‘Mama T’ shows what it takes to build a successful small business

Starting a Small and Medium Sized Enterprise is not easy. Just ask Teresa Wyngaard, owner of TW Office Services. Mama T, as this feisty and driven 58-year old is also known, grew up tough and literally clawed her way to being a successful company founder and owner.

Today, Wyngaard runs a staffing services company from her home in Brooklyn, near Milnerton. TW Office Services employs 30 people and provides services ranging from office admin, badging, reception, to switchboard, and everything in between.

Wyngaard’s company provides staffing solutions to fuel company Astron Energy at their Cape Town head office, the refinery in Milnerton, as well the company’s offices in Johannesburg.

Astron Energy
Astron Energy

Aged 16 and as the eldest child and only girl, Wyngaard started working as a casual in retail when her father could no longer work due to the disabling disease Polio. She worked her way up through the ranks, doing cleaning, packing, cash office and eventually into a supervisory role. She managed to put two of her brothers through matric. Both obtained bursaries to university and are today Chartered Accountants, each running their own small finance companies.

“Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy,” says Wyngaard, who has an incredible memory and says she was made permanent in January 1981, going on to work for a large retail group for 13 years.

Months after the first democratic elections, on 1 July 1994 to be exact, she started temping work as a switchboard operator at the then Caltex Oil SA, the previous owners of the Caltex brand in South Africa.

In 2001 she was retrenched along with other permanent staff, due to certain functions being outsourced. However, she applied for the same position with the newly contracted company and was re-employed as a contractor.

“I was the switchboard operator, but in that time, I was doing everything that was needed within the business where I could be of assistance…I am not afraid to get my hands dirty.”

Wyngaard worked for almost six years for the contracted personnel services company, being a “jack of all trades”, but in her mind always believed that one day she would perhaps have an opportunity of her own.

In 2002 she took the first small step by registering her own company TW Office Services. It took five more long years before her opportunity finally arose.

“In 2007, Chevron South Africa procurement decided to outsource switchboard operations. I gathered up the courage to open my mouth and ask if I could also apply for the tender. They said ‘Yes, by all means, but you have to go through the process’.”

Wyngaard recalls spending every available hour to get everything in place as part of her tender submission. “It was weekend after weekend and my brothers assisted me with all the documentation,” she said. “I literally put in everything I had.

“The day they called me to say I was being awarded the tender I almost died,” she says. “It was what I had worked so hard for and dreamed of for so long.”

Still, there were inner doubts. “I actually asked if they could give me a six-month contract initially to prove myself as I did not want to be a failure.”

However, Wyngaard has proven herself over and over since taking on ever increasing responsibilities. Her personal growth journey and that of her company has seen her expand her services to Astron Energy to head office reception, the refinery, as well as the Joburg offices of this leading fuel company.

In 2008, TW Office Services was awarded Chevron’s award for best SMME supplier. The fuel company currently has in excess of 450 active SMME vendors on its supplier database.

Corporate Affairs Manager at Astron Energy, Jill Koopman, says Teresa’s journey has served as an inspiration to many in the Company over the years.

“In so many ways she is the heart and soul of Astron Energy,” Koopman added. “Her staff operate reception areas, the badging office and switchboards, and they are all the face of our company for whomever walks or calls in.

“Her journey is a testament to what can be achieved through hard work, commitment and also through corporates creating an enabling environment for small businesses to establish themselves and then to grow and prosper.”

SIDEBAR

Teresa Wyngaard, or Mama T as she is known around the Astron Energy head office and refinery, believes it is important to always be prepared to learn and to always go the extra mile.

For her, potential is everything. “If you are prepared to work hard, sacrifice and learn as you go, you will go far in life.”

Junedrey Magmoed, Nyameka Mbola, Ashleigh Brand and Staughnton Wyngaard have all walked a long road with Wyngaard.

Magmoed started off as a switchboard operator, then receptionist, gained experience in accounts payable, and is now admin assistant within the SHEQ department. Mbola started off as a security guard but today is the face of Astron Energy at the company’s reception area at its Century City head office, with switchboard knowledge as well, where her beaming smile and warm presence fills the grand foyer entrance.

Brand assisted with the closing down of the old Chevron building in the Cape Town CBD, gained accounts payable experience, and is now a head office switchboard operator and also assists at reception if needed. Staughnton Wyngaard started off as switchboard operator and is now running the reception at the refinery. 

“All four have been with TW Office Services for a very long time and have been a large part of making this the company as successful as it has been so far,” Wyngaard said. “This gives me the greatest joy, to empower people and to see them grow and enjoy what they do.”

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