Townships have become a breeding ground for great business opportunities as more people join the ranks of the middle class.
As a result, many consumers who live in the townships enjoy the convenience of being able to find the same services that people in the city have access to.
Soweto is one township that’s given rise to many entrepreneurs because many resourceful individuals have found better ways of providing these services to consumers. One such individual is George Nkosi, who owns several petrol stations in the township.
The Soweto businessman says that as an entrepreneur, looking for business opportunities should always be at the top of the list of priorities, because these chances will not come to you.
Nkosi, who worked in the pharmaceutical industry in the 90s, decided to quit his job in 1999 to pursue entrepreneurship. “I decided to take the plunge and quit my job as I wanted to go out and look for opportunities,” he says. “I had this thing in me that said I had to do something on my own before it was too late and I wouldn’t have the courage to do it.”
Soon after leaving his job, Nkosi spotted a Caltex site in Soweto that was no longer being used. “I approached Caltex. I felt I could do something with the site and they approved my application,” he says.
As this was his first business and he had no prior knowledge about running a petrol station, Nkosi approached other businessmen who were doing well in this kind of business. “I would literally suck information from them by going and sitting with them,” he explains. “I would have a list of questions. Eventually I chose one of them to mentor me.”
In October that year he started operating his petrol station, Roddy’s Motors, which is situated on the Soweto highway in Diepkloof. “Slowly the business started to grow, and in 2001 I identified another Caltex site that wasn’t doing well. The previous owner wanted out of the business.”
The site came with a number of challenges. One of them was the lack of business at night, which meant it could not operate in the evening – not ideal for a petrol station.
They also had a problem with the drainage system. So much so, that when it rained the place was flooded and motorists couldn’t come in. But Nkosi persevered and turned the business into a profitable one.
“Those were very difficult challenges to overcome. It tested us, but we build it bit by bit over the years. It wasn’t an overnight thing.”
Following the success of his two businesses, Nkosi spotted yet another Caltex site in Dobsonville, Soweto. It too had difficulties and he wanted to take it over.
“The site was constantly running out of fuel,” he says. “I went to enquire about the site and was told that the owner was having financial problems and that Chevron [the company that owns Caltex] wanted someone to resurrect the site. Again I raised my hand and got approval to take over the site.”
Based on his determination and success with the previous sites, Chevron identified Nkosi as one of the entrepreneurs they could sell the petrol station to, something he’s grateful for to this day.