BACKSTORY: Ocean Basket CEO Grace Harding
The FM speaks to Grace Harding, CEO of Ocean Basket and spokesperson for The Restaurant Collective
What’s your one top tip for doing a deal?
First have a clear picture of what you want to get out of the deal. Then ask the other person what a great deal would look like for them. The principle has to be win-win, and it is always a good idea to hear what the other person is thinking.
What was your first job?
I worked in my father’s retail store in Loveday Street in the Joburg city centre at the age of 12.
How much was your first pay cheque, and how did you spend it?
My first payment was a small black–and–white TV. First proper pay cheque was R11.50 for a Saturday morning shift at a department store in Rosebank — I wrapped gifts as a student. In 1983, as a receptionist for a law firm, my first pay cheque was R485. It went towards paying off a car, paying rent, and on groceries and some cigarettes.
What is the one thing you wish somebody had told you when you were starting out?
It always gets better when it’s really shit; you turn the corner and you’ve learnt so much and can see clearly. The bad stuff does not last; the good stuff doesn’t either. So learn to dance in any environment.
If you could fix only one thing in SA, what would it be?
Education. And not in the traditional sense. Education that allows people to succeed in life.
What’s the most interesting thing about you that people don’t know?
I spent time in an orphanage and was raised speaking French (all in SA). I had to change my whole perspective to succeed in the world in which I found myself. I think it’s how I came to value change — and adaptability.
What’s the worst investment mistake you’ve made?
I invested some money in containers — about 30 years ago. That’s an entire column right there.
What’s the best investment you’ve ever made? And how much of it was due to luck?
Nothing is due to luck. The best investment I made was, and still is, educating myself and looking after my mental health.
What is the hardest life lesson you’ve learnt?
If you do not interrogate everything you hear, you will miss something important. Check everything seven times — at least.
What is something you would go back and tell your younger self that would impress them?
I am the leader of an amazing brand. I have thrived because of my relentless tenacity and my humility. Great people gave me opportunities, and I grabbed every one of them.
If you were President Cyril Ramaphosa, what would you change, or do, tomorrow?
I would look at things differently. I would spend a month un-thinking what is and has been. I would find new friends, get new consultants. Become tough on performance. And invest in education.
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