Proving her naysayers wrong

2014-08-20 00:00

MILDRED Teasedale will celebrate 50 years in the brick industry at the end of next week, 27 years of which she has spent running her business, Supa Brick n Tile.

Teasedale (75) said she started out in the brick industry when she signed up as a temp at Corobrik in Pietermaritzburg.

“I ended up staying for 23 years. I started off as a telephonist, I became the paymaster, the boss’s secretary. I looked after complaints and I worked in sales,” she said in an interview with The Witness.

She had always wanted to be a farmers wife, and indeed married one, but upon arriving on their farm in Lion’s River as a young woman, she realised she would need to find work to help with the finances.

“We had to build up the farm … I really enjoyed my time at Corobrik. They did product knowledge tests, which really helped,” she said.

When she started Supa Brick n Tile, it was the first company in Pietermaritzburg to sell bricks as an agent from various brick-makers to the market, and since then, a number of competitors have opened in the city.

“They [Corobrik] said when I started out on my own, that I would never get established and that I would have to close. It’s 27 years later, and today Corobrik and I get on very well. I sell a lot of their bricks,” she said.

As the interview progresses, she answers the phone, replies to queries from staff and makes a quick call.

It is evident that she remains perfectly in control of the business, with a very hands-on approach.

Moving bricks is not typically a woman’s business. Teasedale said she gets around potential heavy duty work by making sure to plan ahead.

In addition, she said part of the success of the business has been because “the builders have been so loyal, and so nice to me. We try our best to keep them happy”.

“Many of them have been with me since I started,” she added.

One of the reasons why she has kept at the business is because she enjoys working with people.

She said that she has been told that she is too soft on her customers and that she grants too much credit, but “on the whole, they all pay me on time”.

She adopts a conservative approach to the business, such as keeping an eye on how much stock she has in the yard, and she has learnt the hard way to be careful about taking on big, new customers, who might not pay their bills.

Apart from the farm and the business, she does knit weaving as a hobby and exhibits every year at the Royal Show. Her attitude is that one should make the best of one’s circumstances and get the work done. She admits to have thought about retiring recently.

“What would I do then?” she shrugs.

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