Here’s What Drives Patrice Banks to Change the Auto Industry
“I grew up in an unstable home—drugs, alcohol, violence,” says Patrice Banks, owner and chief mechanic of Girls Auto Clinic. “My mentors were the people I saw on TV like Oprah.”
But today Banks has moved beyond her tough upbringing to build a business centered around mentoring women on car maintenance and dishing out advice about all-things-auto. “I wanted to create a space that caters to women, lets them ask questions, to learn and to feel good about the choices they make.” she says.
Her day-to-day is spent in her Upper Darby body shop, empowering women and providing a safe haven for them to gain an auto education, ensure they’re getting a fair deal and even pamper themselves a little at the onsite salon. But her plans go beyond her body shop—she published her first book, The Girls Auto Clinic Glove Box Guide in 2017 and is in the works with Warner Bros. and Fox to produce a scripted comedy series based on her life.
Here, she shares how overcoming adversity has given her the confidence and know-how to not only inspire women but to arm them with the tools they need to believe in themselves and dream big.
You shifted gears and left your career as an engineer to start Girls Auto Clinic. What gave you the confidence?
I came up with the idea in 2011 because I was an auto airhead myself. I felt uncomfortable buying a car alone, taking it into the shop, or fixing anything. I felt like I needed a man even though I was an engineer and an empowered woman. So, I went to night school, at 31, learned how to work on cars and set out to share my knowledge with women everywhere. This isn’t an automotive company, it’s a female empowerment company. I’m here for women.
Why are cars empowering to you?
Growing up I didn’t have a dad to teach me how to drive, and my mom didn’t drive, we took the bus everywhere. The second I turned 16, I bought my own car, got my driver’s license and my own insurance. My car represented freedom, getting out and having a choice. It was very empowering for me. I want other women to feel that same sense of empowerment.
What advice would you offer to girls interested in the auto industry or any other traditionally male-dominated field?
Women in any field need to believe in themselves and have confidence. Know that men don’t know more than you. They’re not more deserving or smarter. They don’t work harder. You deserve this, and your contribution needs to be made. It’s not easy. I never felt smart as an engineer. I was surrounded by white men, was the youngest person in my group and one of the only minorities. But as I grew my own business, I realized that I am smart, I am good enough and my voice deserves to be heard.
How do you hope to inspire women through the auto industry?
Women are smart. They have the skills to contribute to better choices when it comes to decision making in business, education, healthcare, and our homes. When you empower women, you empower your home, which empowers your community, which then empowers your city, your state and so on. I want to be a part of the movement that says women are necessary everywhere. We need to be in positions of influence and power, especially in the automotive industry.
Click here to learn more and don’t forget to visit Delaware Valley Honda Dealers at the Philadelphia Auto Show to meet Heather Mitts (February 2nd), Patrice Banks (February 9th), and Jakub Voracek (February 10th), to find out how they’ve powered their dreams and how you can help drive local kids towards successful futures by volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters.This is a paid partnership between Delaware Valley Honda Dealers and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio