I was expecting to see a hulking and less beautiful lady, the day I met Joyce Longtang Aremu. That is the stereotypical image of mechanics, much more a female mechanic. But reality proved the opposite. She was feminine, soft-spoken and had good looks.
She gracefully walked into the auto-mechanics shop obviously prepared for the day’s job, wearing a beautiful smile. Then she approached two waiting female customers, whom she had few words with before sitting behind her computer system. After tapping few buttons, she turned to me and said, “I’m ready.”
“How did you get into cars?” I asked. Joyce’s father, a retired police officer owned a car. When he wasn’t on duty, he fiddled with the car. Joyce always sat upfront with him, so her father drilled into her what each part of the car did, and how it worked.
When Joyce got into the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi, she opted for mechanical engineering, within the vast field, she focused on auto mechanics. She worked at Daneland Automobile Company from 2011 to 2012, during her National Youth Service. Joyce never worked a full time employment with any company, because a year after, she applied and won a YouWin grant to start up her own company AutoLady Synergy Company Limited.
“Starting up a new business, is not easy,” Joy confessed. “Nevertheless, you mustn’t wait for the full capital to start your business.”
When Joyce received her first instalment of the grant – N1.4m – she kept that aside, and waited for the second one – N5.8m. With that, she rented a space behind NIPCO Petrol Station, Garki-Abuja, and got other requisites for the business.
“To purchase a land in Abuja is hellish,” she stated. “We pay N2.5m annually for this space.”
When asked if the company recoups that amount at the year end, her smile said it. The company after expenses and settlements makes about N3m. Since its inception last year, she has 11 staff members –10 males and one female.
Being a new business outfit, she had to put in her all, working from 9am to 9pm each day. She sees little of her two children during the week, except on Sundays.
The shrewd entrepreneur explained she’s never had problems with her male staff members, though they occasionally do things their way.
As her popularity grows, space to park cars for repairs has become an issue. She had to park some of them in her home. “Some customers prefer to leave their cars behind, until the parts arrive and they are fixed,” she said. “This could take a while, sometimes. We (her company and its partner – Auto Medics (AM)) contracted with NIPCO on the space we use. When we go beyond that space to take more, we pay for the additional space.”
With an annual profit scale of N3m for a new business, it speaks volume of what the future holds for her. Little wonder when asked about her strategies to success she answered, “Knowing your business.”
To her, it’s important that entrepreneurs know the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of their businesses. That way, they won’t get cheated by their employees. “I know the price of every single motor parts, brand new ones and the fairly used ones.
“If my staff members override my diagnosis, and such action affects customers’ cars, the cost of repairs is deducted from their salaries.” That takes care of her second rule – Be firm with your staff.
Joyce believes that customers are always right. Therefore, when they forward their complaints, she conducts her computerised motor diagnosis, then attends to the repairs tabled by customers, first. Afterwards, she presents the physical and computerised diagnosis to her clients. “This saves our reputation such that when the diagnosed repairs pops-up, the client has been forewarned.”
Her business has proven that working with partners is smarter and cost effective, especially when starting new. Her arrangement with Auto Medics ensured a working space. At the end of the year, after expenses and percentage cuts for AM, she makes good profit.
Joyce invests her profit into her business. Her profit in addition to the N2.8m third instalment of the grant has helped her open a new branch in Kubwa, sustaining the relationship with NIPCO still.
Joyce is a fulfilled woman, doing what she loves. No wonder her father believes she is ‘a superstar.’
Lucia Joe reports for SI Magazine