A successful entrepreneurial journey starts with a determined vision, a little bit of self-belief and faith in your own ability. According to Erina van Schalkwyk, owner of GEL Supply Chain and entrant of the 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, this is the winning recipe for a thriving business and fruitful entrepreneurial adventure.
Erina and her husband, Gert, have had an exciting journey in the logistics sector over the last few years, and even more so recently with the opening of new successful businesses in 2015.
Inspired to support her family after her father’s unexpected death some 10 years ago, Erina started her first business, VS Logistiek – a brokerage business that transported bulk truck loads. She was at the time assisting her husband’s family business, which owned 27 trucks, but soon noticed an opportunity to turn her side-line business into a fully-fledged operation.
As with most entrepreneurial journeys, there were many ups and downs for Erina’s business. She credits her success to the experience she gained over her lifetime in the investment, banking, retail and logistics sectors.
In 2010, Erina and Gert relocated to his family’s farm outside Jacobsdal in the Free State. Here, Erina took over Gert’s role in his family’s logistics company and used her own business to manage the farming operations. Times however became tough for the family business, and in 2013 the couple decided to go on their own after Erina had identified a gap in the market for an intermediary between traders and transporters. By August 2013, the logistics business had a turnover of R 16 million.
In December 2014, the couple decided to change the trading name of their business to GEL (Gert Erina Logistiek) Supply Chain, and within just seven months of operating under the new brand, the successful entrepreneurial duo started another four businesses GEL Import and Export in South Africa, Gel Freddy’s in the Democratic Republic of Congo, GEL Investments in Namibia and M3T2 in Rotterdam. The mother company, GEL Supply Chain, remains as successful as ever, and the ever-adventurous entrepreneurs are also gearing up to open their first coffee shop in Gobabis in Namibia by August of 2016.
Erina attribute’s her business’ good fortune to hard work, perseverance and her personal faith which she holds dear. “Our big break came in 2013 when a co-op in East Free State approached GEL Supply Chain to move a large quantity of grain. We were given eight weeks to complete the project, yet we handed over the final load in just six weeks,” recalls Erina.
“Last year, we were awarded a contract to transport 500 tons of imported maize into South Africa – by December, we had transported 8 900 tons in 67 hours. So far this year, we have already transported more than 10 000 tons of imported maize.”
Erina has big dreams for the future and is confident of achieving them. She aims to expand into Europe and the Americas in the export sector and also aims to contribute to society by partnering with various feeding schemes across rural Africa. On the logistics front, GEL Supply Chain’s next goal is to manage an entire 30 000 ton shipment of maize, and to become the leader in their field.
Commenting on the team of good people she keeps around her, in both a personal and professional space, including her teams of staff, Erina urges like-minded entrepreneurs to never fail to lead their teams: “When leading others, lead not to have followers but lead to have more leaders growing from your example.”
Her parting advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to continuously work hard and believe in yourself.