It’s estimated that there are at least 12 million cars on South African roads. This is good news for Bonginkosi Shongwe, who owns the Mpumalanga-based Shongwe Motor Spares and Tyres.
“A car is worth its tyres,” he quips. “By this I mean that you cannot, for example, buy a car that’s worth R150, 000 and skimp on spending around R4 000 on four tyres when they get damaged or worn out.”
Shongwe Motor Spares and Tyres specialise in tyre sales, puncture services and wheel alignment for customers in and around Schoemansdal, 30km from Malelane.
“I want to make it a well-known brand not only in my village or Mpumalanga but across South Africa as well. I want to compete with the established brands like Midas and Tiger Wheel and Tyres, and expand as far as it can grow. I want my brand to be known even when I’m no longer alive so that it becomes a continuation of my legacy.”
He is building this dream one village at a time. “I opened my first store in my village, Schoemansdal, because it’s where I’m from.” However, there is more to his business plan than sentiment.
“Villagers struggle to access motor services. Their cars are old and out of warranty and without a spares shop in their area, they have to travel to towns that are more than 40kms from them – we are able to assist them.”
At the moment, he has shops in Schoemansdal and one which has been recently launched at Jeppes Reef. He plans on opening another branch in Boschfontein in March 2019.
He has come a long way since 2004 when he was a matriculant without a clear vision of his future career. “I took a gap year between 2004 and 2006 to work as a freelance journalist in a community newspaper. I then studied Psychology and English at the University of Johannesburg.” By the time he graduated, he knew without doubt that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. But he still wasn’t sure about the sector and services he wanted to offer. His father, whose dream of opening his own motor spares was deferred, advised him to get into the motor industry.
He opened the business in 2013, offering motor spares before expanding to tyre services in 2014. He credits his father with helping him to stay in business even when he didn’t know the ins and outs of running a business successfully. “He motivated me and pushed me to do better. Other than giving me a microloan to buy machinery, he also taught me to be vigilant, save my profits and work hard, which is why we have been around for five years.”
Back to his dream of expanding the brand, he says, “My turnaround strategy began when I was accepted on the SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Development programme. The R200 000 grant helped me to buy bigger wheel alignment equipment, a wheel balancer, tyre changer and battery testers and chargers so we can sell and recharge batteries.”
But, as many entrepreneurs have learnt the hard way, you need so much more than grant money to make your business successful. That is why the Tholoana programme offers intensive skills training workshops, face-to-face mentorship, and access to funds and markets. Entrepreneurs are upskilled in all aspects of running a successful business – from costing and pricing, marketing & PR, to financial management and human resources.
His Tholoana mentor, Ntando Maseko, speaks highly of Bonginkosi. “I’m humbled by his attitude, willingness to learn, eagerness to execute with urgency and consistently. He knew from the start that he wanted to grow his business and have multiple branches, so he has built two branches using internal reserves, without external funding. His level of determination and application is truly special.”
Since starting on the Tholoana programme, Bonginkosi’s business turnover increased by 145% and saw a 40% growth in jobs created. As result of being in the programme, he was also able to open another branch in Jeppes Reef on the border of South Africa and Swaziland. It has expanded his customer based to include people from Swaziland. “We are the first motor spares shop they see, so now instead of travelling to Malelane they come to us.”
He says the biggest benefit of the programme is that he was empowered with skills to run, develop and sustain his business. “The business workshops are breath-taking. I learned that there was a lot I needed to do in order to manage my business and staff efficiently and effectively. I now have systems in place and I’m on par with labour laws.”
For more information about Shongwe Motor Spares, contact Bonginkosi Shongwe or call him on 082 092 9262