Car washer. Receptionist. Boss. She has one incredible story

Thembi Sithole
With her credit cards maxed out and no chance of securing a bank loan, Thembi Sithole was dead in the water. She’d just signed a lease of R30 000 per month to start a panel-beating company when her partner went under financially. At the bottom of a deep pit, Sithole’s only option was to start work – fast. But clients wouldn’t trust a business without a grading from the South African Motor Body Repairers Association. And to get that she needed expensive machinery. Fortunately, Sithole is an expert in traversing the odds.

Her first position in panel-beating was washing cars. But her melodic voice saw her upgraded to receptionist, a role that exposed her to the ins-and-outs of the business. She learnt by osmosis and was soon giving advice on quotes and cost estimates. Her determination to grow is what prompted her onetime boss to extend the offer of partnership, years after Sithole had left his company. His eventual financial catastrophe turned what should have been the apex of Sithole’s career into a nightmare. But she got to work, believing that her efforts would be rewarded.

And they were. When an insurance company couldn’t find a panel-beater to save two vehicles, it threw them to Sithole in a last-ditch coin toss. True to her nature, she seized the opportunity. Her business, G&T Auto, resurrected the cars and earned a consistent client in the insurers. By year end their books were even. Five years on and Sithole employs 15 workers, with her business turning over R6.5 million annually. Her rollercoaster journey to success is evidence that determination can be enough to keep the sometimes faltering hope of a better future on track – as South Africans know well. We can be certain that life will continue to test us, but if our hold on belief is consistent, we’ll make it.

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