ENTREPRENEUR Lorraine Masipa has had to learn the hard way that being female and black counts for little in the energy sector.
Masipa's learning curve came after banks refused to fund her business, despite her company having secured a contract from a state-owned enterprise.
She was eventually funded by a bank from the UK that enabled her to do business.
"I had to learn quickly that being female and black meant nothing in the industry," she says. Masipa says for a long time in the energy sector "there has been few players sharing large pieces of cake and they don't make it easy for smaller players to get in".
"You have to bully your way into the industry," she says.
Formerly employed in the mining industry, Masipa is the owner of Simona Oil, which she founded when she entered the energy sector in 2012.
"I started trading in petroleum products and moved to diesel as I acquired a wholesale and import licence to supply businesses across the country," Masipa said.
"When I was in mining, I realised there was a huge need for diesel.
"In mining they don't count the consumption of diesel in litres but in time, especially in areas where there is open-cast mining, when you have vehicles moving up and down every second of the day."
She says this made her see that supplying diesel to mining houses was a lucrative business.
Masipa also learnt that Eskom buys about 100-million litres of diesel a month. She is one of the parastatal's suppliers. "I was at a stage in my life where I realised that I wanted to do consulting services," she says.
Masipa also realised that big fuel companies had not invested much into oil refineries as the country imports 90% of its finished products.
"So my interest started being around energy solutions and infrastructure, which are long-term projects that are capital intensive and they require skills, which we don't have in the country," she says.
Her company is now working on a project that could result in the building of a filling station for ships in Western Cape.
"I realised that in Saldanha Bay there was no bunkering facility, which is a fancy term for a petrol station for ships.
"When vessels come to pick up goods, they have to carry their own fuel.
"And that is a problem because the space they are using could be [used] for more goods," she says.
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