Khumbu Shelembe had a meteoric journey from punching the till at a Durban Caltex station to owning an operation that sells almost 10,000 litres of fuel a day.
Having started out as a cashier at the Mobeni service station in 2007, Shelembe, now 36-years-old, got her first promotion after only six months to book-keeping and supply chain.
She completed Caltex Retailer Courses in 2011 and 2016 and the previous owner of the Mobeni service station then gave her the opportunity to buy a 30% share in the business in February 2017.
Later that year, the opportunity arose for her to own the station outright. After an interview with Astron Energy, which owns the Caltex license, special funding was made available to Shelembe and she took complete control of the business.
Astron Energy is now funding the building of Fresh Stop at her site.
“It’s like living a dream” Shelembe says. “When I think of the way I grew up, I never thought that one day I would be blessed like this.”
Hailing from Mtwalume on the South Coast of KZN, she funded her studies through bursaries earned from her father’s place of work. She received a National Diploma in Marketing Management from Mangosuthu University in 2004.
Reflecting on her journey, Khumbu tells of her appreciation for those who helped her along the way. “The people I worked with are very good people. They helped me step by step and now I employ other people and I’m happy because I can employ those who are struggling” she says.
With 13 people working at her service station, Khumbu is focused on growth, support and incentivising excellent customer service.
“We motivate each other and share ideas. I also offer incentives for top performing Customer Service Attendants, based on their sales and customer service.”
Aside from her incentive scheme, Khumbu makes sure her team is cared for ensuring they practice good work-life-balance and spend enough time with their families.
“I listen to them and support them and make sure that they succeed. It’s amazing because we have 100% customer service satisfaction approval, according to the Vukani Customer Service programme.
Her caring approach to her staff, along with her focus on customer service means that Khumbu’s service station is always pumping.
“On busy days we’re doing nearly 10,000 litres of petrol and diesel per day and on quiet ones it’s between 3000 and 5000 litres. It’s a huge site; we cater for trucks and small cars alike.”
Price Njokweni, GM Retail from Astron Energy believes Khumbu is a role model for successful transformation and upliftment in the petrol retail industry: “We have funding mechanisms and support programmes in place for exactly this type of entrepreneur. She has taken every opportunity to advance herself and her business.”
Khumbu is committed to even more growth and development: “I have to be strong and make Africa proud of me.”