In celebration of women, we speak to Sylvia Gaiser the retailer at FreshStop at Caltex Cookhouse in the Eastern Cape about her journey in the industry. Sylvia and her husband, Wolfgang, own and manage the site as another forecourt 30kms away in Bedford, where they also live.

FreshStop Cookhouse opened in November 2017 as a joint-venture between Caltex and FreshStop. Located on the N10 highway between Johannesburg and Gqeberha, this highway site has enormous potential and the Gaisers have uplifted it from its original rundown state.

What do you do to run your store effectively?

As we couldn’t afford to employ managers, we decided to attend every course possible so I could do everything within the store myself such as Symphonics, cashier, barista, and the Crispy Chicken training.

I don’t think you can expect your team members to do the job if you don’t know how to do it. You gain so much respect from the ground up from your staff and they know if they don’t pitch for work, you can do the job. Another thing, living in the sticks, you need to be able to make a plan B and C on your feet with the customers standing in front of you.

How has being a woman changed your experience in this industry?

I think it has been to my benefit being a woman as I feel I have a better feel for women shoppers and staff. I have a deeper understanding of people working for me and the challenges they face in their home environment; and how you can support them through tough times. I also have a better grasp of the kitchen environment than my husband, for example, the way food should be presented.

What has been your greatest success to date?

I am very proud that we have been able to uplift the community through people we’ve employed and that we reflect the standards we want to see in their lives. Since our arrival, I believe that they are the most positive about life and their own goals.

What advice would you give to someone coming into this industry?

You need to have a passion for people over and above having a passion for the business. You need energy and commitment. It’s an exciting trade to be in dealing with people, and the shop is constantly humming. You become a part of the community, which is brilliant. They like the FreshStop brand and our products and they’re part of us all day, every day.

Interested in what our FreshStop boss ladies are up to? Check out this blog on Naseeha Dawood, 20 years of success.