Mentorship makes the difference for Berene Sauls of Tesselaarsdal

Many successful people in business had a mentor in their career who assisted them to reach their full potential and provide them with sound, honest guidance.  Mentorship provides a knowledgeable sound board and is a source of experienced advice to propel growth in a mentees’ journey.  The SA Wine Industry Transformation Unit (SAWITU) believes in the positive effect of mentorship, and asked Berene Sauls and Anthony Hamilton Russell to share their journey as encouragement to others.

When Anthony Hamilton Russell, owner of Hamilton Russell Wines, appointed Berene Sauls as au pair for his four daughters in 2001, he quickly realized her ambition and talents were wasted and encouraged her to apply for a position in his wine company.

With his vast experience of running the wine farm for the last 30 years, as well as his background in investment banking and management consulting, Anthony mentored Berene and steered her towards developing a career in the wine industry.

Berene’s interest in wine was ignited by the wine tastings and presentations Anthony exposed her to.  His faith in her abilities gave her the edge she needed to take the plunge of creating her own wine brand. “She clearly had the drive, ambition, intelligence and overall work ethic to make a success of her own wine brand and take it even further towards land ownership” says Anthony.

“In 2014 Anthony approached me with an opportunity to wholly own my own business as a wine producer with the expert winemaking skills of Emul Ross who joined our team in that same year”, says Berene. “It is a team effort from which I am still learning, sound boarding and getting guidance from to develop and steer my professional career.”

Berene started at the bottom and worked her way to the top, gaining experience in marketing, packaging, export logistics, wine administration and certification before mastering the art of winemaking and the sensory evaluation of wine.  This gives her the competitive edge she uses to advance her business.

“Her skills and personality gave me little doubt that she would be able to get a wine both made and sold at a profitable price. Most people starting out focus entirely on production, and however important it is, this is by far not the only criterion for success,” says Anthony.

Berene has been inspired by Anthony’s mentorship and pays it forward by developing the skills of the ladies who are working with her in the packaging logistics division.  “Once my property in Tesselaarsdal in the Overberg is developed, I would like to offer someone else the same opportunities I had.  That is my ultimate goal,” says Berene.

Partnerships key to business’s success!

Despite the challenges facing the South African alcohol industry at the moment, there are good news stories.  Bayede! Marketing, a level two BBBEE company based in Paarl, is one such example. Says CEO, Antoinette Vermooten, “2020 made us streamline our business to save on costs. We also changed our sales strategy and put significant efforts into our online store and exports.”

Bayede!, endorsed by the late HM King Goodwill Zwelithini, is a diverse business, selling liquor, coffee, olive oil and vinegar. Vermooten further explains, “We value relationships and with our partners we have been able to survive the three alcohol sales bans and even seen some growth and created employment.”

Long-time industry partners Van Loveren Vineyards, Imbuku and Oude Molen Distillers have been key to Bayede’s recent endeavours. The Joint Venture partners support their job creation initiatives.

Bayede! sources the ethnic beadwork it uses to embellish its products, from 25 women across rural South Africa. Antoinette elaborates, “I believe in women empowerment and the principle of “Ubuntu”. The monies from the beadwork are their only source of income.” A boon for its job creation projects was the recent inclusion of beaded neckpieces in the USA based Mana boxes. A Mana box consists of handmade lifestyle goods created by women from the USA and South Africa and is sold as a subscription.

Another partner is the SA Wine Industry Transformation Unit (SAWITU). “The emotional support received from Operations Manager, Wendy Petersen since the start of the pandemic has been invaluable”, says Vermooten “and the financial support helped us to quickly pivot and develop our export business”. SAWITU supports black-owned wine brands and generates and promotes equitable access within the wine value chain.  “In order to stay abreast, brands must find innovative ways of doing business, try different ways of connecting with consumers and invest in long- term focused initiatives and agreements that will result in business growth and sustainability,” says Petersen.

Bayede! has fulfilled orders across the globe over the last couple of months for its liquor products, with deals from the USA, Canada, Germany, UAE, Ethiopia, India and China.

“We are very proud that our Bayede! King Shaka Zulu Pinotage and Chenin blank as well as our Bayede! Royal XO Cape Brandy received double gold medals in the Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Competition,” says Vermooten.

Although the uncertainties of the pandemic will continue to influence business decisions, the future looks very promising for this dynamic brand.

Interview with Koni Maliehe

Koni Maliehe, owner of Koni Wines, is a feminine tour de force.  Leaving the Financial Services scene, she wanted to explore a new world and soon made in-roads in the wine industry.

We asked Koni a few questions to get a sense of where she’s at and what drives her.

Who is Koni and what makes her “tick”?

“Koni is an Entrepreneur, Daughter, Sister and Aunt. I am surrounded by people who believe in my dreams and goals. A favourite quote is “Dreams only die if you let them starve”.

I am shaped by principles of hard work, courage, honesty, respect, and inclusivity and believe that all humans given a chance, can be great! To be great comes with responsibility to also serve others and inspire them to do the same!”

What gets you going in the morning?

“Besides my quiet time, I read a lot. I read a variety of topics that support and edifies me and my business.

On the work front, I believe in planning and revisit my weekly objectives and revise accordingly – then put ACTION into it.”

What makes you laugh?

“I am always the loudest in the room, especially when there is humour, joy, and positive energy! I also make a habit of laughing at myself…and there are so many wicked stories to laugh at!”

What is your biggest fear?

“My biggest fear is that time is limited. Time is also a gift, but life is short!  We only have limited moments to achieve results and do better than yesterday.

So, I fear losing focus on the bigger picture and being caught up on un-productive issues that adds no value to my vision.”

What makes you love what you do?

“One of the reasons I started the business was to stretch myself into newness, I was tired of the known and wanted to totally learn something new. Wine is a challenging, slow business.

I have great respect for those in the industry and greatly admire those who, like myself, had to self-fund their business from inception and persevered through the hardships.

There is so much effort and investment that went into the business that to give up is not a choice!”

Tell us about your customers? 

“My ideal customer is the affluent market who are experienced wine drinkers. I also work on converting non wine drinkers who may be intimidated by wine language and culture.

A key success factor has been partnering with corporates that serve my wine at their functions and present it as gifts to guests. Relationship building is a skill that has and continues to serve me well!”

What has been the reasons for your success?

“Business is about relations, networking and achieving results. Most of my big breaks came from referrals but getting marketing support and market access opportunities from organisations such as the SA Wine Industry Transformation Unit surely makes a great difference.

Positive energy speaks loud and actions even louder! It is simple really, surround yourself with people who know more than you!”

How did the SA Wine Industry Transformation Unit assist you with business growth?

SAWITU assisted my business with Financial Marketing & Mentorship Support and this played a huge role in relaunching my business in 2020.  Support such as this plays a massive role for us SME’s who are self-funded.  SAWITU also assisted with market access where Koni Wines was able to participate in some international & local wine events such as Tops Wine Shows.

With entities such as SAWITU more black wine businesses will be afforded an opportunity to excel and grow.

What lies ahead for Koni Wines? 

Having been selected as a participant in Hollard’s Big Ads for Small Business campaign, with the aim to drive sales and brand awareness, we have been working hard on our strategy to align with the campaign and really take advantage of this “miraculous” break. Koni Wines will be featured on DSTV, Good Hope FM and a billboard.

Also, more collaborations are in the pipeline, so things are very exciting at last!”

What is your advice to business owners?

“Remove self-entitlement from your attitude.  Be driven by values rather than personal gain.

Put extra effort and hard work into it.”

Koni Wines is a very good illustration of the dedication and perseverance it takes from the owner in achieving her dreams. The journey of developing a sustainable wine company and wine brand is not an easy one and requires a focused strategic plan with clear, achievable and realistic goals. We are excited about the Koni Wines journey and future prospects.