How has your southern African background defined you as a businesswoman?
It has had a tremendous influence on me, I grew up in what was then Rhodesia and was privileged, despite the war, to have had a carefree childhood. I was schooled in South Africa and I felt that from a young age that in Southern Africa there existed a service and work ethic that was second to none. This has remained with me throughout my career and I strive to ensure that service delivery remains one of the core ingredients of my businesses today.
How did you go from healthcare to golf, gardens, and a vineyard?
Having worked in healthcare for over 20 years the move into hospitality for me was an accidental one. I was a homeowner on Benguela Cove in 2013 when the estate ran into difficulty, I stepped in and rescued the property development and the farm, a 200 hectare estate consisting of 75 hectares of vineyard. The wine estate is now one of the most prestigious in South Africa. A vineyard the size of Benguela Cove has the capacity to produce nearly one million bottles of wine per year, and it was with this in mind that we acquired Mannings Heath and turned it into England’s first golf and wine experience.
Leonardslee Gardens followed and there we have planted England’s first Pinotage. My aim has been to create a fabulous visitor experience at any one of the properties and of course to produce cool climate focused wines in both South Africa and England.
In what way does the South African wine industry differ to the UK?
The South African wine industry is very established and the South Africans are second in the world for wine tourism, only slightly behind Australia. The making of wine accessible to everyone and demystifying wine as a whole is a good thing and encourages people to be adventurous. The UK wine industry is moving now at a fast pace and I believe our experiences will grow exponentially.
What does your OBE mean to you?
It’s a great honour and recognition of my work in business and as a job creator. It was something I never expected to have in my wildest dreams and I have to make sure that I stay true to who I am and remain focused on everything I do.
Describe a typical day?
I’m up at 5am, I do crossfit five days a week, unfortunately years of being in an office has taking its toll. My phone starts ringing from 8am and my working day begins. You will normally find me either on conference calls with my overseas managers or meeting with country managers discussing their divisions, successes and issues.
Wine plays a big part of my day now and I will talk daily with my operations manager, winemaker and brand staff. I try to be tucked up by 10pm.
What do you like most about living in West Sussex?
Everything, it really is a fantastic place to be and so much to do culturally and foodie wise. It’s just amazing and I am proud to have two Sussex-based businesses.