Although successful in her own right, Bettie Pretorius shies away from the limelight and won’t take any individual credit for her company’s dynamic growth: “I am merely part of a large team, where each person brings their own unique skills and abilities to the table,” she says humbly.
As a child growing up in Louis Trichardt, she quickly learned to equate success with hard work. Her parents, both employed full-time, ran stalls and sold vegetables as a sideline but progressed towards exporting macadamia nuts. “I saw first-hand how they built up their business, and eventually managed to purchase several farms. I would say that this is where my entrepreneurial roots originated.”
When Bettie met her husband-to-be, Albie, he was nursing a fledgling signwriting business, delivering his hand-painted signs to clients on foot. She says she wouldn’t have chosen this line of work but became involved through circumstance. Hand-in-hand, the couple slowly expanded and grew their little company, eventually able to buy necessary printers, and employ three workers.
In 2005, after running the business for about 10 years, they left Limpopo to settle down in Nelspruit. Basically starting from scratch, success didn’t come overnight, but was achieved over many years of dedicated service. Adaptability to change and new technologies were key to Extreme Signs’ growth.
Bettie and Albie realised the need to develop new skills and increase their staff in order to adapt to a changing industry and technologies. “But most of all we needed to change our attitude about business in order for us to survive and prosper,” Bettie explains.
During the last two years, they have dedicated themselves to develop laser cutting and Perspex fabrication, and are now the provincial leaders in this field. “We call ourselves the ‘Joburg’ company in Nelspruit’,” Bettie smiles. Extreme Signs has expanded and employs more than 20 workers, many of them specialised in their field.
Bettie doesn’t consider herself to be overly creative, but has an eye for mistakes, either in design or spelling, she laughs. “I may not be able to correct a design, but I see when it isn’t working.” Rather than getting involved in something which isn’t her forte, she concentrates on what she’s good at: organisation and finances.
To be a successful businesswoman, she says, you have to be able to juggle: not only your job, home and children but also within your company. “Prioritising and time management are critical,” she says, “As are good people skills for the inevitable office politics.”
What sets their business apart is their quality, dedication and willingness to walk the extra mile for clients. She admits the COVID 19 lockdown was brutal, although they started manufacturing face shields and counter screens to generate income and stay productive during this time. She is positive about the future and believes they will bounce back once things get back to normal. “But it will take time, dedication and nerves of steel,” she smiles.
Bettie is currently the Mpumalanga provincial leader for the SA Council for Businesswomen and is proud of this association. The empowerment of women, especially young budding entrepreneurs, is important to her. For Youth Month, she has the following advice to offer young (and not so young) entrepreneurs:
“Do a lot of research and educate yourself on the pros and cons of the specific industry you are interested in,” she says. “Concentrate on what you’re good at and focus on constantly improving your skills. Also, adaptability is key in any business.”
We wish Extreme Signs every success in the lovely Nelspruit for many more years!