The newly revamped Thornton Road Caltex station in Athlone is a significant business which demands great skill, enterprise and commitment from the franchisee, Zandile Nyawo. Her rise to this prominent place in her community demonstrates true empowerment.

The 35-year-old was born and grew up in Mdantsane, East London. Her father was a teacher who used to sell the clothes made by her entrepreneurial mother. She says of her parents; “they often remind me of who I am and are able to draw scenarios from my childhood that could be relevant to what I am going though as an adult”.

Zandile left home to move to the Western Cape at the age of 16 after she gained her Matric. She studied for a B.Comm at UWC and has stayed on a journey of learning ever since, completing a Post Grad course in Leadership at Stellenbosch and an Advanced Diploma in Risk Management at UNISA; “The constant learning is my way of gaining current information and building resilience”.

She worked as a cashier, administrator, peer educator, waitress and promotional salesperson before carving a career in business banking which, she says, exposed her to start-ups and sparked her own desire to be an entrepreneur. In her spare time, she began an exporting business to Namibia and got involved in a staff recruitment business, all while becoming a mother for the first time (she now has two sons). She also started a skills development company and did some lecturing.

Zandile then bought a beauty salon and used that experience to gain the confidence of Astron Energy as a potential franchisee for a Caltex station; “I negotiated the purchase of the salon, sourced the products, recruited and trained the staff, and managed the branding and the marketing onsite and online”.

In line with the company’s transformation agenda, Astron Energy appointed Zandile after identifying her potential and drive. After going through the Retailer Selection Process, Zandile was offered a site in Cape Town.

She took over the Thornton Road franchise just before the Covid-19 lockdown which made for a tough start but Astron Energy provided her with a mentor and a bookkeeper for the first six months. “My mentor became my source of hope and encouragement to persist and it meant that in the worst times I was not alone”.

Zandile says she has gained a true understanding that the business does not run itself: “The margins in this business are so small and being present means just that. Taking care of the team and the community became my top priority. I learnt, listened, paid homage and contributed to many acts of kindness during such a tough time.”

She also credits her husband John for always supporting her entrepreneurial dreams.

General Manager Retail for Astron Energy, Tebogo Mekoa, believes that Zandile is a powerful example of what can be achieved through strong empowerment programmes: “She has everything it takes to be a successful businesswoman and a major contributor to her community, all she lacked, was an opportunity.  Once that obstacle was removed, she took the chance to demonstrate her worth and we are proud of her achievement.”