Miss Margrit from Africa, a true legend in freight and logistics

Speak to anyone operating in the freight industry today and you’ll hear the name, Margrit Wolff.

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Speak to anyone operating in the freight industry today and you’ll hear the name, Margrit Wolff. A stalwart in the industry, Wolff pulled herself up by her bootstraps at the age of 14 when she had to leave school and hasn’t looked back.

Wolff is a highly accomplished entrepreneur who has gone after and achieved many of her professional dreams. She is particularly proud of her international reputation within the field. Wolff began to understand how much of an impact she was making when she met with a CEO of a major Chinese shipping line and he said, “So, you are Miss Margrit from Africa.”

As a two-time cancer survivor, her popularity was underlined when she won the USA Enterprising Woman of the Year for 2014 and received an award from “Enterprising Women” Magazine.

Recently, Wolff was appointed as the Vice-President of the illustrious Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and she is also a Director at SAAF—a governing body for the freight industry in South Africa.

Today, she owns Mercury Freight, which has been going from strength to strength since she opened its doors in 2012.

She is the owner of the first non-American and, therefore, first South African company to be declared one of ‘The 50 Fastest Growing Female-Owned Companies In The World’. This was an honour bestowed on Mercury Freight in 2017. Each year, American Express in conjunction with the Women’s Presidents’ Organization and PWC evaluate female-owned companies internationally, and Mercury Freight came 38th. Also, last year, the company was awarded the Top Gender Empowered Company in the Transport and Logistics Industry in the Standard Bank Top Women Awards showcase.

An entrepreneur at heart, Wolff champions an entrepreneurial spirit in all who work alongside her owner-managed company and one of her passions is mentoring young women entering the very male-dominated freight industry.

How it all began…

“It was not my plan to become a major player here,” says Wolff. “I started my career as a nurse at the Frontier Hospital—I wanted to help people but I needed to work and when the matron found out I wasn’t of age and not even old enough to drive, I was promptly moved along,” Wolff recalls.

A thrilling story followed and eventually saw Wolff starting what would end up being a lifelong love affair with customs and import/export when she joined African Shipping in 1979 as a Salesperson. After many years of learning the ropes, she eventually started her first business, Buffalo Freight, in 1999.

Buffalo Freight performed so well that it was sought out and purchased seven years later but she stayed on to manage the business until 2012 when she realised entrepreneurship was in her blood—that’s when Mercury Freight was born.

Where we are today

Today, Mercury Freight is a respected and successful South African freight and logistics service provider following in the footsteps of Buffalo Freight, with CEO Margrit Wolff and Directors, Liz Bastos and Sean Rangasamy.

“We focus on industries like automotive and spares, chemicals, dangerous goods, perishables, wine, clothing and general cargo. Something that sets us apart is that we don’t discriminate based on the size of our clients and all of them receive the same fair pricing, great service and attention from our dedicated team,” says Wolff.

Most of the staff at Mercury Freight, and indeed a large portion of the clientele, have been with Wolff for almost 20 years, which says much about her steadfast client service and honest approach to doing business.

“Many people will tell you their colleagues are like family but in this case, it really is true,” she says. “We have been in each other’s space for two decades, we support one another and help each other grow as both human beings and service providers. We also fight and stand our ground, which has helped us grow as a company because nothing kills a company quicker than an inability to see a different perspective,” she adds.

Wolff believes that being a true leader is seeing the ‘person’ and potential in your employees, and bringing the best out of them by believing in them. The secret of her long-standing client base is her and the team’s ability to listen to their clients’ needs, solving problems and going the extra mile.

“In the near future of Mercury Freight, I see even greater growth, and we are planning a new division focused on international pet and furniture removal,” says Wolff.

Current challenges facing the industry and Mercury Freight are the constant changes in legislation and increased customs stops. The fact that our country is not included in China’s Belt and Road Initiative and that we will lose our status as the “Gateway to Africa” means our ports will suffer, our infrastructure will further deteriorate and we are missing out on the possibility of huge investment in South Africa. China intends to move many of their manufacturing industries, into the rest of Africa.

Advice to fellow women in freight

Her advice to female entrepreneurs wanting to break into freight is to “just take a leap of faith and do it”.

“I waited far too long to start my own businesses and I can only imagine where I’d be today if I’d just taken the leap when I first considered it. Go into a business that you understand and are passionate about, understand the industry and marketplace, put in the hard work and just go for it, don’t hold back. You can’t get through life and work without facing challenges but it’s how you overcome them and grow from them that makes you a success,” she says.

It is guidance like this that makes Margrit Wolff’s inspiring success story so important as she is now a force to be reckoned with and a legend for the future generation in freight and logistics. 

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