Step aside world. Kubie Pieterse, Atlantis Seafood Distributors’ national sales manager in the food services and wholesale division, may be a softie at heart, but it took becoming a single mom when her kids were tiny tots to set her on a meteoric growth path in the male-dominated fishing industry.
“I held rather traditional views of the man being the breadwinner when I was first married. When I became a single mom, I knew I wanted to give my children a better life than what I had had growing up in apartheid South Africa. I didn’t know at the time that I was ambitious. It was my kids who made me realise there was more to me, that I had more courage and potential than I thought and gave me the drive to become what I am today,” says Kubie.
Twenty-five years later, having climbed the ladder of seafood success, Kubie admits her kids still think she loves her job more than them. “I’m a people’s person and believe in the oldest saying the customer is king. Business is built on people and relationships, and I believe the relationship I have with my customer and passion for the industry shows my true value to the company I work for.”
After minutes of speaking to Kubie, it’s clear that her superpower is the gift of the gab. It is a talent that her first boss in the fishing sector, the renowned Jack Walsh, was quick to identify and nurture. Not only did he send Kubie on a Dale Carnegie course, Jack also gave her the opportunity to work in different parts of his various businesses setting the pace for her future and providing the firm foundation on which to build a successful career in the fishing sector.
“I started off as his Personal Assistant and the bookkeeper for one of his companies. That evolved into a role as a shore skipper offloading seafood from his vessels and that’s where I got my first knowledge of working hand in hand with seafood,” explains Kubie.
You never know where your next step is going to take you, she adds. “I didn’t think I’d end up in seafood as a Durban girl who studied to be an accountant but ended up learning everything about trawling, seafood and trading thereof, latter thanks to my past Executives at Breco and my current Executives at Atlantis Seafood Distributors, and continue this journey of learning from them.”
Headhunted by several companies for roles ranging from buying to sales and management and finally playing her role as a Non-Executive Director currently, this so-called ‘tough cookie’ admits she’s had to develop a tough exterior because it takes tenacity to be successful in what she describes as a “volatile, male-dominated” sector.
Kubie may seem all about business, but chasing dreams is what Kubie’s message is all about. With a niece that captains a ship, sailing the seas around the world, this family seems to have it in their bones to reach high no matter how untouchable it may seem.
A proud Durbanite, Kubie often shares her love for home cooking with her colleagues. Although Kubie may occupy her day with business, the kitchen and her garden are her happy spaces and cooking for her colleagues and family brings her joy. “I love feeding people,” she laughs.
For Kubie, there’s a deep respect for the ocean and what it has taught her; lessons that every South African can learn from the fishing sector: “You have to be flexible, nothing lasts forever, and understand your waters, and adapt to it”.