As the Regional Chairperson of the Tyre, Equipment, Parts Association (TEPA) National Executive Committee in KwaZulu Natal, Angie Frederic, owner of Supa Quick Hillcrest, is paving the way for greater female participation in the tyre industry.
Angie is the first to admit that the industry isn’t exactly first choice for young girls considering their career options. Her own aspiration while growing up was to become a ballerina, a far cry from the destination she finally landed up with.
Not that she has a moment’s regret. She maintains that every aspect of her multi-faceted job – which includes helping customers who need car parts; running the training school she established to feed the need for staff with specialized skills; and attending meetings for the Supa Quick Council (where she is the only female member) or the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI) – all “fascinating”. “I would definitely advise the future generation to consider a career in the automotive industry.
Her own entry into the industry came about in 2005, when she joined the Bridgestone KwaZulu-Natal Regional Office. Although her background lay in accounting and sales, she was quick to recognize the potential of opening her own Supa Quick store – especially since she had long wished to explore her entrepreneurial leanings.
Angie’s 11 years at the regional office had prepared her for this by providing a platform for honing her technical knowledge, while also developing her managerial acumen. And so, when the opportunity arose to set up a branch in Hillcrest, she seized it with alacrity.
Since then, Angie’s foresight, passion and perseverance have propelled her to the forefront of the industry. The creation of the training school (which is now recognized by the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority) undoubtedly served to entrench her reputation as a player who means to improve industry standards – but she has also successfully made an impact through her ability to build relationships and solve problems. Angie maintains that, with these being among the key areas where women excel, the automotive industry would do well to focus on becoming more female-friendly. She says that, although some companies are doing an outstanding job in making sure this is the case – Bridgestone being a prime example – much more remains to be done. Even so, she is confident that females would be welcomed with open arms. “I must be honest that, at first, I battled with my own confidence issues, thinking that I was not technical enough to be respected in the industry. However, after three years of owning my shop, this had changed dramatically. Women and men bring different aspects to business which often complement each other. I am the only lady on Supa Quick council, and I feel that my input is valued by my fellow male council members,” she says.
Commenting on the impact of Covid-19 Frederic says one of the major issues dogging the industry, and those who work in it, is fear of the unknown and whether the industry can survive. “This epidemic will change the way we do business,” she says.
The upside to all the fear however is that such conditions often give rise to innovation, fueled by the determination to survive. “After all,” she points out, “when thousands of people are relying on the tyre industry to feed their families, failure is not an option.”
To tap into this sense of determination Frederic says one must make a conscious decision to remain positive; a choice you make every morning. She also believes most of the TEPA businesses will be able to sustain themselves. “Most of our members stocked up before the lockdown, and are now able to provide the level of service customers have come to expect.”
What is she, personally, doing to mitigate the impact of the lockdown and the ensuing fallout on her business? “I have moved my office to home and have been working remotely,” Frederic answers. She’s also using the time to complete her moderator course; having struggled for some time to set aside the hours required, she’s seeing the opportunity to do this as a silver lining to the situation.
“I look forward to the time when we will say remember the Coronavirus and how the world stopped; but we were strong and innovative and the tyre industry survived!’” she says.
What’s next for this dynamo? Angie says that she is looking forward to playing an even more prominent role in the transformation of the industry, and ensuring that women are no longer “an underutilized resource”.