Written by Leslee Ruggeri, Director, SWE Institute for Women’s Leadership
Growing up around cars, sophomore Gabrielle Gingras remembers wanting to immerse herself in the automotive industry since she was young. In college, she decided to bring her interest to the next level and finally took the plunge. Using the entrepreneurship and marketing skills she gained from her Nichols courses, Gabrielle launched her own business, G.G. Platinum, which specializes in auto detailing and small mechanics.
Her interest in cars didn’t stop there. Her passion brought her to the competitive world of Demolition Derby, where she showcased her competitive side—and her ability to overcome obstacles.
It was her mentor and special friend, Alex, who first encouraged her to enter her first race. In June 2022, Gabrielle signed up and found her first “demo car.” Three weeks later, after countless hours of training and hard work, she was ready to race.
The only woman in the race, Gabrielle remembers being nervous to suit up on race day and put into action what she had trained to do. Alex reminded her that she had a ton of support sitting in the stands and in the pit; he was confident she was going to prove to everyone that she could do it. She wanted to prove him right, and she’s glad her doubts didn’t stop her. “I truly had no idea what I was doing, but in the end, I managed to take 2nd place,” says Gabrielle.
Shortly after the race, Alex had a sudden heart attack and passed away. It hit Gabrielle hard, but instead of giving up on racing, she decided to do another “demo” in memory of him.
She procured a Toyota Camry for her second race, one of the most sought-after demo cars in the sport. After a week and a half’s time, her car was ready for race day, with newly installed roll bar, new paint and detailing, and a mechanics check.
Then, to help with entry fees and costs associated with building the car, Gabrielle secured sponsorships by utilizing her entrepreneurial skills that she learned at Nichols. She targeted a well-known brand, Harley Davidson, and took a chance by simply walking into the dealership and asking for their support, and they agreed.
Then, Gabrielle once again shocked them all—this time with a first-place win.
Once they learned of her success, Harley Davidson agreed to continue their support. Now, Gabrielle has 5 sponsors: Harley Davidson; The Car Guys, Hyannis, MA; Auto Gals, Inc., Swansea, MA; Balise Ford, Hyannis, MA; and All Cape Towing, E. Falmouth, MA.
Gabrielle admits she faces a lot of gender bias on the track. She finds that male competitors specifically target her on the track to try to get her out of the race early. She has even had male spectators tell her, “Have fun, but you aren’t going to win!”
This is where her mindset matters, says Gabrielle. She doesn’t focus on what her competitors say; she’s focused on the best part of racing: winning. “The greatest thrill is when I take off my helmet and show the crowd that I’m a girl—and they all go wild,” says Gabrielle. Today, she is the youngest woman on the East coast to win a first-place demolition derby trophy.
Similarly, Gabrielle’s mindset is to embrace all the opportunities of being a woman student on campus. Gabrielle, a business student with plans to earn her MBA, believes women students at Nichols “have not less opportunities because they are the minority, but actually more!” She believes that Nichols’ professors are one of the college’s “greatest assets,” stating they are not only her instructors but also her friends.
Faculty and peers who know her on campus say Gabrielle epitomizes the confidence, entrepreneurship, strong leadership and role model qualities that are so much a part of the vision and mission of the Institute for Women’s Leadership.
Gabrielle is gearing up for her summer season now. She will be racing in 2-3 or more demolition derby contests over the summer. Amazing achievements come from Nichols’ women, and surely nothing is stopping Gabrielle from chasing her dreams. We are so proud that she is a member of our Herd!