Ms. Luci Nouwens is the multi-faceted sole shareholder and CEO of well-known local producer of quality carpets: Nouwens Carpets. She has had years of experience in the business and has contributed significantly to the business’ proven track record of producing superb products while remaining active in their local community.

 

  1. What is your full name & designation?

My name is Lucia Nouwens, but I prefer being called Luci, and I’m the CEO of Nouwens Carpets.

 

  1. Please give us a brief summary of your education history and working career/CV:

I matriculated in Harrismith in 1969 and started my career at Nouwens Carpets, working my way up from the bottom under the guidance of the founder and my late father Mr Cornelis Nouwens. I learnt about all of the various factory processes as well as the different aspects of admin and sales during my initial years working at the company. Throughout the course of my career, I attended and presented numerous courses and workshops. In 2001 I was one of six finalists in the ABSA – Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

 

I became one of Nouwens’ directors in the mid 80’s, and in 2012 I became the sole owner of the company.

 

  1. What is your current title within Nouwens and where exactly in Harrismith are your offices based?

At present I am the Director and sole shareholder of the company. Our mill and head office is situated in the Harrismith industrial area.

 

  1. What position/job role did you start with in the company?

I started out making carpet samples as I had to learn all aspects of the business – especially having to prove myself being the daughter of the owner!

 

  1. How long have you worked at Nouwens and how long have you been in your current position?

I have been working at Nouwens for almost 47 years now and in that time I have never had another job or gone for a job interview.

 

  1. What is your vision for the company?

My vision for the company is for it to be effectively run by a leading edge management team who is able to uphold the image and values of the Nouwens brand.

  1. What would you say is the distinguishing factor between Nouwens Carpets and industry competitors?

As this has been a family owned business for years the company has unique values when it comes to quality and craftsmanship. All of this is underscored by a real passion for the brand.

 

  1. What do you think are the top 5 selling points of Nouwens Carpets?
  2. Over 50 years of experience / craftsmanship in the field of carpet making.
  3. Our diverse and vertical mill with a small management structure allowing for quick, hands-on action and response.
  4. With a strong tradition in pure wool and wool blend carpets made of spun yarns, we are the only major local company to produce a natural, spun texture carpet.
  5. Our focussed and meaningful contributions to our local community.
  6. The company carries a well-established and respected brand name.

 

  1. What would you say is the biggest challenge that the company faces at the moment?

At present I would say it is the decline in domestic carpet sales in general. Another challenge we are facing is having to reposition the company with its new management team during trying economic conditions.

 

  1. What is the best part of being part of Nouwens Carpets?

Personally both the best and most uncomfortable part of my role in the Nouwens team is being the sole shareholder, and actually being Luci Nouwens.

 

  1. What is your fondest memory of working at Nouwens Carpets?

The good times when the economy was booming and “the buck stopped” at Mr Cornelis Nouwens really stands out! We worked hard, produced great new products and went through major expansions and new developments.

 

  1. Describe a few characteristics you think every person in management needs in order to be successful and get the most out of their staff?

I think it is very important that management personnel know what their job is about. They also need to have a firm understanding of what both the market and the company needs and to lead with passion.

 

  1. What would you say have been the biggest challenges and opportunities of being part of a family-owned business?

The major benefit has been that we have not had to report and pay out to shareholders, meaning that we have been able to reinvest in the company as we saw fit. The core of the management team, being the family, has been constant and fortunately we have had the vision to make a success of the enterprise. The major challenge came when a new management structure had to be appointed as family members resigned or left the business. Fortunately there is still major Nouwens family input and their institutional knowledge during this regrouping phase. Also, the mill is modern and versatile to support the process, with factory staff having longstanding experience in plant operations. All of these factors are certainly helping ease the transition.

 

  1. How important is it to you that Nouwens is a proudly local company?

With our roots anchored in South African soil from the outset, Nouwens is very proud to be a vertical, local mill with an on-going commitment to adding local value to our products. This ensures that we contribute the maximum to our country’s wellbeing. We are also able to equal or better most imported product offerings while offering the benefit of a local backup. This should encourage more local support for our product.

 

  1. Name some of the company highlights since you’ve been involved?

A highlight that really stands out is being identified as one of the ABSA Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalists along with Pieter Nouwens in 2001. Other highlights include our involvement in establishing Harriston Private School in the Harrismith area as well as starting the Maluti Child Care feeding scheme in Harrismith in 2005.

 

  1. Do you have any personal or business achievements you’re proud of? Please elaborate on when, what, why, etc.?

Businesswise I am proud of the long on-going achievement and eventually heading up the Admin, Sales and Marketing of Nouwens. There have also been a whole bunch of interim highs related to great product launches, successful shows and campaigns, brilliant ads, awesome deals and business relationships established and developed.

 

On a personal note, I am proudest of my achievements on the equestrian side. I have had many show successes and, lately, some amazing breeding achievements. I am also very proud of making a life-size bronze sculpture of my beloved stallion and setting up Image County as my horse estate over the past 4 years. Somewhere in between there was a 15-year road cycling stint, which I also took very seriously, earning provincial colours and podium finishes at numerous races.

 

  1. What do you feel are the latest trends in carpets these days?

Price and affordability have become major drivers when it comes to purchase decisions since 2008 – making it increasingly challenging to come out with new ideas. However, textiles lend themselves to natural and textured finishes which are still very popular and new technology makes it possible to come up with innovative products at a price.

 

  1. How often do you travel for business and where to?

I travel to various destinations around the world once or twice a year.

 

  1. Do you have any talents/tricks that people don’t know about?

My whole family has a bit of an artistic streak, after all, my parents met each other at art school. Combine that artistic streak with passion and I can pull some unexpected tricks out of a hat. Like my one and only life-size bronze sculpture or decorating the massive Afridome for the Christmas Festival Show!

 

  1. Who is your role model and why?

I have to say that my relationship with my dad brought out some great things in me and having achieved what I have so far is largely due to having worked so closely with him.

 

 

What is YOUR SPICE4LIFE? 

My spice for life is that I am very competitive – it keeps me going at all costs with no compromise in quality. If you wish to see it from another angle, it is horses – I am passionate about these noble and sensitive animals and have been blessed with some great individuals over the years….  

 

  1. How did you do it?

I started out making carpet samples as I had to learn all aspects of the business – especially having to prove myself being the daughter of the owner! I was 39 years when I myself became the owner of Nouwens Carpet and I was quite comfortable to take on the challenge after more than 20 years coaching from the master himself (My Father).

 

  1. What were your challenges?

I would say one of the biggest challenges was having to reposition the company with its new management team during the trying economic conditions after 2010.  Fortunately the company continues in the Nouwens family tradition of quality and craftsmanship and benefitted majorly from staff experience and institutional knowledge during this regrouping phase. Although I was very much prepared for the job at hand, the realization that “the buck now stopped with me” was an eye opener! 

 

  1. What keeps you going? 

An inherent passion for the family brand and an inner strength to do what has to be done.

 

  1. What advice would you give to others who want to follow?

It is not the fact that you are a woman that makes the difference – if you have the vision and the enthusiasm almost anything is possible

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