Female champs in the male dominated fuel industry
Rolang Mpe and Julia Ramanteba started from humble beginnings to now being proud co-owners of a Engen fuel filling station under one of the biggest oil companies in Africa. Mpe and Ramanteba started out as employees of Engen Filling Station situated along the Western-by-Pass where they were once employed as managers.
Without any previous business ownership, and armed with passion for the fuel business and a knack for excellent customer service, the two women were able to create a thriving business even garnering a Diamond Service League awards in 2008, as well as the Engen award for Best Customer Service and Best Filling Station in the country.
After noticing their hard work and success in running the filling station they previously worked for, Engen management encouraged them to consider seeking funding to open their own.
Although it came with a lot of challenges, Mpe and Ramanteba were able to secure funding from CEDA and acquired an Engen Filling Station in Lobatse in August 2006 which they are co-owners.
Mpe speaks fondly of the success of the filling station, remembering the negative impact that the 2010 recession had on their sales volumes and their profit margins as well as gaining a place in the small Lobatse market. Up to now, not withstanding the challenges faced, the ladies continue to run a successful business and hope to own another filling station in the near future.
“We have been able to operate considerably well in a male dominated industry, which has had its hurdles. With the good work that we have done up to now, Engen should be able to avail to us another site,” Rolang said. “We want to break the stereotype because we want to be the champions of the industry,” she said.
The duo attributes most of their success to the excellent customer service they give to their customers, and an open and appreciative relationship they have with their staff. “While I have an accounting background, Julia holds a marketing one, hence we complement each other as business partners. While I handle most of the administration, Julia uses her skills acquired from marketing to maintain a good relationship with our customers. This has gone a long way for our business especially in a sensitive and generic business like this one,” said Mpe.
For those women who would like or are considering venturing into the fuel business, Mpe advises that, “There’s nothing to fear. Business like any other thing needs control and passion. You need to be closely in touch with your business, giving it your full focus. It is a very sensitive business because even when P100 goes missing, it takes a large amount of litres just to make up for it.”
Mpe and Ramanteba are planning to diversify into manufacturing and are currently conducting research. “We have taken interest into a few products and we are currently doing research. This is something we feel we can take on as we will take our expertise and apply them to the new venture,” they said.