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Families within the family – Penny and Sharon, daughter and mum
The Robberg Family is 80 people strong, of whom a third are related to at least one person in the company. Two such people are Sharon and Penny, mom and daughter who work almost side by side daily.
Sharon Petersen hails from Elsie’s River in the Cape, but Plett has been her home since 1985 when she settled here and started working at the Beacon Island Hotel as a bar lady. This morphed into a job in procurement at the resort, a position she held for roughly 19 years before joining Robberg Fine Foods in 2005.
Sharon’s daughter Penny was a pupil at Formosa Primary in Plett and then a high school student at Plett Secondary.
A craving for shoes
As a teen in Plett, Penny had a craving for shoes. “When I was fourteen, I wanted a special pair of tekkies,” Penny recalls. “My mom said I’d have to work for them. So, I got a part-time job at the Beacon Island Hotel as a waitress serving milkshakes.” It was hard work for a youngster, but the reward was great, and it ultimately set her up for a career in the restaurant and food trade.
She left town halfway through her secondary school career to live with the family in Elsie’s River where she matriculated at her mum’s alma mater Elswood High.
When Penny returned to Plett she took a job at the Beacon Island Hotel working in the catering department. After a few years at the resort she left for a position at Timber City.
Sharon recalls how much she has seen Robberg grow over the years. “I was working for Jackie Le Roux at the BI Hotel when Robberg occupied only a very small premises in the Noël Centre in Main Road.”
“I remember when Robberg moved out here to the industrial area in the early 1980s. Back then the business just operated in a third of the building. There were other businesses in the building too. It’s so different now.”
Although Sharon and Penny admit that sometimes their points of view clash, they’ve managed to keep a healthy relationship working in offices that are side by side.
“It’s not always easy,” they both agree with a hearty chuckle. “But we get along most of the time.”
Coping with stress
Sharon used to find her job stressful when she started at Robberg. “It was a big change for me, moving from the hotel trade to the fishing and food industry,” she admits. “But over the years the systems have improved, and I’ve learned to go with the flow.”
Penny copes with stress well. “I’ve learnt how to manage people,” she says. “There will always be difficulties in the work environment, but it’s how you approach the situation that makes all the difference.”
Penny started with Robberg some 12 years back in a temp tele sales position, taking over for a lady who had gone on maternity leave. Her professionalism did not go unnoticed though, and by the time the new mum returned to her job, Penny had worked her way into a new position created especially for her. She then moved over to the procurement office, in the position she still holds now.
Although Penny has a very specific role at Robberg, she’s not afraid of getting her hands dirty if the need arises. “Over season it can get pretty hectic here at Robberg,” she says. “At times we all have to do tasks that aren’t anywhere near being in our job description. Most seasons I have to jump into a truck last minute to do a delivery!”
Sharon has a special relationship with her clients. “It’s a bond we have,” she says fiercely. “I’m very protective of them. No one must ever steal my clients!”
Always one of the first in at the start of the day, and one of the last to leave in the evening, Sharon is ever present and leads by example.
“One thing I really enjoy about Robberg is that it’s such a stable business to work for,” she says smiling. “And I’m not planning to retire any time soon!”
Words and photos: Brendon Morris
Malcolm Craig of Robberg Fine Foods tells the story of the history of the Robberg business, from the days of fishing for hake and chokka to current times.
A third of employees at Robberg Fine Foods are related to someone else in the company, making it a true family business. Meet brothers Hammer & Spyker.
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Robberg Fine Foods