Running an Essential Business with Patrice Banks

Running an essential business during COVID-19 presents its own challenges to business owners – especially for brick-and-mortar businesses. We spoke with Patrice Banks, the Chief #sheCANic and Founder of Girls Auto Clinic. Girls Auto Clinic is a full service auto repair shop which caters to women.



How has COVID-19 affected your ability to find skilled mechanics?

  • In March, as COVID-19 lockdown orders were being rolled out, Patrice Banks shut her business (even though Girls Auto Clinic is an essential business) down for a month to give herself time to learn how to keep her staff and customers safe.
  • During lockdowns, some of Patrice’s staff, most of whom are women mechanics, could not come back to work because they had young children at home – and those women were primary care providers for their children.
  • There is a 78,000% shortage of skilled mechanics in Pennsylvania.
  • Patrice has since hired new mechanics, but they lack the experience of her previous staff.

How has having your finances up-to-date made a difference to Girls Auto Clinic?

  • When PPP loans were made available, Patrice was able to submit an application on the very first day because her business financials were very much in order.
  • Patrice secured a PPP loan in April.
  • Patrice was then able to get the Economic Disaster grant funding in May.
  • To get finances organized correctly, Patrice recommended consulting with an accountant to set bank accounts and finance software (like QuickBooks) up correctly.
  • Patrice then allocates up to 3 hours per week to keep an eye on her finances; it does not always take that long.
  • Regularly digging into the business finances will reduce the fear factor many business owners and leaders may experience.

How has your salon been affected by COVID-19?

  • The salon is not an essential business, and so was shut down during the lockdown orders.
  • Patrice had to lay off employees during those lockdowns.
  • Patrice had to figure out how to re-open safely and what new systems were needed to keep everyone safe: new appointment systems, cleaning procedures, and more.
  • Patrice is considering how best to use the salon space in a way that will generate the most money as the salon’s earnings are not what they were before COVID-19.
  • Patrice is trying to figure out what services she can provide to her auto clinic customers once they bring their cars into the repair shop.

What was preparing to re-open an essential business like?

  • It is hard being a small business owner; March was very busy for Patrice and her business before COVID-19 hit.
  • When lockdown orders hit, it gave Patrice a break from all the many tasks of growing her business, including finding investors in the shop.
  • Patrice pivoted to focus her energy and attention keeping her auto clinic in business.
  • There were struggles learning about best safety practices and securing sufficient PPE for her team.
  • After re-opening, coronavirus testing has forced Patrice to run the auto repair shop with lower staff levels.

How have you pivoted to online training and offerings?

  • Patrice was focused on saving her brick-and-mortar repair shop, so transitioning to online offering is proving a real struggle.
  • She now realizes that delivering online training and other services via the internet could be a reliable revenue stream in a COVID-19 economy. Patrice recently hired a digital marketing manager.
  • Patrice is now very excited about creating new revenue streams to keep her business afloat and successful.

Black Owned Businesses in Chester County, PA

Online resources, websites, or apps that we should include on this list of Black owned and people of color owned businesses in Chester County, PA