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From petrol attendant to owner

By Mpho Sibanyoni Business Reporter | 2012-12-20 09:33:35.0

TWELVE years ago Elvis Sithagu was slogging it out as a petrol attendant. But today Sithagu, who hails from Venda, is the proud co-owner of two filling stations on the East Rand.

The BP filling stations are situated in Rabie Ridge and Ebony Park.

Sithagu said he started dreaming about owning a filling station while he was still in high school.

But he thought the dream would never materialise due to a lack of capital. His background as a boy from a destitute family in a rural area did not spark any hope.

Since his family had no other breadwinner, he helped sustain his siblings and mother by selling snacks at school.

"My financial situation was so tough that I wanted to drop out of high school. But my principal discouraged me from doing that," he said.

When he came to Johannesburg in search of a job his matric qualification helped Sithagu gain entry to a school for petrol attendants.

He said he finished the course as best performer in the class but could not get his certificate because he could not pay outstanding fees.

So he missed out on a recruitment programme the school ran.

When he finally secured a job in 1999 as a petrol attendant in Johannesburg, after nine months of unemployment, his life changed for the better.

Eleven months later he was promoted to cashier at the filling station.

A year later he secured a job at a filling station in Kensington, Johannesburg, as a cashier.

In 2002 he became cashier supervisor and continued to climb the ladder of success to become assistant manager of the filling station in 2003.

In 2006 he was appointed site manager at the filling station.

Sithagu said business opportunities started presenting themselves when he held senior positions.

"People started expressing a wish to invest in filling stations, partnering with me and giving me equity," he said.

In 2007 BP advertised an offer for a site in Rabie Ridge. He and three experienced filling station owners clinched the contract and obtained a bank loan. Their consortium also won a contract for the Ebony Park BP filling station.

Though the filling station started operating in August it was officially launched last week.

Sithagu said his aim was to grow his business while motivating his employees to follow in his footsteps.

- sibanyonim@sowetan.co.za