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Pniel Female Farmer wins SABF award

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Mbalie Zamisa (SBF) and Claudia Williams

Pniel entrepreneur, Claudia Williams, was recognised at a prestigious event at the Birchwood Hotel in Johannesburg on 5 June. The SAB Foundation Tholoana Enterprise Development Programme annual awards ceremony recognised seven entrepreneurs who are creating jobs in their regions. Just two years ago, this remarkable woman started off as the only employee in her own company. Due to her remarkable growth, she now employs 18 staff members.

Bridgit Evans, Director of the Foundation, said, “One of our priorities is to provide opportunities for women and youth in the rural areas.” She was excited to give the Standing Ovation Award to Claudia, diligent adherence to all programme requirements. “While facing enormous challenges of being a woman in a farmer’s world, she applied her mind to every requirement of the programme, which was completed in full on time, with complete enthusiasm and engagement,” said Evans.

CW Williams Fruit is a third-generation fruit brokerage serving farms in Villiersdorp, Franschhoek and De Doorns. She is the first woman in her family to become an independent business owner in the industry and one of 37 graduates from the programme. Some 46 business owners operating in a diverse group of black-owned businesses commenced the 20-month training in July 2016. Claudia showed true grit, resilience and staying power throughout the process.

Laurence Woodburn, Claudia’s mentor, thoroughly enjoyed working with her to grow the business. He was immensely impressed by her drive to succeed, while holding her head high in a male dominated industry. “She fought to grow her business and become independent… it’s difficult for women to survive in this arena.”

Claudia explained: “In this sector, all the first grade fruit is exported, so I get all the second grade fruit, which I sell into the marketplace, but in the off season, there’s no fruit to sell.” Woodburn said, “She’s had the gall and the guts to fight for contracts and now, with her grant funding from the SAB Foundation, she acquired some trucks to start a logistics and transport offering. Claudia grabs every opportunity, works every lead to branch out. This new business conceivably has more income generation potential than selling fruit.”

Claudia observed the value she has obtained from participating in the programme. “It’s hard to ask for advice in this industry, especially as my brothers are my competitors! Having a mentor to confide in has helped enormously. Being able to share my anxiety has been a great relief and made a huge difference,” she said. “The collective support of other programme participants in the region offered wonderful friendship and support for the journey as an entrepreneur. I never knew there were other people who were struggling like me, trying to make something of yourself. Meeting Fa-eez Apolis, of Drakenstein Rewinds, who motivated us to get together outside of the workshops, made a big difference.”

Fetola CEO, Catherine Wijnberg, is the implementing partner of the Tholoana programme.

She commented on the potential to effect positive growth with committed engagement from corporate South Africa: “The possibility of building a better economic landscape ensures that small businesses like CW Williams Fruit can take their seat at the table and participate fully in nation building.” She said she hoped that other female entrepreneurs would apply to the programme, which had helped her so much.

Evans reflected on the significant impact being made individually and collectively to the economy and to the national wellbeing. She said, “The forecast is that by 2030, as much as 90% of new jobs in our economy will be created by small, medium and micro enterprises. In reality, while fewer than 30% of all SMMEs survive beyond three years it is profoundly heartening to see these  thriving small business owners contributing so effectively to creating employment in under-resourced areas of the country.”

For more information about CW Williams Fruit contact Claudia Williams on 0849421612 or claudiawilliams31@gmail.com. Applications will open again for the Tholoana Enterprise Programme in August. Visit the SAB Entrepreneurship website for details: www.sabentrepreneurship.co.za or register your interest at tholoana@fetola.co.za.