Meet the Boss: Elana van Rooyen, the owner of Continental Butchery Craft Meats & Deli

AUGUST 23, 2016

She might have been born in East London, and spent some time in Cape Town, where her parents were based, but for Elana van Rooyen, it is Port Elizabeth that is home, after she arrived in the city at the age of three.

After attending Lorraine Primary School, she later Matriculated at Framesby High before venturing into her career and passion.   

“Matric is my highest education; the rest was varsity fees through mistakes made and lessons learnt from them,” she tells Business Link magazine (BL).

Van Rooyen has owned the renowned PE butchery, Continental Butchery Craft Meats & Deli, since 2012. This Newton Park-based butchery has built up a reputation for providing customers with the best cold meats, cooked hams and old-style boerewors.

In June, she won the Entrepreneur category of the 2016 Businesswomen’s Association of Port Elizabeth (BWA) Investec Regional Business Achiever Awards (RBAA).

Here is what we also found out about Elana van Rooyen (ER).

BL: You recently won the BWA’s Investec Regional Business Achiever Awards - Entrepreneur category. What does this award mean to you?  

ER: Wow, my hard work, passion and dedication has not gone unnoticed. It has made me a ‘legitimate’ person, and people now look at me as someone, who is serious about what she does.

BL: Talking about your passion, how did you end up Continental Butchery Craft Meats & Deli?

ER: Being in the meat industry for a good couple of years now, I knew the previous owner of Continental Butchery, Mr Meyere.

For about two years, he continually asked me if I didn't want to take over the butchery from him, which is what I eventually did in June 2012.

BL: What would say have been some of the highlights in your career to date?

ER: My BWA award has been the most prestigious award that I have ever received, as a business woman and as an everyday, hardworking person.

As a business, Continental also received a Cleaver Award this year, which we hope to be the first of many.

BL: Looking back at how far you have come - what would you say was the best or worst business advice that you have ever received?

ER: The worst business advice that I have ever received is probably that being the boss you shouldn't have to work so hard.  I enjoy working hard and I also like to lead by example.

The best advice is that clients do not come first.  If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients (taken from Richard Branson).

BL: Tell us more about Continental Butchery Craft Meats & Deli?

ER: We are a butchery that specialises in German cold meats but also tends to the meat-eating South Africans. We do quite a lot of processing and supply meat to schools, game reserves, restaurants and chain stores.

Continental has an in-house deli, where we bake the most divine pies, cakes, milk tarts and all kinds of other yummy things!

BL: How would you describe your leadership style?

ER: Leadership in not so much about technique and methods as it is about opening the heart. Leadership is about inspiration - of oneself and of others. Great leadership is about human experiences, not processes. Leadership is not a formula or a program, it is a human activity that comes from the heart and considers the hearts of others.  It is and attitude, not a routine - so Lance Secretan said.       

BL: What is it that separates Continental Butchery Craft Meats & Deli from the other players in your industry in our region?

ER: Even though Continental has been around for 45 years, we are a growing, ever-evolving company. We are driven by passion and rewarded with success.  Nowadays, people want new things all the time, they want convenience and they want it now. Continental is not your average corner butchery…

BL: What are some of the challenges that you have faced as a woman entrepreneur?

ER: For me, especially being in a predominantly men’s industry, it takes a while for people to actually take you seriously and to respect the fact that you are just as capable as they are. 

BL: And in your industry, are there any challenges locally?

ER: The butchery industry at this stage is kind of a dying trade as there is no real qualifications needed which means that there is no education that one can better themselves with.

All staff get trained in house, which is not a bad thing, but it still remains a minimum wage field, and with the average butchers’ hours, no young person wants to enter this world.

BL: When you are out of the office, where are we most likely to find you?

ER: At a meeting, seeing a customer - mostly always working. Where would I like to be found... in my garage, making a knife.

BL: As a working woman, how do you juggle the office and your family?

ER: I am not married and have no kids and I find this hard enough.  I admire woman, who work, organise the kids, get home to cook supper and do homework and then still have time for themselves.

BL: What do you think or hope will be your legacy, one day when you leave Continental Butchery Craft Meats & Deli?

ER: I hope that people will remember me as a passionate business person, but most of all I will want my staff to feel that I made a difference in their lives.