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Not a “man’s world” for mother and daughter SME duo

Not a “man’s world” for mother and daughter SME duo

A female owned autobody business

The autobody business is not traditionally known for its diversity – this was until dynamic mother and daughter team, Lebo and Lucy Magwa supercharged their way into the industry as a black empowered duo – moving the needle on auto repair business ownership while accelerating change.

The business originated around Lebo’s own experience. “Every time I booked my car in at a panel beater, there was a delay in delivery,” says Lebo. “I realised these businesses were taking far too long to repair a small scratch or dent, and it wasn’t only me being left car-less for days, many others were feeling the inconvenience too.”

That’s when the Johannesburg-based businesswoman made the decision to start her own business. It was 2008, and ‘Auto Salon’ was her way of providing a different service to vehicle owners who wanted bumps and scrapes seen to without the inconvenience of running their lives minus a set of wheels.

Running a fast, effective repair service had its own little bumps along the way but she pushed on, driven by a steady stream of business from local car dealerships. By 2009, Lebo had opened a workshop and a few years later, she’d brought her daughter Lucy on board to help manage business operations . The next step was to become an accredited service provider to insurance companies - this would take the company to the next level.

Scaling up for change

The duo discovered ‘Fix Auto’, a global body shop network, which had yet to open a franchise in South Africa. “We saw this as a great opportunity to be a part of an internationally renowned network,” says Lebo.  The challenge was to dramatically up their business intake - no problem if they were listed as an accredited supplier on insurance company lists. But to do this, they would need a lot more equipment - and that required capital they simply didn’t have.

“Thankfully, we found Merchant Capital. We didn’t want a huge loan that would land us with impossible repayments. We just needed support to access the working capital that would assist us in buying our first machine. In turn, this would increase our turnover, allowing us to grow the business by becoming part of the Fix Auto network,” says Lebo.

Today, the mother and daughter team employs 32 people, runs a workshop more than five times the size of their first premises, are an approved supplier to the country’s biggest insurers, and are blazing the empowerment trail for black women in the industry - something that is core to the values of their business.

“If we hadn’t been able to acquire that equipment, our story would have been very different. We would not be standing here today. Merchant Capital supported us with the right amount of working capital, at the right time,” says Lucy. She has since realised that building a business takes ambition, vision and backing from partners that benefit her as an entrepreneur, not just the bottom line.

Standing in the Fix Auto Ferndale workshop, Merchant Capital’s Ryan Cohen says, “This is inspiring. It’s a great example of how effective financing can give SMEs the ability to boost their businesses.”

The innovative funding business is focused on serving ambitious growth through great service and relationships, and a unique value proposition. “We can’t wait to see Fix Auto go from strength to strength, and work with them again when they look to take the next step,” says Cohen.

This may come sooner than they think. The formidable mother and daughter team have bold ambitions of becoming the biggest internationally-accredited autobody repairer in southern Africa – and now that they’ve had a taste of success, there’s no stopping them.

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