There has been a notable rise in female entrepreneurs in South Africa even with the many obstacles they know they need to overcome.
This is telling of the untapped ambition in the market against the rise in unemployment and economic conditions. Colleen Tshikani Makhubele always had a desire to be in business particularly because of the idea of ownership that it came with. This is the type of ownership that allowed you to empower, contribute to job creation and most importantly being financially independent – something that fueled Colleen’s passion to become the co-founder and CEO of Mzumbe Oil in established in 2012.
“My academic strength initially led me to become an IT Engineering specialist and I was privileged to receive a scholarship from the Telkom foundation to study an equivalent of Computer Science degree in Malaysia, Multimedia University when I was 17 years old”, says Makhubele, “I spent almost 4 years in Malaysia and graduated with an honours degree in BIT: Information systems Engineering.
Exposure to the oil and gas industry back in 2012 sparked Colleen’s interest to do business in the space. She identified a need in the market and an opportunity which was growing, created by our government advocating for transformation of industries to include black businesses, women and youth owned business and also to be socially inclusive.
The drive that interested her the most the one focused on access for black women to opportunities in the industries previously dominated by whites and men.
“I saw this need as an opportunity to offer government and commercial clients relevant solutions while at the same time assist them to meet their transformation targets and empower local communities. Our business is structured such that we are able to do this successfully” states Makhubele.
When Shell Commercial Fuels in South Africa brought its distributor model into SA as part of extending business reach and empowering local entrepreneurs, Colleen grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
“We started our relationship with Shell in 2014, when at the time we received our first contract for Mzumbe Oil with Transnet”, adds Makhubele, “Since then we have kept in close contact until the right opportunity presented itself at the right time in the form of the Shell Enterprise Development (ED) Project.”
There was no second guessing, this was exactly what Mzumbe Oil needed to reposition itself and strengthen its capabilities for service and growth. At the time, the country was in the process of a legislative push for transformation and black women empowerment – the timing was right.
“We understood Shell’s commitment to transformation and how they embraced the empowerment of women in this industry and our visions as well as missions were aligned. It made business sense”, says Makhubele.
Although Mzumbe Oil is in the process of engaging and exploring the full benefits of Shell’s ED programme from a skills development, capability assessments and interventions perspective, there has been noticeable progress and improvements in her business since initial engagement.
“Our technical teams have been empowered substantially and continue to be trained on product knowledge and relevant applicable industries. Our sales team is currently in the Sales Development Programme, which is a duration of 6 months. Post this, we will have teams that are able to sell our products effectively and competitively with the support of in-house technical teams that have the relevant knowledge to advise out customers on the solutions required”, adds Makhubele.
Through Shell’s technical support, we have received great support in presenting our solutions to potential clients and association has opened the Shell network of distributors that has helped reinforce our capacity for storage depot and logistics”, adds Makhubele.
Mzumbe Oil is well on the road to becoming a Shell Branded distributor which will favorably position them in the market with the support of the best of the best oil companies in the market. Makhubele also notes that Mzumbe Oil has gained access to superior products that they now offer to their existing and potential clients.
One thing that stands out for Colleen is how the company has been positioned where they can win big contracts with Shell’s technical support and capability behind us.
Reflectively, Colleen notes the importance of getting women involved in all key industries of our economies in SA and in Africa.
“Women have a unique value to add based on our skills set and natural nurturing instincts that promote sustainable growth. We are very key in growing these industries to be socially inclusive, retaining talents and bringing new innovative solutions. Women have to start getting involved at Board level, director level and senior management levels. There are opportunities in the upstream in terms of explorations, refining, drilling, manufacturing”.
She is quite happy in her current role as the CEO of Mzumbe Oil but does see herself growing into the role of Chairperson. “This will enable me to network more and focus on growing the company in different product streams such as renewable energy and investing in the upstream activities”.