By Gerrit Rautenbach
The A&B Williams fruit packaging and transport business in Elgin is owned and operated by four people. The two Williams brothers, Anges and Bevin, and their wives, Natalie and Danielle. The business has been active in the industry for 24 years, mainly handling apples and pears.
This is truly a family business, but what makes it even more so, is that the foundation was laid by their father, Basil, who rented the land (where A&B Williams is today) at first and packed by hand. He was immensely respected and liked in the industry which created a lot of trust and support for Anges, Natalie, Bevin and Danielle when they took over the reigns after Basil died in 1998. At first, they were also renting.
“When we started we started on his good name and reputation. We had no track record but got credit from the fruit farmers and box suppliers. So our reputation grew and we could eventually get purchasing loans from Absa to buy this land,” Danielle explains.
They were on their way, but in order to grow, they needed to become capable of handling fruit all 12 months of the year. That meant cold storage and therefore they applied successfully for a Hortfin loan for the construction of eight controlled atmosphere cold store rooms. They were also awarded a grant from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture for this project. They started in 1998 with one packhouse for local fruit and today they have three, one for export and two locals. Plus 24 cold storage rooms.
Should you ask them if being a foursome all the time does not sometimes become too much, they just laugh and shake their heads. On the contrary, they all believe the fact that they are all in it all the time is actually the secret to their success. If there is a decision to be made, they are all right there to discuss and take action.
The proof of how close they really are lies in the fact that they even go on holiday together (when the business allows time, that is!). All of them were born and bred in the small town of Pniel between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, and guess what? They all still stay there, driving through to Elgin every day.
But what if, on the off chance, they do get into a tiff with each other? “Then we just keep calm and have braai together!” Danielle concludes.