Arniston Spa Hotel

Celebrating Caroline De Villiers, the woman behind Themba Trees

Caroline says: “To plant a tree is to have a vision for the future. By planting a tree you are being creative. You are creating an environment that will benefit the soil, the air, flora and fauna, as well as your children”.

Caroline was born and raised on an apple farm in Elgin and always loved nature. She went to boarding school in Cape Town and always longed to come home on weekends to walk on the farm at sunrise, ride her horse, swim in the dam and run in the mountains. She still tries to run or ride her horse every day. She is a single mother of two beautiful girls, Ariane and Anya. A typical day in Caroline’s life consists of spending an hour or two in the office, then in the nursery and on the farm planning and dreaming, checking on quality and production. In the afternoon it is time for the kids, homework, supper and bed. She loves her job and says that every day brings new experiences. She enjoys the fruits of her labour and loves spending time on the farm in nature. She feels she also has a responsibility to herself and her staff to ensure the success of Themba Trees – their livelihood depends on it. This is what motivates her the most. Her employees respect her and take their jobs and her standards in the workplace serious, but there is also always time for a joke and banter at Themba Trees.

It gives Caroline great joy to be able to positively impact the lives of others. Her love for trees and the outdoors inspired her to create a career and lifestyle doing something she loves. She chose the name “Themba” for her business because it means “hope”. She wants to create job opportunities and in doing so create hope for individuals through employment, where individuals are valued, where there are opportunities for growth and where there is space for personal vision and development. Family, travel and social upliftment is also close to her heart. The family loves to travel and learn how other people live. It enriches their outlook on life and makes them grateful and value what they have back home. She also sees it as the greatest education you can give your children. When it comes to Socio Economic Development, she feels it is her duty to give back some of what she has received. She endeavours to empower and assist individuals to help themselves, to bridge racial, social and economic barriers.

She attributes her business success to her passion for what she does, her attention to detail and never settling for less than the best. People buy from people. It is people that make the business. Themba Trees has developed a culture of mutual respect and hard work. They love what they do and it shows.

The highlight of Caroline’s journey, on a professional level, was working with two people that have started at Themba Trees as general workers, and through hard work and dedication became part of the management team. They have taught themselves the botanical and common names and characteristics of over a 100 species, been selected for an international exchange program in Australia and completed horticultural studies in nursery management. Personal achievements include winning the female farmer of the year competition in 2010 and being a finalist in the Cape Talk Entrepreneur Programme. These two life events were great confidence boosters. She was recognized as a woman doing extraordinary things, and she was honoured to be seen as such.

Being a single mom and running a business is a challenge in itself. It has been a very difficult balancing act for Caroline. There is a lot of competition in the industry and she had to overcome that by growing the best quality trees in the industry. They had to refine and define themselves. Visiting Themba Trees is truly an experience. Their staff are knowledgeable and helpful and the nursery is clean and tidy. They have spectacular views and rows and rows of gorgeous trees. Their work ethic is built on the following principles; be fair, have a positive attitude towards life, be respectful and kind to all.

Her advice to women who want to start their own businesses:

Invest and grow your business and the people that work for you. Employ people that are better at their jobs than what you are. Recognise your strengths and weaknesses – build on your strengths and delegate your areas of weakness. I love these words by Pablo Neruda “You start dying slowly if you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love, or with your surroundings. If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain, if you do not go after a dream, if you do not allow yourself, at least once in your lifetime to run away from sensible advice.” Consider the advice of others, but you have to follow your heart and not your head. Do the impossible, dream, plan and take risks.