My journey has been an amazing one filled with lessons of empowering not just myself but other women in this sector. I have found the need to go back and start the process of educating myself both in business and in leadership. My highs are my rural young women development programme which sees 350 grade 12 learners through a workshop that aims to transform their lives every year. Another high was being awarded business in areas that have largely precluded women, this gives you the confidence to grow your business further. Another high has been manufacturing our very own brand of lubricants and distributing this all over Africa.
The lows are unavoidable, it has been overwhelming at times to balance your very public and private life often the sacrifices that has been made specifically with regards to my children has given me sleepless nights. It is a constant battle to also ensure that you find the time to see to your spiritual wellbeing and peace. Praying remains an important part of my life and not been able to go to my house of prayer at times as a result of work commitments has been depressing.
What are some of your major goals and milestones?
My first major goal was to take at least 20% of our profitability and invest it back in other women. When we started our programmes back in 2008 I thought that it would stay at 20% but it has grown and we have invested more money, energy and time in these projects.
In the next five years our goal is to set up a petrochemicals school predominantly for women. This may not be in line with the Department of Education’s strategy so I have set up a Trust called WOA SAS LIMITED and one of the beneficiaries will be this school. Young children of all ages need encouragement and guidance on the simplicity and benefits of mathematics and sciences. We will pay attention to this from a playschool level and grow into the tertiary sector.
I also intend to build a storage facility for fuel in KwaZulu-Natal. The single largest challenge we face in this business is the ability to store product for ease of distribution. Just in time logistics contributes to increased costs which inevitably increase fuel pricing. Storage tanks will give you the benefit of reducing the overall costs of doing business.
How did you overcome the challenges you faced?
I found initially that I approached business aggressively and boldly which assisted me in getting the relevant door open to at least listen to what I was presenting to potential customers. But over the years I changed and relied more on my ability and branding rather that adapting aggressive traits. It has worked, my brand grew because of our reliability, quality and pricing. I still have not overcome the challenges in this industry – I have learnt to modify and work around them. The Department of Public Enterprise needs to be applauded for awarding more work to more women owned and operated businesses.
I have the following basic principles to growing and improving company success which to WOA is critically important:
- If you keep your vision constant, then what you visualise is what you will get
- Your integrity and reputation are all you have so safeguard them well
- Always be transparent and ethical in your business dealings
- Keep yourself adaptable and innovative and look out for different things when you travel, you never know what untapped opportunities there are out there
Where would you like to see yourself and your company in the next 3-5 years?
I intend to target supply to blue chip companies and to also get them to make organisations such as Women in Energy South Africa the recipient of their Enterprise Development initiatives. This is desperately needed to continue the drive to educate and empower women in this business. Skills transfer in this industry is also a critical success factor and we will ensure that this happens at all levels in our very own organisation. I want to develop an Employee Share Option Participation scheme linked to not their years of service but rather their percentage contribution to profits.
What is your dream for South Africa?
I visualise a safe country that is economically thriving and starting to beat the recession, I dream of a country where employment becomes an imperative of every business owner small, medium or large. A country in which we start to take ownership and responsibility for the actions of the government as opposed to criticising like bystanders. True democracy emerges not from Bill of Rights or Constitution but from the change in culture of citizens that encourages free thinking, praises bold actions and develops more women … We need to grow more business women, we need to instill fire in the hearts of our youth to see not just a gloomy past but a brighter future and to start working as a team and not players in a game to outdo each other. We have become so caught up with just making money we have forgotten about spirituality and prayer. I dream of a county where we pray for the sick, pray for peace and build on the hope of prosperity for all regardless of colour creed or age.