The gas lady
How a small operator has succeeded with a little help
Helen Victor delivers LPG gas cylinders door to door to residents and businesses in Port Moresby and outlying villages. When her customers see her coming, they say: ‘Here comes the gas lady.’ The familiarity has been crucial.
A secondary school English and social sciences teacher by profession, she established the business – Zoenani Gas Supplies – when she relocated from Lae to Port Moresby because of her husband’s work commitments.
The business began in 2012, with Victor operating as a distributor out of her back yard. She quickly ran out of gas, however, and, realising that demand was strong, she bought a truck and a block of land near her home.
The next step was to market the business using flyers. Word of mouth also proved crucial. Victor commenced door-to-door deliveries in 2014.
“I started with about five small gas bottles,” she says. To meet the high demand and buy the necessary stock, Victor opened a BSP Smart Business account in 2013 and in 2014 got a loan from BSP to fund growth.
BSP provided two EFTPOS machines, one for the home office and one for the trucks. Now, almost half her business is electronic: “The EFTPOS technology is very popular with customers because many prefer not to use cash.”
Victor finds some customers prefer phone banking. “I do repeat sales because they find it more convenient than cash. All they do is sit in the convenience of their house and have the gas delivered to them.”
The banking technology is not just useful for its customer convenience. It also establishes a transaction record, which can be used to facilitate a business loan.
“All the transactions that I do, the bank has a record of that. So in terms of going for
a loan I don’t have to get an accountant to do my books. All they do is look at the records of the transactions that I do with my Smart Business debit card.”
Victor says the business has grown from selling 350 kilograms to 15 metric tonnes. “That is a significant difference,” she says. The business has two trucks. Airways Residences is a customer, as well as several hotels.” There have been challenges along the way. “When I started out, I was driving the truck myself and I found that my gender was a barrier. People were more reluctant about ordering their gas cylinders from a woman,” she says.
Victor believes the key is to do the little things correctly. She says the mix of EFTPOS, mobile phone banking and on-line banking has been crucial. “It is a smarter way of doing business,” she says.
Helen Victor … started business with five small gas bottles and now supplies, hotels, apartments and residences.