As the precious trade winds of Hawaii gently breeze over palm tree leaves, it’s 5:33 a.m. in America’s version of paradise.
“Good morning Rich! I’m doing great. Actually out here in Hawaii this week on my first ever non-work trip. However, I spotted a few carwashes I may go in and see,” resigned Melissa Pirkey, responding to an early morning email from this writer.
Like most of us, once an interest in carwashing is ignited, we never quite look at a carwash the same ever again. But, for Pirkey, it’s more personal than that. Carwashing is in her blood.
A family tradition
Pirkey is the granddaughter of carwash operators. Her grandparents owned four successful Texas carwashes. However, it wasn’t until Pirkey started researching the market that she eventually found her passion for it.
“I was a commercial insurance broker insuring businesses at the time, but didn’t specialize in any one specific insurance field,” recalls Pirkey. “My grandparents incurred a very large loss that was uninsured due to having inadequate coverage limits and missing imperative coverages — coverages that should be on every single express tunnel carwash model.”
While researching solutions for her grandparents’ situation, Pirkey realized that there was a need in the market. “I found a huge lack of specialists in this area,” she recounts.
Using her insurance experience and background, Pirkey and her AssuredPartners of Texas team created a specialized carwash insurance program and wrote her grandparents’ new, more comprehensive policy.
“At that point,” she continues, “I made it my mission to reach out to every carwash vendor/manufacturer. Today, I am helping and educating carwash clients in partnership with some of the most respected manufacturers and distributors in the market.”
Going the extra mile
These days, Pirkey spends her time working hard to spread the word about insurance education and the “ins and outs” of coverage specific for carwashes. She goes the extra mile to educate operators so they don’t need to pay extra.
“We teach the importance of claims/risk mitigation before a claim should happen, in an effort to prevent losses. Remember, if an operator has too many claims, an insurance company does not have to insure him or her. There is a risk of being dropped from insurance and having to pay extra to go to a specialty market. ‘Extra’ can mean up to double the normal insurance premiums, which is not cheap when you look at the overall cost of a carwash insurance policy,” educates Pirkey.
A strong work ethic is also in her blood. Pirkey, who was emancipated at age 15, worked two jobs while putting herself through school and obtaining her insurance licenses. She calls it the “most humbling and best decisions” in her life, adding to her work ethic and tenacity.
Her enthusiasm and passion to help operators is evident in customer testimonials.
Tom and Christina Kim, owners of Mr. Sudz Car Wash, refer to Pirkey as a “fireball” and the kind of person you want on your team.
“From the moment we were introduced to her, she’s been nothing but smiles, hard work, genuine, responsive, more hard work, more smiles and gets things done,” sums up the Kims’ experience working with Pirkey.
“Melissa Pirkey is honestly one of the most responsive and helpful people that I have ever delt with and is very passionate about insurance (an insurance nerd if you will),” confirms Monte Moore, CFO/controller of Racer Classic Car Wash.
Finding her passion
According to Pirkey, “do it with passion or don’t do it at all.”
The familiar belief is that if you find a job in an area you are passionate about and love, you’ll never “work” a day in your life. For Pirkey, she loves helping people, educating customers, saving clients’ money and offering peace of mind through proper insurance coverage.
“This allows me to do what I love,” explains Pirkey. “But, I have also met some of the most amazing people in this wonderful carwash business and have built some incredible friendships and relationships with carwash owners, vendors and others.”
Now a regular trade show attendee, Pirkey visits the industry’s major events to make these in-person connections.
“Anything to do with carwashing, especially leadership in carwashing, I do my best to attend. Carwashing is still very much a people business, so it’s nice to get out there and meet with carwash owners and see carwash sites in person,” she says.
Excited for the future
Now immersed in the carwash market, Pirkey is looking to deepen her family roots and she’s excited about her future in this industry and what’s ahead for the market in general.
She explains that the professional carwash industry is growing and she is excited to see her customers and manufacturers find so much success these days. She’s also finding new passions within the industry to pursue.
“I enjoy being part of such a fun and exciting industry. One of the newer groups that I am involved with is Women in Carwash™,” concludes Pirkey. “I look forward to watching the industry grow and change, and I look forward to growing and changing with it.”
You can find Pirkey at many of the carwash shows where she is eager to meet you and say “aloha.”