Driving Ripples Of Change

Managing director of Edward Snell & Co, Karin Krause Wessels, is not afraid of challenging the status quo. She believes that with the right intent and the desire to be in service of something greater than herself, anything is possible.

Armed with a B.Comm degree in Marketing Management from the University of Stellenbosch, Krause Wessels’ first job was as a consumer relations ambassador at British American Tobacco (BAT) where she was sent to Bloemfontein to establish the ambassador function there. Later, as a junior executive, she started to work her way through the various functions of the business, developing a particular interest in strategy and insights.

This led to her completing a diploma in Marketing Research Principles through the University of Georgia. “I loved working in strategy and insights as it compelled me to look at the business objectively, to see all of its parts and appreciate how they fit and work together”.

During the same period, Krause Wessels signed up for an honours-equivalent degree in Business Futures Studies at Stellenbosch University. While she was studying, she was promoted to global brand executive, and later, senior brand manager with a full portfolio of brands under her wing.

In 2009, she moved to London as BAT’s regional brand manager for the Middle East, Europe and Africa. “What I loved about my London stint was meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds, which was instrumental in expanding my view of the world and how there is such strength in diversity, whilst we are all united in our humanity.”

About three years later, she returned to South Africa in a business development role. “I’ve never been scared of moving out of my comfort zone and this role was a move away from marketing, giving me greater insight into other aspects of the commercial business such as key account management, informal market management and pricing”.

“I was later promoted to Head of Brands, a position I fulfilled for the next two years. By this time, I’d spent 15 incredible years at BAT and felt it was time to spread my wings,” adds Krause Wessels.

As such, she moved to Distell in 2015 where she was tasked with building a Capability Academy, a role she originally thought would take three years to complete, but concluded in one and half years.

Krause Wessels, however, missed the commercial aspect of business and when she was offered the role of Head of Marketing in 2017 at the largest independently owned spirits business in South Africa, Edward Snell & Co, she jumped at the opportunity. She was appointed director at the end of the same year and worked closely with all departments to drive change in the business. Her passion, cross-functional experience and ‘big picture’ vision saw her promoted to managing director in May 2021, the first female to fulfill the role in the company’s 170-year history.

Krause Wessels says pursuing roles in traditionally male-dominated businesses has never been an issue for her. “I was lucky, I hit the parent jackpot. My parents never made me feel that being a woman was in any way ‘less than’ and they set a great example of equality for me as a foundation at home. When I entered the workforce, I was surprised at how women were treated differently, but I never allowed it to become part of my psyche; therefore it never held me back.”

“I’ve never been tempted to emulate men to get ahead or make a mark either. I am proud to be a woman and believe that if I remain true to myself and I’m authentic through my actions, I can break through any barriers. This can mean one loses out at times by not being or saying what someone wants to hear, but you will undoubtedly win in the long game – authenticity always does,” she adds.

She believes women also open the workplace up for minorities to rise. “Women are starting to make real inroads in business and when they are authentic in their power that allows for other people to wholly be themselves at work, whether they have different gender identities or are differently-abled. I think bringing balance through gender equality therefore quickly accelerates transformation across other areas in business and society too.”

In her role as MD at Edward Snell & Co, Krause Wessels intends to build on the company’s rich history, its foundational values and existing industry strengths whilst focusing on creating a more purpose-driven operation and accelerating transformation and innovation.

“At Edward Snell & Co. we see ourselves as part of a larger, interdependent ecosystem; so when our business and our brands do well, we believe the interests of all our stakeholders and the communities in which we operate should feel that impact in a positive way too, ultimately creating sustainable flywheels of transformative change”.

“Our company’s purpose over the next 170 years is therefore to pursue greatness for good and play a role in driving positive ripples of change across the industry, country and world in which we operate. To be able to do this alongside the most amazing group of people at Edward Snell and our partner networks is something that I am incredibly honoured and humbled to be a part of,” she concludes.

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