Driven to achieve her dream: Nokuphila Khumalo now proud owner of service station

Nokuphila Khumalo has achieved her goal of owning a service station and convenience store and is believed to be one of the youngest BP fuel station owners in the country. / Supplied
Nokuphila Khumalo has achieved her goal of owning a service station and convenience store and is believed to be one of the youngest BP fuel station owners in the country. / Supplied

Nokuphila Khumalo was so inspired by her petrol attendant father that she is now the proud owner of a BP fuel and service station.

The 27-year-old is believed to be one of the youngest BP fuel dealers in the country.

She bought her service station in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, last year - nearly 40 years since her father last worked as a petrol attendant. He later became a police officer and a businessman.

"At the moment I think I am the youngest black female in fuel and convenience. In most cases I noticed there are females in the industry but [they] don't fully own the business. They are either assisting the fuel company in running the site or are in a partnership with other shareholders," Khumalo said.

Khumalo, who hails from Umlazi, studied interior design at the Design School Southern Africa in Pretoria and quit as a project manager last year to realise her dream of owning the fuel station.

After seeing the low number of fuel station owners who are women, Khumalo said she was pushed to ensure that she fully owns her business and she is the sole shareholder and director. She also owns the land where the service station is located.

"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 in mid-2010," she said.

Khumalo said she opened a savings account after matric where she saved money each month with her goal in mind.

She landed a job during her studies as a model and as a bar lady and used her earnings and allowance to save R3,000 a month. By the time she had landed herself a corporate job she was able to save up to R5,000 a month depending on how much money she could afford to put away.

"Gathering my funds after the sixth year didn't exceed my expectations considering the in-depth research I did in terms of acquiring and expenses involved to operate such a business. I struggled for some time with getting funding despite all my efforts."

But when a service station in KZN came up for sale last year she was able to use money from her family trust to add to her savings to buy it.

"The opportunity presented itself and I grabbed it with both hands having to take a risk of using immediate funds from my family trust on a loan basis to secure the deal."

She said she went on to pursue her licence to operate which is mandatory for anyone who wants to deal in fuel to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge.

The young fuel dealer said it is 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. As dealers, we face challenges every day whether from the consumers, the company you represent or the staff etc," said Khumalo.

She employs 25 young people at her fuel station and this has made her very proud.

"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."

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