Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 22nd 2017 Contents BG8 | ENERGY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt JUNE 22 • 2017
Living the dream
Don't see yourself as someone
pumping gas, but as someone
making a difference to some-
one else's life.
It's the motto by which
employees of the country's
newest service station Harmonic Gas Station
in Tumpuna are being asked to live.
The service station opened its doors to the
public last Friday.
It was borne out of a dream that a young
woman---now the matriarch of her family--- had
almost 50 years ago when she entered the world
of business; one that she never gave up on.
Today, Yvonne Boodoo owns a thriving hard-
ware store in Arima---White Swan Hardware
and Company---and is living her dream having
opened a gas station at the north east corner of
the Churchill Roosevelt Highway and Tumpuna
Road in Arima.
The mother of two---Syam and Joy-Roma---
started from humble beginnings, with "literally
nothing." Her first job was as a secretary but
she wanted more.
Alongside her husband, she opened her
first business, the White Swan Restaurant
and Bar in Arima. The business bug having
bitten, Boodoo then diversified her portfolio
in what was described as a "male-dominated
area"---quarrying and trucking.
By 1988, she went a step further and opened
the White Swan Hardware and Company.
Boodoo had another dream though. One
which she meant to make happen no matter
what the odds or obstacles she faced.
In 2000, she had the opportunity to pur-
chase an established site in Arima, or start
from the ground-up with a one-acre site from
Home Construction Ltd. She chose the latter
although she knew it would be the more chal-
lenging of the two.
Her son-in-law Dr Rochard Santo said: "She
saw what others could not see, a blank canvas,
where she could paint this beautiful vision," a
vision which 17 years later turned into a reality.
Her daughter, Joy Santo, who is a qualified
pharmacist and who was a director in market-
ing at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of
Business, resigned her job to make her mom's
dream a reality.
Santo said: "My mum started from humble
beginnings. This was her dream and to see it
happen, she is very humbled. She knows that
it is only through God she could have achieved
the things that she has. God gave her and us
the strength to work hard.
"I feel very proud of my mother and I hope,
like her, I can be a beacon of hope for the com-
Speaking to the Business Guardian about
the Harmonic Gas Station---also known as the
NP Tumpuna Station---Joy said the process
started in 2011.
"It was a lengthy process which included
approvals from the Ministry of Energy and
the Ministry of Works and Transport."
They were requested to do "a traffic-impact
study to present to the Ministry of Works and
Transport before they approved the site."
In between waiting on approvals, she said:
"We changed the design of the building as
we wanted a rental for a convenience store.
So there were minor adjustments.
"Construction to completion was about one
and a half to two years. The final step was for
the Arima Borough Corporation to go through
all the documents before we got the certificate
To get approvals from the Ministry of En-
ergy, she said they had to fulfil a number of
requirements including getting a retail mar-
keting licence and a CNG marketing licence.
While they own the land, Santo said: "NP
made the majority of the investment. In ex-
change for the investment, we sign a contract
that they will be our marketing provider for 20
years. We provide a shell, the building and then
we lease that to our tenant who is SuperPharm."
"NGC/CNG invested a lot in the station.
We were the first site to open with fuel and
CNG at the same time. We are the first true
multi-fuel site selling diesel, premium, super
and CNG from the start of the operation. Today
I am happy to see people driving into the gas
station and saying it is long overdue. They love
the site. They don't have to be inconvenienced
"So while the business has low profit mar-
gins, it is worth it seeing the smiles on people's
faces and the pride that my mother feels at
having achieved her dream."
The spiralling crime rate, Santo said, was
not a deterrent to what they want to achieve
"because even before we established business,
crime has been there. We are as vigilant as we
can be and trust in God. That is all that we
One of the ways of dealing with the problem
is having less cash on site.
"We pay a monthly rental to activate the
pumps and encourage the use of cards. It is
one way of being vigilant. Customers don't
have to interact with anyone if they want. They
can just pay at the pumps using their cards."
Santo said while her mother dreamt of own-
ing a gas station, "we really wanted something
that would bring a new and unique experience
for the people of Arima and surrounding com-
The uniqueness of the operation, she said,
was the choice of the tenant for the conven-
"I remember when we were looking for
someone to outsource the C-Store I personally
approached Glen Maharaj at Presto, because we
wanted something nice for Arima, something
upscale but affordable, something different."
Today she said: "It makes me happy to see
families coming in with their children, to get
a nice shopping experience, something we
deserve in the East."
Employees are all from the com-
munity: La Horquetta, Malabar,
"We tell them we don't want
them to see themselves as
somebody pumping gas, but
as someone providing an opportunity for
a family to go on an adventure, or someone
going to work, a service which helps parents to
bring their new born babies home. They must
see their jobs as making a contribution to the
community," said Santo.
Her mother's vision did not come by chance
but by hard work and belief in herself.
Santo advice to young people, "Anyone can
make it. Have big dreams and a big vision for
yourself and understand that nothing comes
easy. Be prepared to work towards the goal
with the understanding that you will meet hur-
dles and disappointments, but keep pressing
"Trust that God is in charge and you can
overcome any challenge. It may be a long jour-
ney but never give up, and be honest and ethical
in all that you do and things will work out."
In the hustle and bustle of life, Santo ad-
mitted that it is sometimes difficult to build
relationships with customers, "but we want
to differentiate the service we provide. My
husband and I have carved this acronym CYA
(pronounced see yah) which she said stands for:
Y---thank you and
A---always be road safe.
"So as customers leave, employees simply
have to smile and say C-YA and soon all cus-
tomers will know what we mean."
Yvonne Boodoo, centre, cuts the ribbon at the newly-opened Harmonic Gas Station in Tumpuna.
Looking on is her son-in-law Dr Rochard Santo, left, her daughter Joy Santo, right, and her three
grandchildren. PHOTOS COURTESY NGC/CNG
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