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John Maina: From Washing Cars To Owning Sh18 Million Fuel Station

A lot of people, especially in this generation, despise humble beginnings and try to get jobs that fit their standards. However what most people don’t understand is that with hard work and determination, you can literally rise from rags to riches.

WoK brings you the inspiring story of John Maina Kinywa – the entrepenuer who started off as a car washer and ended up owning a Sh18 million fuel station.

John Maina Kinywa’s Journey

After clearing his high school education back in 2000, Kinywa decided to do menial jobs just to survive since his parents were living in poverty and couldn’t afford to pay for his university studies.

He later applied for a job at Total Oil Company to be considered as a customer attendant but instead he was taken in as a car washer.

He never looked down upon the job but instead did it diligently and this made him to be the favorite of many. He worked in the position for a few months before gaining a promotion to the customer attendant position.

Kick starting his Career

After gaining promotion, he was deployed to Nanyuki where he worked as a customer attendant in one of the fuel stations.

Again he continued being focused and disciplined and it only took him eight months before he was promoted to a court attendant position and later becoming the senior customer attendant.

He continued being trustworthy and productive in every position he was put in and this saw him rise to the rank of supervisor before his major breakthrough coming in 2013 when he was appointed the manager of Total petrol station situated in Limuru Road. 

Major Breakthrough

The 44 year old entrepreneur major breakthrough came in 2013 when he was among the lucky 88 beneficiaries of Total’s Young Dealer Programme – the programme seeks to partner with independent business people in running Total Petrol Stations as dealers.

The programme, which is part of the company’s continuous growth strategy, offers financial aid to workers who show the zeal and potential to grow the business.

In order to qualify for the opportunity, applicants must have worked at any of the 196 Total service stations in the country and proved to possess skills in running and managing an oil business.

Once you’re selected, you’re given capital and financial support to run one of their stations as a dealer whilst offering an opportunity to make profits. The capital given is expected to be repaid within a period of five years depending on the size and traffic of the station.

John Maina received Ksh 18 million to operate the Limuru Road Total Station which he has since repaid. He used the money to make improvements at the station such as installing CCTV Cameras to boost security, setting up panic buttons and security alerts and putting in place motion sensors.

He also increased the station’s capacity from 240,000 liters to 450,000 liters in a month. Speaking to the Business Daily, he attributed the success of the station and growth in sales to the good customer service offered by his workforce of 50 employees who he rewards occasionally.

He has also mentored eight of his former employees to become dealers like himself in various stations across the country.

“My employees are the ones who make this station a success. I have about 50 employees as of now. The beauty of being a dealer is that you are able to improve the station because you have worked there previously at a lower rank so you know what needs to change or improve. Also I reward my employees. Every worker who achieves a certain set targets gets an incentive on top of their monthly salary. This helps boost the employees’ morale while working at the station,” he told Businessdaily.

Challenges in the business

His first major challenge came in 2013 when he had just taken over the station as a manager. Armed robbers broke into the station and stole all the LPG gas cylinders that were available.

This is what propelled him to put in place CCTV cameras and motion sensors to boost security immediately after taking over the station.

Another challenge he revealed to the Business Daily is the fluctuation of oil prices which can drop a few days after filling up the tanks. Mr. Kinywa revealed that it takes a resilient spirit and a passion for the business for one to fight through the challenges.