Inge Roberts

Seal Retail Solutions

Inge RobertsInge Roberts started her career at a Laser Clinic in Cape Town. From there, she went into the pharmacy and retail industries, selling to the pharmacy groups as a representative for different brands. Soon she hit a ceiling and felt trapped, believing she had more potential.

Her breakthrough was an opportunity to grow a small agency that provided a service to selected health shops and Dis-Chem stores. She started by selling products into a store on a weekday, and then she would run in on a Saturday to sell out what she had given them! The cycle repeated itself until she employed her first staff member in her second year of business. Today, Inge has grown by 1000% since her first year and employs 12 people.

Seal Retail Solutions offer sales and merchandising services to suppliers of products within the health and wellness industry. It consists of a specialised team for Dis-Chem, pharmacies and health stores, as well as a focussed team for Checkers, Clicks, Pick ‘n Pay and Spar outlets.

“We have highly trained staff that focus on training as an added value proposition. Training is done in-store, at wellness days and old age homes. Other key activities include merchandising stock, taking orders, negotiating shelf space and reporting to clients.”

Seal has a national footprint and wants to expand into distribution as an added service to clients.

In 2016, Inge will set up distribution as an added service offering. Many suppliers have challenges delivering to the various outlets.

“We believe it will secure the business even further, due to the fact that we can set up our own vendors with the various chain groups. Once that is in place, we can start importing ranges for reselling into chain groups as well as buy out small local brands to sell in South Africa and export to neighbouring countries.”

Seal has a goal to give back to the community in the channel of under privileged children.

“We would like to create a food shop for children and families who are in need.

All short dated health foods will go to the food shop where it will get tested before being handed to people in need.”

“We’re already involved in training on healthy lifestyle and oral health care at stores and old age homes and will extend this training through the food shop as well. This way we educate, while filling the immediate need.”

The greatest lesson for Inge was having the right people to help grow the business.

“If you get the wrong advice and trust the wrong people, it could sink your business.”

She also realised it takes time to build a business.

“Being an entrepreneur is like training for a marathon. You can’t do the distance on your first day. A business takes baby steps, dedication, commitment, hard work, focus, lifestyle changes and time to grow and mature.”

In the future, Inge wants to make a difference by writing books and inspiring people to better themselves.

“I want to be an excellent wife and an excellent mother, giving my children the ability to teach others a life of service and love. I would love to travel the world to see different cultures and countries.”

The Branson Centre filled in the missing side steps of her business ladder.

“We had a reputation for service excellence, but we missed some structure within the organisation. The structure we added in the time spent at the Branson Centre has changed the whole business.”

Inge is now able to cover chain groups and doubled her staff in the past six months.

Adding in the steps and structure that the Branson Centre taught created longevity for Seal as a growing organisation.

“I joined the Branson Centre in my toughest business year, and if it was not for restructuring the company through what I learnt at the Centre, I wouldn’t have been able to sustain the growth that came afterwards.”

Inge also learnt about project management and operations, which made the organisation far more effective when planning ahead and looking at where to spend your time.

“My biggest challenge is being able to sustain the business, even when outside factors are influencing it. For instance, many suppliers are importers and often get affected by the exchange rate, which affects their business and in turn ours. They then want to re-negotiate rates with us in order to stay in business. We often have to think creatively in times like that as we carry the risk of employing staff through it all. If you keep at it, and align yourself with the right people to support you on your journey, you will make it.”

Don’t be scared to ask for help. It is the only way you will learn and grow.