• Service: Enterprise, Family business
  • Type: Business and industry issue
  • Date: 8/14/2013

South African Family Business Success Stories 

Success Stories

Working hard to get your family business off the ground?

South Africa lays claim to a host of successful family businesses in varied fields, from retailing and mining, to fast food and health and wellness. We profile these successful family businesses, and invite you to draw inspiration from their success stories.

Pick ‘n Pay – Inspired by You

Back in 1967, after raising the capital from colleagues, out-of-work former Checkers-employee Raymond Ackerman purchased four small unprofitable stores in Cape Town called Pick ‘n Pay. Focusing on offering everyday items at low prices, he not only turned those four stores around, but acquired more, growing the chain to 700 stores across Southern Africa.

Pick ‘n Pay remains a family business, offering online shopping and financial services, in addition to the original value-for-money retail experience. A personal mantra, inherited from a former university lecturer of Ackerman’s, shaped his retail enterprise into one of South Africa’s largest supermarket chains – treat the customer like a queen and she will make you a king.

The customer is at the heart of Pick ‘n Pay’s business – encapsulated in the company’s simple three-fold mission to satisfy customers’ needs, sell them quality products at competitive prices, and provide courteous service. This commitment to the consumer is further enhanced by a no-questions-asked refund policy for customers who aren’t completely satisfied with their goods or service.

De Beers – Diamonds Are Forever

Could there be a more famous and prestigious South African brand than De Beers? Founded by entrepreneur-turned-politician Cecil John Rhodes in 1888, De Beers has a colourful history which is also inextricably linked with that of the country.

In 1927, De Beers was acquired by German immigrant Ernst Oppenheimer and, although the Oppenheimers sold a 40% stake in the business in 2011, the family remains a majority shareholder with Nicky Oppenheimer firmly ensconced as Chairman. Notwithstanding the fact that diamonds are precious stones worth a small fortune, clever marketing through the years has further positioned the sparkling diamond, not just as a luxury item, but as the must-have luxury item for the common man.

The De Beers ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ campaign was introduced in 1947 and is one of the most iconic in advertising history – in fact, Advertising Age Magazine named their tagline the slogan of the Twentieth Century.

Remgro – Cigarettes and Alcohol

The Rembrandt Group (Remgro) is headed by another famous South African family, the Ruperts. Originally a tobacco manufacturer called Rembrandt Ltd. – founded by Anton Rupert in 1948 – the company now consists of South African-based financial investment company Remgro and Swiss-based luxury goods company Richemont.

Richemont owns luxury brands Rothmans, Alfred Dunhill, Cartier and Montblanc. In South Africa, Remgro owns wineries La Motte and L’Ormarins and partially controls the Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery and Distillers Corporation.

Being in the right place at the right time can pay enormous dividends. When times are tough, cigarettes and alcohol tend to attract folks’ hard-earned cash – Anton Rupert took note and turned a garage business into the world’s fourth largest cigarette manufacturer. Scouting for opportunities, working hard to capitalise on every one and a knack for marketing are traits he’s passed on to current boss of the family business, Johan Rupert.

Weigh-Less – Your Guide to Great Health

It’s hard to find a South African who hasn’t, at some stage, embraced the Weigh-Less healthy eating plan in order to shed unwanted kilos. Slimming guru Mary Holroyd started the business in 1975 and has – with family members now working alongside her – built a weight management empire, Weigh-Less Holdings Ltd.

Weigh-Less doesn’t sell a diet, but a lifestyle. It offers the complete health and wellness package – in addition to a nutritionally sound weight loss programme, there’s a panel of experts (including TV Doctor Michael Mol) to provide medical, psychological, nutritional and fitness guidance, a range of Weigh-Less-endorsed foodstuffs (available in supermarkets countrywide), resources including recipe books and a magazine, online shopping facility and motivational group meetings and events to help members every step of the way.

Nando’s – Legendary Flame-Grilled Peri-Peri Chicken

This Mozambican-South African casual dining restaurant chain was founded by Portuguese South Africans Fernando Duarte and Robert Brozin in 1987 and has become a firm favourite with South Africans looking for a tasty, healthier alternative to traditional take-away food fare. And it’s not just South Africans who are getting to enjoy their famous peri-peri chicken – Nando’s is now available in several countries around the world, including the UK, Australia and the US.

It’s hard to decide which people like more – the food or their advertising. Nando’s has built its reputation of providing good quality food at great prices – and drives home that product offering with one of the very best advertising and marketing campaigns in the country.

What these Family Businesses have in common

They’re a diverse bunch, but Pick ‘n Pay, Remgro, De Beers, Weigh-Less and Nandos share a lot in common, including:

  • Customer-centricity – an unswerving, laser focus on the consumer and fostering client relationships
  • A commitment to family values – they may continue to hold the reins, but employees become ‘part of the family’
  • An inspirational founder(s) – whether its Raymond Ackerman’s ’10 percent capital and 90 percent gut’ or Mary Holroyd’s ‘ten rand and a bathroom scale’, these business have been built from the ground up by entrepreneurs of tremendous determination, attitude, passion and energy and who lead from the front
  • Entrepreneurial spirit – that original dynamism and opportunism on which the company was founded is given space to thrive
  • Solid, persistent marketing – the product offering is backed up by quality, on-going marketing efforts to drive business.

Craig Steven-Jennings

Craig Steven-Jennings
After working with family businesses in various industries for 12 years and with the understanding of key drivers such as growth, risk and ownership control, I am delighted to share my experiences and knowledge with you.

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