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 leading industry women 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 Kati Pierce and Lanese Barnett.

Kati Pierce, President of Sonny’s Enterprises

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

KP | I started right out of college as the marketing director for a chain of full service carwashes. That was in 1993 — how time flies. 

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

KP | Don’t substitute someone else’s judgment for your own. You should always be open to another opinion or a different way of doing something, but if you believe in something, trust your gut.

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? 

KP | Like many women in many businesses, we’ve all experienced those times of being overlooked or underestimated. I view this as an opportunity. What is that saying, “Underestimate me, that will be fun … ”? 

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

KP | I’ve worked in most every aspect of the business and I loved them all. That’s one thing that’s great about our industry — the varied types of roles you can have and the experiences you gain. It really is about what you want to do with your career.

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

KP | Be persistent; don’t be afraid to ask a question; and believe in yourself.

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

KP | It’s an exciting time to be part of the carwash industry. To be in an industry that is experiencing unprecedented growth is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people. There will definitely be a lot of changes in how the industry works and where it goes, but I believe the sky’s the limit. 

Lanese Barnett, Vice President of Business Development at Amplify Car Wash Advisors

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

LB | I entered the carwash industry 12 years ago coming from a marketing communications agency background. While the carwash industry was new territory, I quickly saw the fundamental drivers are the same as any other service business — meet a demand and do it well.

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

LB | Meaningful relationships are key. 

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

LB | Practice curiosity. The more you can be at least familiar with various aspects of the industry — from mechanical, chemical and engineering to sales, accounting, human resources, marketing, etc. — the more empowerment you have through a wholistic knowledge. Get involved with regional or national carwash associations to grow your network and share ideas. Be confident and take risks. Change can be intimidating, but it can also be very rewarding. 

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

LB | Carwash folks are passionate. Once you get hooked in the industry, you don’t leave. I value the meaningful relationships I have developed with friends and colleagues over the years and being part of this close-knit community. 

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

LB | Since I joined Amplify Car Wash Advisors, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside ICA’s Car Wash Hall of Fame Inductee Bill Martin, who’s the owner of Metro Express Car Wash and partner at Amplify. Not only does he have a wealth of knowledge about the industry, but he is approachable and encouraging.

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

LB | The carwash industry is changing and consolidating. Chains are growing larger and adopting more of a corporate structure to meet their evolving needs. This growth opens so many opportunities on every level — both from inside a carwash operation, but also to the supporting industries like real estate brokerage, equipment manufacturers, marketing firms, technology companies, etc. However, I think a big obstacle is many women are not aware of the carwash industry as a career path in the first place, and that is something we are actively working to remedy.  

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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 me at [email protected] or email PC&D’s Rich DiPaolo at [email protected]

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