- Eastern Cape entrepreneur, Thembela Dlokweni, is a wife and mother who owns two Engen service stations in East London.
- She learned to be independent early in her childhood when she attended boarding school.
- However, her success didn’t come easy as her first official business failed, but she dusted herself off and became a franchisee in the petroleum industry.
Thembela Dlokweni grew up in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape and feels her life has always been about business as she worked at her family’s shop during school holidays as early as when she was 11 years old.
She attended high school at a boarding school where she learnt to be independent. Later she attained a B.Admin (Industrial Psychology) degree, followed by a post-graduate honours degree and an MBA.
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She didn’t go into business immediately as she spent ten years working for Telkom before joining SITA as a Project Manager. At the time, she owned a kids clothing store called Adorable Kidz in partnership with a friend. But her business failed and had to be shut down.
“I had to face harsh reality when after three years of operating we decided to close Adorable Kidz as it was not profitable,” Thembela says.
“I learnt some very constructive lessons and vowed never to repeat the mistakes that I made, which is why I urge all women who might not have succeed in the past to always pick themselves up and continue trying.”
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As most entrepreneurs will say, the closure of one opportunity is only the start of another. Therefore, the businesswoman soon came across the opportunity to purchase Engen at Mdantsane Retail Centre in Mdantsane in April 2014.
“Mandla, my husband and biggest supporter, motivated me to embrace the challenge,” she says of her spouse of 21 years. “With good planning, I was now able to be a wife, cook at home, run my business and still watch school activities for my children.”
She had no experience in the petroleum industry and found the new venture exciting yet scary.
“Engen, however, supported me, offering training courses that taught me everything I needed to know about running a successful service station, and their support has been ongoing.”
Five years after taking over Engen Mdantsane Retail Centre, Thembela purchased Engen Vincent Park Motors in East London in the year before the onset of Covid-19.
She credits prayer for her success amid the pandemic.
“Simultaneously running two profitable service stations is no mean feat,” she reflects.
“I am happy with who I am and see myself as a woman of faith and integrity: a wife, a mother and a businesswoman who is honest and true to herself.”
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For aspirant women in business, Thembela has this advice:
1. Be a woman of integrity and honesty because when running a business, you must guard against your integrity and not chase money in the process, lose who you are.
2. Be hardworking and be hands-on in your business to identify the gaps at an early stage and strategise accordingly
3. Treat your customers and staff with respect and dignity, and in turn, they will be committed to your business and always remember that there is no business without them
4. Trust in God and persevere no matter what. Challenges will come, but you must be willing to learn from those and pick yourself up. Giving up is not an option. As a woman, you must press on
5. Be receptive to the feedback, even if it's negative, so that you can correct and build from it. Always be true to yourself.
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