The gas lady

How a small op­er­a­tor has suc­ceeded with a lit­tle help

Paradise - - Contents -

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.

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