Sally Williams: an extraordinary person behind a remarkable brand

Whether you’re thinking about the delicious nougat and ice cream, or the person herself, Sally Williams is nothing short of delightful. My ten days spent with Sally Williams this past December on holiday in Rocktail Bay was inspirational! It went beyond just a wonderful break, jam-packed with everything that makes a holiday perfect: fun, time to relax and spending time with my family and friends.

These ten days were motivational. Infectiously so, because without even trying, Sally has a way of inspiring you to live life to the full. She does that with authenticity because she’s a living example of how mid-life can be the start of a whole new chapter.

The incredible thing about her story is that, at a time where most people are thinking of their retirement years, Sally’s life was about to restart – at 54 years of age. With her abundant positive attitude that helped her enlist the right people along the way, she truly embodies the notion that anything is possible.

I first met Sally as a student in her cooking school and was one of the first to taste her nougat trial recipes. “I practised for two years and made sure it wasn’t too sticky or too sweet,” Sally remembers. “My cookery students were the tasters.”

After supplying her nougat to a few retail outlets, she knew she was onto something magical. Driven by her entrepreneurial spirit, and often staying up through the night cutting her nougat by hand, wrapping it in wax paper, and personally delivering orders, she made a net profit of 1.4 million in her first year – all from her garage.

Even though Sally had incredible support from her late husband who doubled up as her bookkeeper, she soon realised that she needed outside help to sustain the business’s unprecedented growth. She brought on her son-in-law as a silent partner and recruited newly-graduated chefs to help make the nougat and bring some fresh thinking into the brand. At this point, her nougat was already selling internationally.

After 18 months, Sally moved her business from her garage to a factory in Kramerville in Johannesburg. She kept up this extremely busy pace for eight years until her (now late) husband, who had retired before she did, suggested that they sell the brand and enjoy the fruits of their labour. Sally was 62 years old at the time.

Sally believes unwaveringly that the secret to her success is excellent customer service, even though I believe that the heavenly nougat had at least something to do with it. Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: Passion. Energy. Determination. “If you have a good idea, go for it!” says Sally. “Failures are inevitable, brush them off and carry on. Don’t give up too easily. Good quality-control and excellent customer service goes a long way.”

Being married for 52 years with four children, nine grandchildren and a successful household brand is truly a remarkable achievement for anyone. But Sally is not quite done yet. She is gearing up for her next project: writing her own recipe book. Sally is once again determined to team up with technologically savvy younger generation to turn this idea into a reality and I am eager to hear what this mentee and mentor relationship will yield.

I feel so grateful to have spent this time with someone with so much courage and positivity. I hope that by sharing Sally’s story, you too can find your courage to persevere in reaching your end goal – and perhaps teaming up with someone from the younger generation is just what you need to give your next project a little jump start!

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