Local retailer Massmart has set itself a target: to invest R200 million in the next five years in developing small, medium and micro enterprises. It also aims to have women making up 40% of its network of fresh produce suppliers in the next five years. We profile some of the early trailblazers.
Women in wine
Vivian Kleynhans, owner of Seven Sisters Wine (whose major brand is African Roots Wine), discusses the business, its origins and trajectory.
What are the names of the sisters involved in the business and what’s the ownership structure? For the past seven years I’ve been the sole driver of the business with the assistance of my younger sister. Odelia, namesake of the Bukettraube cultivar. I’m the majority owner of the company, with my sisters sharing in a trust.
What are the challenges of working with your sisters and managing a business together? It’s an intensive industry and there isn’t always time to discuss everything, but we do have regular meeting to talk about the most important issues. My sisters trust me and know I have their welfare at heart. Over the past seven years, we’ve grown closer than we ever were before. Understanding their individual personalities, strengths and weaknesses makes it easier to communicate efficiently and avoid arguments. I have a very positive and humble attitude and never see myself higher or better than anybody else. I believe in leading by example.
Each of your wines is paired to one of the sisters. Which one was selected to match your own personality? The Sauvignon Blanc represents me, as it’s a bold cultivar with a clear style and is easy to identify. I’m not a difficult person and have lots of perseverance. However, I’m also firm in my approach.
How did you secure the deal to supply wines to American Airlines? I often attend international exhibitions to source for agents or importers and market our wines. My American importer orchestrated the deal with American Airlines.
What’s been your profit growth in the past three years and which is your most successful regional market? We started to export in 2007 and grew by 300% within the first year. Our biggest and most successful market is the USAand we turn over R2,5 million-R3 million annually. It’s still very slow, but then we don’t have a huge marketing budget, a business loan to repay or high overhead costs. Also, we’re not just selling wines – we’re also building a brand.
Where in SA are you sold and what assistance have you received from Makro/Massmart? For the past seven years I’ve knocked on many doors locally, but always met with resistance from retailers or distributors. Local people don’t see us as a serious player in this industry and I often feel as if they expect us to fail. When I first approached Massmart, I was told it believed black people don’t produce quality wine. I made no secret of my indignation, which then set the wheels in motion. The Makro wine buyer was brought in and, following a blind tasting, selected one of our wines to sell at Makro. We started off with a programme for 2012 and a review will follow soon for the 2013 programme. I’m grateful for the assistance given by Makro/Massmart, but much more can still be done.
What advice would you offer others wanting to enter the wine industry? They need to know that it’s not easy. You need to spend lots of money before you make any: it’s a very capital-intensive industry. Many companies combine it with wine tourism to make it profitable. It’s even harder for us because we don’t have “old money” to fall back on. For the past year we’ve been busy setting up our farm in Stellenbosch, building a tasting facility, a restaurant, a bed and breakfast operation and planting vineyards. However, we’re struggling to secure a loan. Financial institutions feel there are too many wine tourism facilities, yet we’re one of only two black farms in the Western Cape.
To read the full version of this story go to page 84 of the March issue of DESTINY