Thandi Mathabethe-Ngxongo was so inspired by cars and the smell of gasoline that she is now the proud owner of the busy Glenwood BP fuel and service station. Ngxongo is believed to be one of the few women fuel dealers in KwaZulu-Natal.
A qualified chemical engineer, Ngxongo, bought her service station on Che Guevara (Moore Road) in Durban, last month – after having worked nearly 16 years at Engen Refinery, where she was a national Health Safety Environment Quality Business Partner Manager (HSEQ).
While working with retailers in the oil industry she realised that her dream of owning a petrol station was possible.
“I grew up as a kid playing in worn and ragged cars which were filled up with petrol and oil smell. I quickly developed an instinct for cars and the oil industry. I yearned for success in the male-dominated business,” said Ngxongo.
She said at the moment there were only 4% of black women in the fuel and convenience industry.
She said most women in the industry don't fully own the business.
During her studies in Masters Business Administration (MBA) which she passed cum laude at UKZN in 2019, she researched the factors hindering the entry of black women into the petroleum industry.
After seeing the low number of fuel station owners who were women, Ngxongo said she pushed to ensure that she fully owns her business and is the sole shareholder and director.
Ngxongo, whose father is a reverend, is from Mooi River.
Vehicles lined up at her service station because of its prime location.
She said peak hours were in the morning and afternoon but it was worse on weekends, when people wanted to have fun.
“We are central to everything including, shops, malls, restaurants and pubs in Glenwood.
"The service station industry has been something I’ve always been intrigued by and have always wanted to be a part of. I began my research and seriously pursued my interests,“ she said.
When the opportunity presented itself, she grabbed it with both hands, having to take a risk of using immediate funds from her family trust on a loan basis to secure the deal.
She said she then pursued her licence to operate, which was mandatory for anyone who wanted to deal in fuel to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge.
The fuel dealer said it was challenging to establish a place in an industry that is dominated by men.
“There are numerous aspects that entail a successful service station operation. You have to be an all-rounder and constantly have your finger on the pulse,” Ngxongo said.
She employs more than 50 people at her fuel station and this has made her very proud. She is also the proud owner of Thandi’s Kitchen which specialises in African cuisine on Bartle Road in Glenwood.
“The ultimate dream is to inspire other young women through my work and continuously grow within the industry. I would love to expand in attaining more service stations with my experience and create other business opportunities within the oil sector,” she said.