Cape Town women partner with ORT Jet to drive business success

This being Women’s Month, we are focusing on three businesses that are thriving as a result of the support and guidance from ORT Jet Cape Town

Pickling is good business

Anyone with a love of spicy food is bound to be keen on pickled jalapeños, but finding a tasty jar of this delicacy in Cape Town proved to be a challenge for one local Jewish family.

It was the search for the perfect pickled jalapeño that led Sea Point resident, Sandy Goldberg, to start her food business, Pekel.

Sandy’s husband, a food aficionado, loves crunchy pickled jalapeños, but nothing available on supermarket or deli shelves in Cape Town satisfied his taste. And so Sandy decided to try to make the perfect pickled jalapeño. The results proved not only to make her husband happy — his work colleagues loved it, too, and this led to enquiries for Sandy to make more of these to sell to others.

Four years later, Sandy’s range of pickles has expanded. Now, in addition to the jalapeños, she makes various other pickled vegetables, seasonings and relish.

Helping turn what started out as something just for the family into a thriving business depended on support from various people. And Sandy is thrilled about the assistance she received from ORT Jet. “At one point, I realised that I needed guidance about how to deal with certain things, such as how to cope with bulk orders, how to price bulk orders, how to manage my cash flow,” she explains. ORT Jet allocated a dedicated mentor to her, and she has learned many valuable business lessons in the process, allowing the business to grow substantially and to fill a void in the food market.

You can find Pekel products at a number of local delis and at the Sea Point Spar and the Cape Quarter Spar. Look for Pekel-branded jars of pickled foods in the refrigerated storage areas.

‘Pekel’ is a Yiddish word, meaning ‘parcel’. It symbolises sharing a parcel of food with neighbours and family. Coincidentally, the word also means ‘brine’ in Afrikaans and Dutch.

A seed planted during the pandemic blossoms today

While the Covid pandemic brought misery to many business-owners, and the loss of numerous enterprises, for some people it created new, unexpected opportunities.

This was the case for Veronica Yankelowitz, who had been at the helm of the Petals Group, an industry leader in the luxury weddings, florals and corporate events space.

“When the pandemic hit, events came to a standstill, and we knew that we were not likely to survive,” she explains. Motivated by the need to ensure that the 20 staff members working beside her — a group of people she regards as her family — could continue to pay rent, put food on the table, and send their children to school, they decided to do something that would keep things going.

Although the business lost its working capital having to pay back the deposits for events that had been planned for the next few months, she and her team still felt that they could do something and so, using their in-depth knowledge of event-planning, they identified a few key things to focus on. Veronica explains that, “We knew that we had to create something that would make people happy, something to trigger the senses, something that would be unexpected and different, and ideally something that would be aesthetically pleasing.” This led to the creation of a business called The Flower Café, located in Woodstock.

It’s a place offering people the chance to unwind and be creative, all within the theme of flowers. Customers can take classes in flower-arranging, attend workshops offered by others in the creative industry, or visit the venue to enjoy the tranquillity of the environment over a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. In addition, the Flower Café provides bouquets of flowers for delivery as gifts.

It’s taken a huge amount of versatility from the entire team, as job roles changed dramatically and instantly. “Drivers had to become baristas, and everyone had to learn to bake cakes and biscuits, no matter what their work had been beforehand,” she says. “And because we’d lost the capital that would have kept us going for at least a year, we had to beg, borrow and… no, we didn’t steal!  But we got through those early, very challenging times — and three years later the business is thriving.”

Veronica has been astounded by the response of the public to the concept of the business. In earlier days, there were times when they doubted that they could continue — and then bookings would just come in, and she knew that things were back on track. Confirmation that they had created something unique and sustainable came externally when the Flower Café was named as a finalist in the ORT Jet Small Business of the Year competition, and even more so when it was listed as one of the top 10 businesses in Cape Talk’s Small Business of the Year competition.

For Veronica, the support from ORT Jet Cape Town — and specifically from Lisa Sandler — has been crucial in turning this into more than a knee-jerk reaction to the need for survival after the shock of the pandemic. “The great guidance and support available has been truly amazing,” she enthuses, “and I’d recommend ORT Jet to other entrepreneurs in a heartbeat!”

A business with purpose and passion

‘Purpose’ and ‘passion’ are key characteristics of the make-up of local entrepreneur with international experience, Danielle Ehrlich. Clearly part of her own identity, she embraces these concepts within her work, too.

It’s difficult to categorise Danielle’s business, True Story Studio, because setting it within parameters just goes against the grain for Danielle. Using the skills she learned during her studies in the field of interior design — skills that are essentially about finding solutions to challenges — Danielle has taken on a wide range of clients, providing a variety of services that includes design and branding, working on company culture, creative thinking to solve business problems, media, marketing, and business and ecological sustainability.

As she explains, “If a project speaks to me, if I feel that what is wanted is in line with my own sense of purpose, I will take the work on and find the approach needed, even if it’s beyond my own comfort zone or experience. Each time this happens, I learn so much more and expand my skills.” Danielle follows a human-centred design focus. “It’s important to bring your people along on the journey of your business — collaboration is crucial,” she says.

Talking of collaboration, it’s ORT Jet’s collaborative approach over more than seven years that has helped Danielle grow her business into what it is today. She is extremely appreciative of the support and guidance she has received from ORT Jet, commenting that, “The mentorship has been wonderful. I’ve been privileged to have met a number of truly unbelievable people as mentors, and the mentorship has been so vital to the sustainability and growth of my firm.”

The business is today well established enough for Danielle not to have to “chase work anymore”. She has built up a portfolio of loyal clients, and now brings in new business largely through word-of-mouth recommendations. “Today, I am able to maintain a great work-life balance because my business has grown into a solid and sustainable firm. The timing has been perfect because I had my first child a year ago, and I love being a work-from-home mom: I run my business at the same time as being there for my daughter.”

Yet another thriving woman-owned business that owes its success, at least in part, to ORT Jet!

• Published in the August 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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