A compassionate woman with a heart of gold, Nicolette, owner of Fish4Africa, comes across as the mother of the fishing industry.
It’s not just about profit and pleasing the customer for Nicolette. Rather, she puts the majority of her energy into caring for her staff and keeping them content.
“I feel I have an advantage as a woman working in such a tough industry. We stand out because of our compassion and our humanity. I actually care about the wellbeing of my staff. As such, we make sure that our crew has medical aid and provident funds and that we go out of our way to uplift them in ways that they aren’t necessarily used to,” she says.
“It’s about listening and paying attention. Knowing your skipper’s child’s name or birthday, and doing small, thoughtful things whenever you can that helps them to feel special.”
Nicolette talks about how fishing has been in her family for generations, playing a significant part in her life from a very young age.
“My fondest memory was with my late grandfather. One day, he managed to reel in a huge yellowfin tuna, weighing just over 100 kilograms. There was chaos at Hout Bay harbour with journalists trying to get in on the story, but my grandfather refused to crane lift his catch out of the boat until I had arrived to see it and share in the experience,” she recalls with a smile.
Growing up, Nicolette’s parents were always investing in and starting new businesses, and it was in 2003 when their Fish4Africa brand was born. She played a big role in securing the business, focussing on putting systems and structures into place to ensure smoother operations. Nicolette was also heavily involved in the operation of the vessels and was specifically dedicated to operating ‘The Nicolette’ as the shore skipper.
She now takes on a lead role in managing the business and insists that Fish4Africa is focussed on giving back to South Africa primarily through food security.
“Our business model is to give the local consumer a choice. In the past, most of the prime fish was exported. In the Fish4Africa store, however, you’ll always see a wide range of products, from the cheapest fish right the way up to the most expensive yellowfin tuna. We want all South Africans to have the opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle at affordable prices,” she explains.
Nicolette is a proud mother to three daughters and is very serious about exposing them to the many joys and opportunities of the fishing industry, just like she was as a child. She wants her girls to feel empowered to break into the industry, should they wish to do so in the future.
“There are lots of opportunities for women within this sector. After all, we are hardworking, courageous, and consistent. We get things going, we get things done, and, most importantly, we always listen.”
Nicolette acknowledges that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for her as a female in such a male-dominated realm.
“The challenge is being a female and not being taken seriously. I find that we have to work a lot harder to prove ourselves in the beginning, but once you do manage to earn respect, everything seems to work out alright.”
When asked who the biggest influence has been in her life, Nicolette immediately brings her parents and their personal strengths into the spotlight, saying how she learned to be consistent and courageous from her mother, and how her dad always taught her about the value of kindness.
“I learnt from my dad the importance of appreciating your staff. Without them, you are nothing. We always describe Fish4Africa as a family business, but it goes so much deeper than just the blood that runs through your veins. Some of our staff members have been with us for over 30 years. They are our family.”
It’s easy to see that, for Nicolette, people are everything.
“It’s not about the profit. It has to be about the people. Without the people, there isn’t a business, and there isn’t a customer,” she concludes.