Perseverance breads success...indeed

By Honorine Kaze
May 2012
Women in Business
Perseverance, positivity and the right set of mind are the principles that accompany Marelie Smit all the way to the realisation of her dreams.

Marelie Smit (33) is the CEO, managing director and owner of Ashlee Distributors; a company specialised in the distribution of consumer goods, cosmetics, tobaccos and more, to all the well known stores such as Pick n’ Pay, Checkers, Spar, Woermann and Brock and Ok Foods, to name but a few.

As the MD of Ashlee Distributors, her responsibilities include planning, organising, leading and controlling the different divisions of the company: Finance, HR, Procurement, Sales, Operations and Marketing.

Marelie came on board the company as a general manager but later when the opportunity came her way, she bought out the previous owner, thus stepping up to the full control of the company.

Ashlee Distributors was established in 1972 by a group of businessmen and has become a force to be reckoned with within the local distribution industry becoming an integral part in the supply chain service to well-known local retailers. The company deals with the import of stock from around the world and then works on the sales, marketing, supplies, warehousing and distributions of the products.

When Marelie tookover the company, it was undergoing difficulties that were affecting its performance in the market, hence affecting its financial position. However, she did not shy away from the difficulties and worked hard to redirect the company in the right direction.

“At the beginning, when I bought the company, it was not at its best. It took me three years of hard work and perseverance to turn it around and I am happy to say that it is in a stable position at the moment,” Marelie beams.

Her effors did not go unnoticed as she won the Namibian Business Women of the Year 2011 award in the Business Owners’ category. The same qualities that enabled her to turn the company around to its current glory, are without a doubt the same that distinguished her in the 2011 awards.

“Being part of the event was amazing. It was a real privilege to meet business people that I consider mentors. For the winning part, I was very surprised due to the fact that the competition was tight and all the businesswomen were quite outstanding,” she recalls.

Having won the award, Marelie feels that it is an advantage and that she will use that platform to teach other people more about business.

Although the company’s fate has been changed by her hard work, Smit emphasises it is not yet time to relax but further hard work is an amour in order to keep growing the business.

The growth of a business operation can sometimes place restraints on cash flow, she notes. Furthermore, one of her priorities is to take the business into a mature phase by implementing a balance growth policy.

Marelie emphasises on the fact that the relationship she has with her suppliers and customers as well as her employees is an important element in her business as it is that cycle of relation that keeps the business growing stronger and stronger. The quality of the company merchandise also works in her favour as it represents the strength of her business.

Although the worldwide economy has been in turmoil for the past couple of years, affecting all aspects of the economy, Marelie is relieved that the Namibian economy has been able to stay relatively stable, although the ordinary Namibian has not been able to escape the high costs of goods unscathed.

“Namibia’s relatively stable economy has been able to absorb the impact of the worldwide economic instability. However, our industries are influenced by high oil prices, which in turn, cause high retail selling prices disadvantaging the end consumer,” Marelie states.

Luckily, their industry is quite established in the sense that it sells goods that will always be needed on the market, so the worldwide recession has not had much of a negative impact on them.

Besides being a busy businesswoman, Smit is also a wife and a mother to a son and considers her family the most important part of her life and points out that the weekends are an all-family time with no exceptions.

With the right attitude and determination, Marelie shows that being a woman does not just mean being a housewife and a mother but one can be much more, “For the women who want to make it in business, always remember that with hard work, dedication, perseverance, humility, honesty and respect, one can make great steps in life.”

With her hectic work schedule comes high stress levels, which she shakes off by cooking; an activity she particularly enjoys. She also does some exercising, camping and loves reading a lot in her free time too; romance novels do the trick, which she find refreshing due to their fictitious and happy endings.

“Forget about yesterday, don’t worry about tomorrow. Just focus on the present because there is nothing you can do about the past, thus, ensure that the present is in place to guarantee your future,” is Smit’s daily motivation.

She also believes that positive thinking and being selfless are qualities that can turn somebody’s life in the right direction and can even impact others in the process. Selfless people who are able to give back to others are her inspiration. One person who inspires her the most is Nelson Mandela.

Marelie is a very charitable person as she supports several organisations such as the cancer awareness-related campaigns. One would argue that Smit has achieved it all but she feels that she is only halfway. She is a holder of two degrees and is currently pursuing an MBA through Unisa.

“I have reached a financial stability in my company; I have an efficient supply chain management and have acquired a good reputation. However, my vision is to be able to achieve an efficient communication platform giving employees a chance to emphasise their views and input more effectively,” she emphasises.

For her, success does not just mean being rich but also balancing one’s social and humanitarian levels; being able to influence others positively.

“I have learnt a lot of lessons in life but the biggest lesson for me has been to believe in oneself and not be afraid to take risks to pursue one’s dreams. With God’s mercy and grace bestowed upon us, nothing is impossible,” Marelie concludes. PF