Carl Pretorius, founder of the Paarl-based business – Just Trees – walked away with the Medium Business Entrepreneur of the Year®award at the annual Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, held this morning in Johannesburg.
A wholesale tree nursery that supplies specimen container grown trees to the trade throughout South Africa, as well as to certain export markets, Just Trees is an extension of Pretorius’ values – including vision, courage, fun and compassion, for both people and the environment. Green engineering at its best, all trees are watered and fed responsibly using sustainable methods, and the business began measuring their carbon footprint in 2009, becoming a carbon neutral certified company in 2010. Pretorius and his team have also invested heavily in other green business practices that have resulted in a further reduction of the amount of water and pesticides that they use.
These environmentally friendly business practices contributed to making Pretorius stand out to the competition’s judging panel. “This is a very topical business in terms of environmental awareness – something that many other business models today are lacking. Carl has managed to effectively merge his personal values with those of his business and, as a result, has set himself up for a long-term career of fulfilment and success,” the judges said.
Committed to greening schools, hospitals and even, sometimes entire communities, the donation of trees is an important pillar of the business. Having initially committed to donating one tree for every 20 that are sold, Just Trees now donates one tree for every five trees sold and has already donated in excess of 30 000 trees over the years.
Pretorius initially purchased the farm in 1999 for recreational purposes and for growing his own olive trees, but his trees soon attracted interest from local landscape architects in the area, and from there the business was born. Since officially opening its doors in 2005, Just Trees has grown their stock to over 150 000 trees living on the 42ha farm, made up of 58 species sold in a variety of pot sizes, and is today the supplier of choice to landscape architects with repeat business making up about 75% of total orders.
Pretorius says being selected as a winner in the competition is incredibly rewarding and confirms his entrepreneurial path. “Being acknowledged for my achievements gives our business the credibility and platform to spread the message of environmentally sustainable business practices. Just Trees is proof that one can run a profitable business, while still focussing on doing things right and having a positive influence on those around them.”
He adds that recognising entrepreneurial talent through competitions such as this one is essential as it creates awareness around the role that entrepreneurs play in the economy. “It also motivates others, especially younger generations, to be part of a more environmentally friendly entrepreneurial movement, which is essential to long term growth and the success of our country.”
For more information on Just Trees, please visit www.justtrees.co.za.