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Transforming A Community Tuckshop Into A Retail Hub

Harnessing her grit, foresight, and entrepreneurial flair, Antonette Mngunu is transforming a community tuckshop into a buzzing retail hub.


Antonette Mngunu
Antonette Mngunu


Mkgudlulu Trading Store is full of childhood memories for Antonette. This is where many of her days were spent, helping her mother run the small tuckshop she had established to sell meals to the Rust-der-Winter locals. “I don’t even remember when my mother first opened the shop, but we all grew up in it,” Antonette recalls. “During the holidays, or even after school, all our time was spent in the shop.”


It’s not surprising, then, that Antonette had an innate talent for selling. She even tried to trade at high school, which was strictly against the rules. However, seeing that her knack for retail couldn’t be quashed, the school agreed to make her the tuckshop prefect.


Antonette had her sights set on becoming a CA once she matriculated, but the further she got in her studies (she completed a Diploma in Internal Auditing), the stronger her realization that she was, in fact, a born businesswoman – she even continued with her sales career by selling Tupperware and Avon products while she was studying.


The plan to take over the shop took some time, though. Antonette first worked as a credit associate at Edgars and then took up a post as a teller at Absa, working her way up to teller supervisor, before moving on to, SBV a cash-in-transit company. Finally, eager to put her business skills to the test, she considered buying a restaurant franchise. This dream was thwarted by a lack of funds, and so she turned her attention to Mkgudludlu Trading Store instead.


One of the things Antonette loves most about her store is the sense of community that surrounds it. “You meet so many different people in a day,” she muses. “There are the miners who could buy their lunch at any of the big centres, but they choose to come here so that they can have a bit of conversation. Then there are the people you would never imagine visiting a small local store because they’re so fancy – but they like it here, too.”


Antonette takes pride in having built strong relationships with her customers.


“It’s not just about the transaction. We’ve become a community.” This has been made possible not only by her bubbly personality – a trait she says she shares with her mother – but her ethos. “You can’t go into business simply to make money. You have to give something of yourself,” Antonette states.

Her enjoyment of the business is driving its growth in exciting ways. When Rust-der-Winter became a meeting place of the local Land Rover Club, with vehicle owners gathering to talk torque, they turned to Antonette and her team to provide eats and treats. She’s hoping that more such gatherings will take place as she expands Mkgudludlu’s offering.


Her first step in this direction is the addition of a kitchen, allowing her to offer takeaways. Next, she’s planning to open a filling station. She has already completed the Environmental Impact Assessment for this process and is now awaiting permission from the local chief, as the land is under a land claim.


Not content to stop here, she would, eventually, like to establish a butchery, supermarket, and bottle store. Her dream further includes spaces that may be rented out to retailers like hardware stores or salons – “whatever our clients ask for.”


Antonette is incredibly excited about how these changes will move Mkgudlulu forward – challenges notwithstanding. “Price is a big motivating factor for shoppers these days – some don’t even consider quality. This places huge pressure on volumes, and for retailers to win in this environment, you have to band together so you can take advantage of mass buying power.”


Despite the obstacles, Antonette’s enthusiasm remains unchecked. “As an entrepreneur, you need to do everything with passion,” she concludes.


Author: Terrena Rathanlall


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