Imagine taking the first step towards a thriving career at the age of 14.
Not only did Ayanda Mtetwa, now 36, do this but that first step was into the male-dominated automotive repair industry. This is her journey from the dusty streets of Daveyton, Ekurhuleni, to one of the largest repair operations in the country, and her own business.
Raised by her uncle and grandparents in Daveyton (Ekurhuleni), Ayanda understood herself and her path early in life. She completed matric at Willowmoore High School, in Benoni, and went on to study mechanical engineering at Isidingo Technical College.
“I have always been the oddball in all my circles, because I knew where I was going. I knew I would be in the automotive sector as I was always intrigued by the way vehicles work,” she says.
Strong-willed, with immense drive and ambition, Ayanda was barely in her teens, aged 14, when a former franchise owner of BMW gave her a break.
“My entrepreneurial spirit was sparked, and I approached her for a job. Oddly enough, she didn’t hesitate. I started my vocational employment three days later as a mechanical apprentice.”
After three years, Ayanda was head-hunted by Gautrain. The company paid for her to further her studies and practical training.
Her big learning break, however, came later when the owner of an autobody repair shop asked her if she’d be interested in buying his business.
Telesure assisted her with business development support and funding to purchase the business.
“It was an incredible opportunity during which I really expanded my skills. The owner taught me the ropes and the real end-to-end functioning of an autobody repair business. Unfortunately, the deal fell through and that was the end of the road for me in terms of business acquisitions,” she explains.
Unwilling to give up, Ayanda borrowed money from “family, friends and fools” to open her own repair shop in Jet Park, Boksburg, in 2019.
She had arrived!
“I purposely named the business Inevitable Auto, in line with my belief that I was destined to be in the autobody industry. My slogan was ‘redefining the norm’ as I was continuously breaking barriers and sailing against the current.”
The business thrived and Ayanda even received more help from Telesure in the form of business studies and support.
“Taking full advantage of the trajectory I was on, I applied for the Santam ESD programme, a programme specifically set up to support small and medium-sized enterprises that are already linked to Sanlam’s supply chain and sales network. I passed and then was fortunate to meet an exceptional woman, Mrs Charlene Lamb from Edge Growth at Santam, who became my mentor for three years.
Life was good, but then COVID-19 and personal challenges threw a few serious spanners in the works for Ayanda’s near-perfect life.
“COVID was catastrophic for my business. With multiple problems occurring at once, I battled to cope emotionally and sank into depression. The shop subsequently closed and that was the beginning of me falling into debt, which added to an already painful experience. I gave up my home and moved back to Daveyton.”
All of this was a bitter pill to swallow, and two years down the line Ayanda reflected that the homecoming had done her good.
“Self-improvement happened at a beautiful pace where I was not in a rush. This was when the Motor Accident Group came into my life. The owner, a humble and dynamic business strategist, put 100% belief in me and my vision. I promised I wouldn’t disappoint him.
“I became an employee for a year, during which he taught me MAG’s systems and processes. We reached an agreement for me to purchase one of his branches, in Pretoria. This then pushed me back into the love of my life – running a panel shop.
“I am still under his guidance for the next three years, before he makes a complete exit. He is truly my guardian angel investor, and I am working very hard to succeed so that I will be able to pay back on our agreement.
“MAG is a full-fledged shop with over 83 approvals and endless accreditations. We deal with cosmetic repairs, paintless dent repairs (PDR), Non Structural Repairs (NSR) and Major Structural Repairs (MSR).”
Ayanda says being part of bodies like SAMBRA (South African Motor Body Repairers Association), which is a proud affiliate of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation, is vital to maintaining quality standards in the industry.
She wants to help more women enter the sector.
“We truly need more women in our industry. The networks I have built up should come in handy for me to pass the baton to more ladies. To succeed, you need to be resilient and be prepared to sacrifice a bit of yourself.”
Jacques Viljoen, national director of SAMBRA, wholeheartedly supports this vision.
“There are dynamic and accessible opportunities for women in the automotive repair sector. With the ever-increasing unemployment rate, it is time for women to step up and fill the gaps and grow this industry to a new level.”