LEARNING CURVE | Owner of Tom’s Tyres driven to succeed

ON THE RIGHT TRACK: Xolisa Tom, owner of Tom's Tyres, has a passion for cars and people
ON THE RIGHT TRACK: Xolisa Tom, owner of Tom's Tyres, has a passion for cars and people
Image: Supplied

Having a drive and a great sense of motivation are Xolisa Tom’s strongest entrepreneurial characteristics. The 42-year-old owner of Tom’s Tyres is action-orientated, willing to take risks, hardworking and persistent.

Please share some background on yourself and how the business was started?   

I am resilient and have an optimistic outlook. I have good communication and negotiating skills, which are obviously positive for entrepreneurship.

The concept of my business began originally with the drive, passion and the love of cars. The vision was to create a company that will take technology into the township. We want to become one of the leading tyre replacement and repair shops of choice in the auto tyre retail shops industry in Nelson Mandela Bay and to establish a one stop tyre shop in Kwazakhele.

What is your core service?               

  • Tyre Fitment
  • Rotation
  • Bearings
  • Shocks
  • Disc Skimming
  • Brakes
  • Battery Services
  • Exhaust (not launched yet)
  • Wheel Alignment
  • Wheel Balancing
  • Suspension repairs

 What makes your business unique?

I have an excellent customer service culture. We are a one-stop shop and we go the extra mile for all our customers.

If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?

First things first is compliance, then you will have to do a professional business plan. Source funds and make sure that you have premises available for you to use. Most importantly you must have enough energy to see the business through.

What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?

I lacked funds to purchase the right kind of machinery for my business. Finding premises that were in a strategic place to attract customers was also a challenge for me. Once I had found premises getting funds to revamp was the next inhibitor. And finding staff with relevant skills and a passion for the job.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?

  • Stay focused
  • Never give up
  • Never limit yourself
  • One brick at a time
  • Have a burning desire to succeed

What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?

Crime in the townships is unbearable, there is a high rate of unemployment, everyday people work into our shop to ask for a job. Alcohol abuse by employees is also a challenge that we face.

What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?

Believe in yourself, stop seeking for people’s approval. Do what you believe is right for you and your business.

How do you measure or define success in your business?

At this stage the business is fairly new to measure it’s success, however it is showing positive signs on the balance sheet and its equity. Feedback from the clients is also positive and overwhelming.

What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful? 

I have developed an excellent customer service culture and we have highly experienced staff members which is a bonus for us. We make frequent sales calls and have a vigorous marketing plan.  

What kind of advertising do you do?

  • Social media
  • Business cards
  • Flyers
  • Branded clothes
  • E-mail signature
  • Word of mouth

What is your company’s vision?

Our vision is to become one of the leading tyre replacement and repair shop of choice in the auto tyre retail industry in Nelson Mandela Bay. Also, to establish a one stop tyre shop in Kwazakhele and with later expansion on the cards, in other key sites in the greater province.

What is your target market?

The primary target market is the township people of the Nelson Mandela Bay and the service centre is ideally situated in one of the biggest townships in Nelson Mandela Bay. Kwazakhele is the heart and centre of the township and our business is ideally situated.

What have some of your highlights been in running your business?

The response as well as the support I’m getting from people, in all directions of the city. It is so overwhelming. I am enjoying every moment interacting with my customers.

How important is social media and an online presence for your business?

It’s very important. It increases brand awareness, helps me engage with customers and improve customer service.

How many people do you employ?

I have six permanent employees and two-part time staff.

Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?

Yes, in the near future but there is not specific details as yet. The main focus is on growing this one.

How did you acquire funding for the business?

I received a Technology Transfer Fund (TTF) grant from Seda. It was a long application process, but I became one of the beneficiaries of the grant.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far? 

  • Stay focused.
  • Be organised.
  • To be ready for anything all the time.
  • Be consistent and never give up.
  • Always have a positive mindset.

What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?

  • Crime (living in fear of robbery and burglary)
  • Lack of information about the grants and funding to support small businesses.
  • High rate of unemployment (people do not understand when you say, you do not have funds to employ them).
  • Political interference on everything.

What do you say are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?

  • Always have a vision
  • Take risks when necessary
  • Perseverance

What do you say are the key traits of a successful employer?

  • Good leadership skills
  • Good listener
  • Good communicator

What do you wish people knew about your industry?

Tom’s Tyre Services offers a comprehensive tyre repair and tyre replacement service with great customer service. The primary focus is on both truck and light vehicle tyres, however we offer extensive services related to tyres such as wheel alignment, balancing, suspension repairs and so on We are set to service a wide range of clientele in and around Kwazakhele Port Elizabeth.

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