- Thembela started selling firewood after she lost her job
- Even though she was discouraged by people who said the physical labour would be too hard, she persevered
- Her business is doing well and she has hired two employees
Thembela Qelesile went from being an unemployed graduate to a woman slaying in a male-dominated industry, using her passion for business, innovation and hard work.
Using her strong entrepreneurial spirit, Thembela started a business selling firewood to the local tshisanyama stands in Khayelitsha. Knowing that being conveniently located would give her the edge over her competitors, Thembela set up shop right across the street from the tshisanyama stands who rely on firewood for their businesses.
Thembela,who is originally from Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape, obtained her BTech in internal auditing but five months ago, she unfortunately lost her job. Although she says it was a dark time for her, Thembele refused to give up and found a way to keep herself afloat - selling firewood.
Many people tried to discourage Thembela, saying that selling firewood was difficult and very physical labour and that the job would be better suited for men, especially considering that the industry is already largely dominated by men. Thembele ignored these naysayers, knowing that she had the skills, innovation and determination to make the venture work.
In just two months, she has grown her venture significantly, and is even able to hire two employees to assist her.
Her solid business model of selling to the tshisanyamas has served her well but that’s not where her market ends. She is also able to catch the eyes of drivers passing by who stop to buy from her, as well as people in the community who buy wood for get-togethers and braais over the weekends.
Thembela shared her story on Twitter and reflecting on her progress she wrote that she always thought that people needed to have money to start a business, but having no options and facing a dark and difficult time quickly changed her way of thinking.
Naturally, it wasn;t always smooth sailing for Thembela. She recalls how at the beginning of the venture, she had to drive out into the forest to meet her suppliers who cut the wood. As a women, this was a big risk for Thembela as the men were strangers to her.
Thembela still has big plans for her company. She hopes to eventually stop renting equipment such as chainsaws and be able to buy her own.she also wants to have a shipping container to store the wood and a truck to transport it when she collects it from her supplier.
She says renting the equipment takes most of her profit at the moment, but she is taking it all one step at a time.
Her story inspired social media users who encouraged her and admired her motivation, and advise on ensuring her suppliers are trustworthy and replanting trees.
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