The Midlands is filled with wonderful businesses, and a lot of them are run by families working together to produce or offer something wonderful. We meet some of these families and learn more about them and what lead them to start their business.
Purple Mookiting is a mum and daughter marketing duo that has been operating in the KZN Midlands for 25 years. Karren has been in marketing for 40 years, 15 years in a corporate environment and then 25 years working with small to medium, privately-owned, businesses. Kelly grew up in the business, and by high school she knew this was the business for her. Our different strengths complement each other and we have the nickname “KnK”, and it’s true, you get the best of both of us! We enjoy the flexibility of working together from home. Our client profile tends to be striving to create a sense of family within their company culture, rather than a corporate environment, and as a family business, we connect well with that. There are so many remarkable businesses located in the KZN Midlands and we love making them stand out and appeal to their target markets.
When we first meet the management of a business, they have already identified that they need to make a change but are often unclear as to what they should do. It could be that they have a vision for their business but don’t know how to achieve it or are receiving fewer enquiries than they’d like. They want to be seen and talked about, but they don’t know how to create that story. We call it becoming a Purple Cow – becoming remarkable.
Our starting point is to clarify who they want to build relationships with and why they would want what is on offer, and then we go from there.
We firmly believe that great brands are built on strong foundations. There are no shortcuts. It is essential to spend time digging deep to develop understanding: an understanding of the market dynamics, understanding of the competition, and understanding of what’s to be achieved. Only then can we build an authentic brand story and structure. Only then can we align the marketing to the change to be made. There’s a messy middle, it’s an iterative process, but this investment results in a dividend for those people willing to spend the time. It’s so rewarding to see the story unfold, to build the connection between the audiences and the brand, and to see the impact that has on the brand performance.
Consistently communicating across a range of media, like websites and brochures, establishes the target market’s understanding of what’s on offer. To achieve this, we collaborate with other experts who are passionate about what they do like web designers, photographers, etc.
We are privileged to work with local, national and international business people as we consult, coach, and offer online courses that allow them to access marketing.
La Petite France
Just outside of Howick, on the gorgeous Preston Farm, is La Petite France. The farm, now owned and run by Grant Warren, was originally established in 1972 and previously owned by Grant’s father. Grant joined the family business in 1990 when the farm was still a smallholding with no more than 20 Jersey cows and one old tractor. Father and son built the farm and family business one step at a time, and after Grant’s father sadly passed away a few years ago, Grant has continues the legacy. He lives on the farm with his wife, a French teacher at Hilton, and has two sons currently studying. The cheese-making started in 2013, and the farm is now home to La Petite France.
La Petite prides itself on producing GMO-free and grain-free dairy products, and this is evident in the taste of the products which are much healthier, sweeter, and have better digestibility. Much emphasis is placed on sustainability, and it is a passion of Grant’s and part of what sets La Petite apart from other dairy producers. Everything they use to produce their dairy products comes from the farm and nothing is brought in. In fact, the factory is situated close to the dairy on the farm, so the milk doesn’t need to be stored or transported and it is often used while still warm!
To further differentiate themselves, a farm stall and cafe have been added to Preston Farm, where visitors can purchase La Petite France products and enjoy a delicious, light, cheesy meal or simply a cup of filter coffee and one of their homemade scones with our double thick cream. While enjoying delicious eats and drinks, visitors are also able to take in the ambiance of the working dairy farm.
Preston Farm is also home to the Karkloof Farmers’ Market which is held in the barn near the cafe. This unique in-door market has a wide variety of stalls offering everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to delicious home-baked treats and organic products. There is something for the whole family here, from hearty breakfasts and premium coffee to an indigenous nursery and activities for the kids.
Preston Farm has lots to offer thanks to the Warren family, and it is definitely worth a visit!
Address: Preston Farm, 9 Karkloof Road, Howick
Dargle Valley Meats
Set in the foothills of the southern Drakensberg, Dargle Valley is a family-run butchery and farm. For over four generations, the Griffin family has lived and worked in the Midlands and today it is William and Michael, a father and son team, who work together on the farm. Caz (William’s wife and Michael’s mother) started a butchery on the farm more than twenty years ago, which quickly gained a reputation for producing some of the best pork in the province. What sets their products apart is that all of their farming is done ethically, ensuring traceable meat, free from added hormones.
The Griffins have always been known for creating high-end products and it is no surprise that the business has grown from strength to strength – becoming a household name among families who want to know where their meat comes from. Dargle Valley Meats is committed to providing their customers with real meat, made without harmful fillers or flavour enhancers. Just 100% meat.
“Our principles have not changed since we opened our doors and you can rest assured that we will continue to produce food that is traditional, trusted and traceable,” explain the Griffins. “Our farm, The Chestnuts, has always focused on farming responsibly. We believe in raising our animals with care and consideration and in a way that respects the environment. We have always tried to minimise our use of harmful pesticides, artificial fertilisers and chemicals – focusing instead on regenerating topsoil, increasing biodiversity and building a resilience to climate fluctuations.”
During the lockdown, Dargle Valley began offering a home delivery service to assist those who were self-isolating and did not want to frequent public places. The home delivery service of meat boxes became increasingly popular and so they decided to launch a website focusing on this new aspect of the business. The new website went live in November, at the same time they launched the new name and packaging, combining two trusted Midlands brands, Waters Meat and Dargle Valley Pork, under one name, Dargle Valley. “We have also expanded our products and are incredibly proud of our new charcuterie range that includes an award-winning ham, parmas, salamis and so much more! Our new range of artisan sausages has also been terribly popular and they can be found in Spars across KZN.”
On top of all these changes, the family has taken the plunge and opened their first deli in Hilton. Dargle Valley Deli prides itself on providing customers with meat, vegetables, fruit and herbs, all sourced from our farm, The Chestnuts, and other neighbouring farms in the valley.
Address: The Chestnuts Farm, Dargle
Call: 082 457 0987
Sugar Baron is a small craft distillery situated in the KZN Midlands near Richmond. They follow the traditional agricole style for producing their handcrafted rum. The essence of freshly harvested, hand-cut sugar cane is extracted, fermented, distilled and bottled on site at the distillery to create their signature Sugar Baron single estate craft rum. Owners husband and wife, Brad and Marisa, are involved in the various aspects of the business, with Brad focusing on the growing, farming and harvesting of the sugar cane used for rum. They then collaborate when it comes to all of the distillery activities, from the crushing, fermentation and distillation to blending, ageing and bottling of the rum.
“We have recently also started hosting small groups for what we call the “Sugar Baron Rum Tasting Experience”, where people can come and taste our rum in a conducted tasting lead by Brad and then also get to see the distillery setup and processes. We end off with a light meal, some Sugar Baron Rum cocktails and our delicious rum cake,” Marisa explains.
Marisa and Brad started the business at the beginning of 2018, but only launched officially at the end of November 2019. Establishing this business and working together has been a dream and goal of theirs since shortly after they met and got married, way back in 2003. “As a husband and wife team, we generally enjoy the fact that we can work together and share in the ideas and the passion we have for our product and what we do. Obviously, there are times when we can get a bit frustrated with one another, especially if we don’t agree on a particular thing, but this is not a regular occurrence and we generally manage to find a solution or compromise to most situations – we are a tight team!”
Getting to collaborate and share in each other’s ideas and interests is definitely a highlight of working together for the couple. The fact that the business feeds into both of their passion is priceless and something they value dearly. Going forward, they would love to grow Sugar Baron locally in KZN before focusing on national distribution and eventually, exports. Brad and Marisa are also in the process of expanding their product offering with a barrel-aged solera rum and various other complementary products. “We want to get people to experience what real, unadulterated rum tastes like and how versatile it can be – eventually, we would like to work towards being known as producers of the world’s best rum made in the agricole style!”
Sugar Baron has the most delightful little craft spirits and fine wine shop adjacent to their distillery and they also host wine tastings and dinners from time to time. They can host and cater for small, bespoke functions at their distillery.
Taste Buds Farm Stall
Taste Buds Farm Stall is a local shopping and casual, small dining destination filled with fresh, locally sourced and made produce, where one can get a market style shopping experience six days a week on Dargle Road in the KZN Midlands.
Sue opened the farm stall on 21 February 2020 and is one of the main suppliers of her dairy and cheese products. If you’re looking for her, you’ll either find her in her kitchen, cooking up a storm, or in her shop selling the most divine products around.
Sue’s husband, Russell, and their two sons, Martin and Duncan, run and manage their farms in the beautiful Dargle Valley. Russell is part of a family generation of farmers. Martin is in charge of the Jersey Herd Dairy and keeps Sue fully supplied with all she needs to offer her loyal customers their delicious dairy products, and he also runs White Oaks Angus Stud. Duncan does beef and runs a Brangus Stud called Jock Brangus, as well as the commercial herd.
Having been on numerous cooking courses, Sue has an incredibly wide skill set when it comes to cooking and baking and works off the farm. As her interest grew, Sue began her own business, Brigadoon Farm Products, in 2016 and has been working alongside her husband and sons, providing many locals and visitors with full cream deliciousness. In 2016, Sue also did a cheese-making course with Leon van der Westhuizen from Stellenbosch, which allowed her to add another dairy product to her range. Each product is made with love and care in Sue’s own farmhouse kitchen.
With the whole family living on the farm, separating work from personal time can be a challenge. “Working with family is truly wonderful, and we are so blessed to live and work alongside one another. Our family has been our foundation for growth and together we have gone from strength to strength. I am so grateful for the support I have received from my family starting this business,” Sue says. Taste Buds Farm Stall is quickly becoming a household name and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.
Sue and Russel’s daughter, Robyn, makes the delicious beef wellington, and there are other talented people on board, like Nicky Farquharson who delights us with her incredible baking and icing skills and specialises in “special occasion” cakes for customers which can be ordered directly from the farm stall. Beauty is the in-house baker and delights visitors with the most exquisitely sumptuous, freshly baked treats.
“The local community has supported us and we love that we are able to give back in some ways to our community, but we are also so excited for the magic that the tourism industry brings!” Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed on Mondays), they look forward to seeing you!
Physical Address: Main Road, Dargle
Contact Number: 082 926 8048
Butlin Hearing was founded by Laurie Butlin, a family man and qualified pharmacist who worked in the Howick Pharmacy from 1975. In the old days, pharmacists were the dispensers of hearing aids, but as the devices became more technical, they required more qualification. Laurie thus qualified as a hearing aid acoustician in his late 50s, through the University of Pretoria, and left the pharmacy trade to begin Butlin Hearing in 2006. When Laurie started looking to retire, both Claire Butlin-Buys and Mark Butlin, his children, did the same course and joined the practice. Claire runs the Howick office at St John’s Lifestyle Centre, and Mark is in the newer practice in Pietermaritzburg, located at the Maritzburg Arch.
They have found that working together has been surprisingly easier than expected. Between Claire, Mark and Laurie, there is an implicit trust and respect which comes with working with family. They all come from different business backgrounds, allowing them to bring a variety of knowledge and skill to Butlin Hearing.
“I think in our field, trust is the core principal on which our business is built. We trust each other and our patients trust us, meaning that we are all working towards a common goal. We believe that successful outcomes for our patients lead to successful outcomes for our business. As both a family and a business, we are imbedded into the Midlands community. We went to school here, and our children are doing the same. A successful community is crucial to our success.”
Laurie has now retired, leaving his children Mark and Claire running the different offices, but he still offers valuable advice to his children. The practice is continuing to grow, servicing patients from Ixopo to Hillcrest, as well as further north in Greytown and Escourt. Claire’s daughter, Kristen Buys, recently completed her master’s degree in Speech Therapy (cum laude) and has just opened up an office in Howick at the Co.Lab. She offers a variety of service to clients of all ages, including swallowing, voice, speech, language and fluency rehabilitation. We look forward to future collaborations together.
Phone: 033 330 3966 (Howick) / 033 342 2330 (PMB)
Nottingham Road Spar & Tops
In 1983, Norma and Terry Meikle moved with their young family from Amanzimtoti and joined Norma’s sister and her husband, Peter and Cindy Oldfield, in the small town of Nottingham Road. Terry and Peter went into partnership leasing garage property, fixing tractors and selling petrol at Sherwood Service Station.
In 1992, Cindy and Norma started a little shop inside the garage property selling sweets and fresh veggies to supplement the family income. It was not long before the business grew into a fully-fledged farm stall. When they ran out of space in 1996, the two families decided to purchase the empty lot next door and built the new Bow and Arrow Farmstall. When Spar approached them in 2001 and asked that they convert their farm stall to a KwikSpar, Cindy and Peter decided to keep the Engen garage while Terry and Norma pursued retail and started trading as The Bow and Arrow Kwikspar.
In 2003, Terry and Norma’s daughter, Candice, joined the family business. After realising the potential of the business, Candice and Terry decided to take a gamble and increase the size of the store from a Kwikspar to a Spar in 2007, adding on another 800m2 to the building. They also acquired a liquor license and added a Tops liquor store to the Spar and renamed the store Nottingham Road Spar & Tops.
Candice took over the reins of the business in 2010, purchasing the store from her parents. In 2012, Candice decided it was time to get a full-time store manager to help her and hired Spar veteran Ivan Labuschagne. Ivan had over 45 years of retail experience and had been working with Spar Group for over 25 years.
“Ivan is a great mentor and sounding board for me. He has been extremely instrumental and supportive in everything we have achieved in the store. Veronica Sookoo joined in 2015 as our assistant manager and brought with her a wealth of experience with one of the other national retailers. We have built a superb management team over the years,” explains Candice.
“Although my husband Marc, who continues with his career in finance, does not work in the store, he has taught me a lot about the business world and the value of sound cash flow management.”
Candice’s passion and focus over the last ten years has branched into supporting local and small family businesses from the local community. “My mom always taught me the value of supporting the smaller, growing suppliers and I remember how she would always go out of her way to find niche and interesting products preferably supplied by local families we have grown up alongside. It gives me great pride when I see these businesses grow to supply the national Spar buying network.”
The Notties Spar family has grown from strength to strength and Candice is enormously proud of the team there today.
Store Number: 033 266 6710
Store email: email@example.com
Candice Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Super M’s Community Fitness Centre
It all started when my gorgeous husband built a gym for me at home where some of my friends and I could train. I said that I would design some workouts for us and I ended up coaching and guiding them instead of actually working out together. It made me realise that helping ladies, and people in general, was something that I loved and a gift that I was passionate about.
One of my friends owned The Box in Howick and I heard, via the grapevine, that they were immigrating and thinking of selling. I felt something inside of me, like God telling me: “This is what you want. Phone and let them know you want it. Don’t over-think it, just do it!”
When I found out that they also had Faith WOD (Workout of the Day), which was a programme of workouts and then a pray meeting afterwards, I was sold immediately! In my heart, that was what I also wanted to grow – the faith and prayer group, not just fitness and well-being. So, when I got in touch with them and let them know my story and feeling about taking over, they actually came straight back and said that they felt God saying that they needed to sell it to me too.
So that was it!
I took it over and grew The Box to a whole faith group and not just workout sessions. Every workout is based on God, our faith and love for him and the Holy Spirit, and that is where my strength and passion in this journey comes from. It was scary in the beginning because we started only with a handful of people with us, but now, three years down the line (which I cannot believe!), it has tripled in size.
We have recently renamed and branded to Super M’s Community Fitness Centre and it is something that I could not have done without the encouragement, support and belief of this incredible family that don’t just have each other’s backs with regard to health and fitness but also in faith, in business and believing that we can make a difference.
Open to all families that can train together, with worship music driving them in the background, our motto is held high: “A family that trains together stays together!” We welcome everyone to come and join this amazing space.
It has been a blessing from the start and bearing the fruits has been incredible for not only me but so many of the families within the gym. We will continue to lean on God for our strength as we move into 2021!
Physical Address: 1 Power Lane, Howick
Contact Number: 082 550 2861