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Women in the Profession - The Carol Weaving Story

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Carol Weaving, Managing Director of Thebe Exhibitions & Projects Carol Weaving, Managing Director of Thebe Exhibitions & Projects

Small beginnings

When I moved to South Africa 26 years ago, even with a background in marketing and communications, I had no idea what an exciting and rewarding career was waiting for me in the exhibition and events industry.


Within a year my first consumer exhibition, the Safari Show in Midrand, attracted over 18 000 visitors over a weekend.

After a stint at the AA at Kyalami racetrack, I opened up my own exhibition company and it was truly a privilege to be part of ground breaking years in the industry. I later sold a majority share to Dutch exhibition company RAI, and then headed up RAI South Africa.


In 2005 I led the 70 percent acquisition of the company by the Thebe Tourism Group, in a solid BEE partnership.I continue to head up the group - now called Thebe Exhibitions and Projects (TEP) - and remain a 30 percent shareholder.


I am very proud of the fact that my team and I have built up one of the largest and most successful business events companies on the continent.


We own major exhibition titles such as Decorex, Mediatech Africa and the Sports and Events Tourism Exchange and the Franchise and Business Opportunities Expo. The majority of exhibitions organised by our group have won local or international industry awards.


I believe whilst strategic planning – and the successful execution of strategies – are not debatable issues, the proof of a successful exhibition remains the bottom line. Did people attend because they were informed (marketing) and did they purchase (good services and product offered)? I believe the challenge is, and will increasingly become, to ensure that we meet - and exceed – the bottom line. This, we constantly strive for in my company, hence our success rate in staging top-class exhibitions.


We also have the contract to manage the Coca-Cola dome in Johannesburg, one of the most versatile venues in South Africa, and negotiated the naming rights with the world’s biggest brand, Coca-Cola. The management contract with the owner, the Sasol Pension Fund, has been renewed for a third time until 2019.


I oversee my very capable team at the Coca-Cola dome, working towards continuously increasing venue occupancy rates and ensuring that profits are achieved with forecasts being met.


Like any other business, the venues business has also felt the pinch of the tough economic times in recent years. We have had to be innovative in our offerings at the venue to be sustainable and grow, constantly seeking new and exciting ways to draw clientele.


The Dome has been voted the best concert venue in Johannesburg for more than 12 consecutive years.

Empowering people

We have also been recognised for gender empowerment, an area that we pay very specific attention to.


We were named the winner in the Top Gender Empowerment Company: Travel, Leisure and Entertainment category at the 2012 Top Women Awards and in 2011 I was named Top Performing Business Woman of the Year at the African Access National Business Awards. In 2009 I won the Business Woman of the Year award (BWA) in the Entrepreneurial Category.


But business is not about winning awards, is it? Awards are a bonus for good business performance and for contributing to the upliftment of society and the well-being of people.


It is also about enhancing the interests of the industry, both locally and internationally. To support this, TEP is a full member of UFI, the global association of the exhibition industry. In fact, our flagship exhibition, Decorex Joburg, has been granted the status of an ‘UFI approved event.’


We have also been very actively involved in the Exhibition and Event Association of South Africa (EXSA), where I served two terms as national chairperson.I am also a former board member of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI).


The business of exhibitions and events is primarily people driven. As a matter of fact, at Thebe our motto is that exhibitions and events promote the ultimate form of communication – direct personal contact.


It stands to reason that all of this is not possible without the assistance, both strategically and operationally – of people – plenty of people.   This is not a one-man-show, and without training people, and empowering them to exercise the skills that they gain, operating organisations such as ours would just not be possible.


My personal belief is that you can only expect responsibility from people once you empower them to accept responsibility.


Our gender empowerment policy is evident from our huge female staff component of more than 80 per cent. In fact, the empowerment of women is entrenched in the company philosophy – more often than not, preference is given to women in the recruitment process.


I believe as a woman, being assertive without being aggressive goes a long way in conducting business. So does tenacity. When everyone else tells you it’s not going to work, you have to have the belief in your product and have the self-confidence to make it happen and get their buy-in.


One’s success can only be judged by other people. Achievement is what you judge yourself by, on what you personally believe you fulfilled in your professional and personal life.


This article was first published in Volume 1 Issue 05 of The SA Leader magazine.

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 June 2013 13:24

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