‘It takes hard work to succeed in retail’

“I think one of the reasons I’ve been successful is because I always put my hand up. I always volunteer to do new things and to learn, and I stood out because of that.”

- Michelle Botha, who at just 42 years of age
is the Checkers Hyper Deputy Divisional Manager for Gauteng

Ambitious and eager to succeed, there were very few women in senior positions when Michelle started as a trainee admin manager 18 years ago.

“Checkers has worked hard to change this and I’ve had very supportive managers over the years who have taught me a lot.”

Michelle hails from KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast and after spending time in the retail sector when she finished matric, she decided to move to Johannesburg. However, coming from a strict Indian family meant she had to convince her father to trust her to move away from home.

“As a single Indian woman, moving up to Joburg on my own was a big deal for my family. My dad even came up to Joburg with me and accompanied me to job interviews. He was very happy when I was offered a job at Checkers, but he was heartbroken about me leaving home.”

Michelle thought she would be happy moving from one managerial admin position to the next, until the previous divisional manager for Checkers Gauteng, Hennie van Rooyen, suggested that she goes for training to learn about the different aspects of the business and how to be a branch manager.

“I was a little scared because I wasn’t sure about what I was getting into. I was working at Checkers Hyper Roodepoort, which is a big store, and I had to learn how to run the fresh department. Spending time in that role made me realise that I wanted to move to the operational side of the business.”

Michelle was then given the opportunity to run Checkers Little Falls before coming back to run Checkers Hyper Roodepoort for three-and-a-half years. Despite the inherent stress of the job, Michelle says those were some of the best years of her life and during this time, the store went from being 6th in revenue in the Gauteng division to number one!

Michelle says her success is a combination of always being eager to learn and senior managers at Checkers encouraging her to go on various training courses to learn about all aspects of the retail business.

“Hennie van Rooyen was always challenging me to do more and to learn more, and that is how I ended up where I am today.”

She admits that making her way up the ladder of success hasn’t been easy and she’s had to make sacrifices along the way. The long hours and weekend work resulted in her 14-year-old daughter growing up with Michelle’s parents in Durban.

“Retail is always hectic. We don’t have a lot of spare time. I see my daughter often and she’s doing well in Durban. I’ve always felt that I missed out on spending more time with her, but my job ensures that we all live well and we get to enjoy the good things in life, and I’m grateful for that.”

Michelle, who is married, starts every day at 4.30am with gym and she lives an active lifestyle with her husband. She says that when she started at Checkers, she didn’t think she would spend a long time in retail, or even at one company.

“When you’re young, you think you’re going to move around from one company to another, but I love Checkers. I’ve had so many opportunities to learn and to grow, and now, I don’t ever see myself leaving Checkers.”