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Female mechanic redefines the job

ENTERPRISE
By Vivianne Wandera | October 27th 2021
Thogori Ng’ang’a, female mechanic and the owner of TK auto garage [Courtesy]

It’s not every day that you will find a female mechanic who has perfected her craft. Thogori Ng’ang’a, the owner of TK auto garage, shares her journey with Enterprise working in an industry that is dominated by men.

Being a mechanic is not an easy job. Why did you settle on this line of work?

I knew from a very young age that white-collar jobs were not for me. At no point did I see myself sitting in an office from nine to five. Luckily, my dad was always very supportive of my dreams. He used to be an electrician and a motorcycle mechanic so I would always practice on some of the bikes he was fixing and sometimes I would dismantle, for example, a radio then separate the parts and attempt to reassemble it again.

What happened next? 

After I finished my high school education, someone brought me a newspaper cutting of an advert that asked: “Are you the sharpest tool in the box?” This really caught my attention. I applied for the training and that is when my journey started. 

Do you remember the first car you worked on?

Yes, I do. It was in 2008 and I was still in school. It was a limousine from the motorcade of the retired President Mwai Kibaki. 

When you decided to branch out on your own, what was your starting capital?

I started by buying a diagnosis machine. I had Sh70,000 and my mom topped me up with Sh50,000.

How much do you charge for your services?

It depends on what the car needs. For minor services, if it’s a Japanese car it costs Sh4,000 for the labour without the parts that the car might need. If it’s a German car then it will cost Sh6,000 for the labour without the parts the car might need. 

Why is it cheaper to fix a Japanese car compared to a German car?

It is because learning how to fix a Japanese car is very easy because their technology is simple. But for German cars, the engineering is different and more complex and you actually have to go to a proper school and learn about the car. 

What lessons have you learnt running your own garage?

I have definitely learnt a lot about the financial bit of the business. Back then I would combine everything I earned but now I have learnt to separate my finances and I have also learnt how to pay myself from my business. 

How was business in 2020?

The business was tough last year because my business is dependent on people moving around and using their cars. However, people weren’t really going anywhere so I had to come up with ways of getting to them. I started doing video tutorials on how to do things like changing your oil and car tires yourself.

Have you ever encountered a client who refused to let you work on their car because you’re a woman?

Yes, I have. This happened a few years back. This specific client was sent here by someone else and he was told to look for Thogori. I guess Thogori is not a feminine name to many people. When this client got to the garage he asked for Thogori and he was shocked to see it was me, a woman, so he refused to let me fix his car and was convinced he had the wrong person. 

What advice would you give other young women who are looking to venture into the world of mechanics? 

Believe in yourself. The challenges will always be there but at the end of the day, it’s knowing who you are and understanding that this is not you versus them the situation. It’s you versus you.

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