JS | Be confident and align yourself with colleagues who are supportive of you and women, in general. I have been very fortunate to work with a group of individuals at MIRACLE who recognize the value I add to the team, and who facilitate an environment where we can all learn and grow together.

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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? 

JS | Being a woman in a predominately male industry can easily cause one to be self-conscious, but I have learned to embrace the challenge and gain as much knowledge as possible, while connecting with the many strong women who are in the industry, such as yourself. I believe the Women in Car Wash™ conference is a great resource for those looking to get more involved, and I look forward to attending the next conference in January. 

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

JS | Maximizing value for our sellers. It is very rewarding to hear clients tell you how your team made them believe they could achieve a higher sales price than they were considering … and then delivering. We are constantly reminded that we’re helping people improve their businesses and their futures.

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

JS | Staying confident, being a hard worker and maintaining your integrity, no matter what happens.

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? 

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JS | I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and contributes to our later success, so I suppose my one regret is not getting into the industry sooner. 

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

JS | Yes, Thomas Coffman has been my mentor for a long time now, and he has taught me so much about the power and importance of cultivating relationships. Whether it is hopping on a plane to meet with a new client face-to-face or slowing down and getting to know the person behind the brand before learning about the business, helping people understand that you are there for them matters. Relationships are not always easy to cultivate and maintain, but they are a significant part of the value we can add to our clients.

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

JS | It seems unimaginable to many at this point, but I see more growth. Our team identifies new areas every week that are currently underserved by the carwash industry and have strong potential. It’s very exciting.


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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