INTERVIEW WITH 2021 INFORMAL BUSINESS PERSON OF THE YEAR WINNER, KAREN SCHMIDT

In 2021, the IEDF, then known as the SAITA Economic Development Forum, launched the Informal Business Person of the Year competition. It was a successful event that culminated in the announcement of Karen Ann Schmidt as the eventual winner. We spoke to Schmidt, who is the Owner of Culinary Tactics Culture & Gourmet Tours, on what she gained from her overall experience and how winning the competition impacted her life:

Can you briefly describe your business. What were your intentions with the formation thereof?

Culinary Tactics was originally established in 2004 as a gourmet consulting and private catering company, however, since then it has grown by using various tactics to get to where we are today. With over 25 years experience in the Hospitality Trade for over 25 years, we have grown into a boutique gourmet destination and demo company. We incorporate local talent and cultural activities in our itineraries. We especially support local women, who have also started their own businesses, to better their living conditions & communities.

Our business has potential to contribute significantly to Economic Development and Tourism. We offer personal, small Gourmet Food & Wine Pairing Tours, Social Development and Upliftment Tours, especially off the beaten track, as well as other Cultural & Heritage Site Trips & Destination Tours. These tours can include Culinary Demonstrations & Tailor-Made Packages, which are flexible for the guests to have the ultimate experience.

We promote Conscious Travel. South Africa has a rich & diverse history and after all, the starting of The Cape of Good Hope was all around fresh food and water which in essence – with the right Tactics added – resulted in real cultural Integration & good wine!

What made you enter the IBPOTY competition?

I was approached by Renee Arendse of RenA Management to take this opportunity. She quietly encouraged me from a Tourism & Tourist Guide SME perspective to take this road of hard work and self-discovery. Did I think I would make the Top 100, let alone Top 50? No! However, finding my company nominated in the finals was exhilarating. I had no idea as to how the list of tasks would build my small business and allow me to grow at the same time. The competition pushed me to levels I know I have either been procrastinating about or did not even know I had the ‘chutzpah’ to persevere!

Describe your experience. What did you enjoy about being involved in this competition?

I loved meeting and collaborating with the other contestants especially as we got to know one another in the Top 25. Sharing this path with them was such a joyful experience. It was such a privilege to have this experience alongside them, and although we came from diverse backgrounds and had different experiences we were united with a shared goal.

How has winning the the award impacted your life?

I gained a lot in so many ways. Tourism suffered greatly during the lockdown and we as an industry are still suffering from the effects of the pandemic. Therefore, winning IBPOTY in 2021 lifted my spirits and morale. The process helped me to slowly get myself back on my feet and create opportunities to be creative.

What advice do you have for 2022 IBPOTY entrants?

I love this quote from Pele (Brazilian football ledgend) and hope that it can motivate future entrants: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all love of what you are doing or learning to do.”

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