Fishing beat out fashion to shape a successful career for Port Elizabeth local Sagree Gerdharee, CEO of Mayibuye Fishing and Vice Chair of SECIFA (South East Coast Inshore Fishing Association).
Family duty meant that holidays were spent behind shop counters or offloading vessels, and her entrepreneurial father, Boya Chetty, who began the business and built it up from humble beginnings would be proud today that she’s “all in” and thoroughly enjoying it.
Chetty’s foray into his own fishing venture began with a “little fresh fish shop”, supplying seafood to hotels, restaurants and supermarkets in Port Elizabeth. Fortune favours the brave, however, and in 1997, he took the leap and applied for a deep-sea quota which he was awarded. It was the step change he needed to grow the company and soon he could afford to buy his own vessel.
“It was a huge accomplishment for us to be the first 100% black-owned Eastern Cape company that had its own vessel and could fish their own quota without having to rely on the bigger companies to do it for us. We could provide more job opportunities, the company grew exponentially and we even won the PMR Africa Award for the Top Company in Port Elizabeth year after year.” says Sagree.
Sagree purposefully chose Auditing in order to assist her father in business until the time came to focus on her own family. “I got married, went to live in Pietermaritzburg and watched over the business remotely while embracing being a full-time mum. I knew at some stage I would go back to fishing and the family business.”
By the time she returned, Chetty had invested in three vessels and had acquired quotas for sardine, inshore hake and, later, horse mackerel. It was all hands on deck and Sagree dived right in.
“My father was a businessman, the networking & marketing entrepreneur who had all the great ideas. With his guidance, I actioned and followed through these ideas and our business plans. I learnt all I could to empower myself and know my business so that I could continue his legacy and move our company forward.
“As with all industries, we learn and build on from the knowledge of those before us, ‘we stand on the shoulders of Giants’. Watching and learning from my father who had been in the fishing industry for over 40 years was all the experience I needed. I worked in his shadow, and it was only when he passed two years ago, that the time came for me to make waves myself,” says Sagree.
Today, both Sagree and her husband, who is a qualified mechanical engineer, are hands-on and working to grow their business and that of other entrepreneurs in an industry which she describes as highly volatile and capital intensive.
Despite having small quotas and limited resources, Mayibuye Fishing has made meaningful investments in both hake deep-sea and inshore trawlers. Through partnerships fostered with like-minded local and international organisations, they are proudly doing their small part in contributing to much needed job creation and of course local economic opportunities.