Thandisizwe Eric Mnyango, senior cellar assistant at Riebeek Cellars, has set an inspiring example of what can be achieved when employees take advantage of the opportunities the cellar affords for personal growth and career advancement.
Riebeek Cellars prides itself on being a progressive wine company focussed on the innovative production of premium wine in a safe working environment where employees are encouraged to develop their skills, in a manner that is environmentally and socially responsible and sustainable.
Eric, who was the winner of the highly coveted of both the regional and provincial Best Potential Award during the 2016 Western Cape Prestige Agri Awards, arrived in the Boland from the Eastern Cape as a seasonal worker in 2009 and has since worked his way up to the role of senior cellar assistant with the guidance and support of the Riebeek Cellars team.
“My dream is to make wine,” says Eric with his big trademark smile. “When I was in high school, I didn’t have a dream. When I found my place at Riebeek Cellars after the management saw potential in me, this vision started to grow within me. Today, I am a son of Riebeek Cellars. They do everything they can to encourage me to become what I want to be, which is a winemaker. But there are no shortcuts. You have to work your way through all the steps, grow up the right way and learn the best way to do things from your mentors.”
Eric was promoted to team leader within six months of his appointment at Riebeek Cellars in 2009, despite the fact that there were other employees who had been there for longer. “It took some time for me to gain the trust of my fellow employees, and to show them that I was not there to take away anyone’s job, but to work with them to promote Riebeek Cellars’ vision. In the end, we make wine and we sell wine. Every person who works for the cellar has to do their best to make sure that we can achieve these goals. It sounds small, but it’s big.”
Eric took advantage of all the education opportunities the cellar made available to him, which includes a series of short courses for senior cellar personnel conducted at Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute. He excelled at these courses to the point where he was chosen to take part in an exchange programme to visit Burgundy in France in 2013, where he represented Riebeek Cellars with pride.
“Wherever I go, I always remind myself that I am not only Eric, I am also a representative of Riebeek Cellars. In everything I do, I try to build up my name and that of the cellar. The cellar is not only a building, it is the people, and wherever we go we are a slogan for our business,” says Eric.
Alecia Boshoff, production manager and winemaker at Riebeek Cellars, works closely with Eric on a daily basis and says that he is an invaluable member of her team. “Eric is a very driven young man who believes that he can better his circumstances by working hard and achieving his goals. He is currently working as our senior cellar assistant and sits on the management committee of the cellar, where he helps to make strategic decisions. Eric is a true team player and a wonderful example for all of our employees – he represents our business in a positive light wherever he goes.”
Eric encourages other youngsters to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them. “There are many opportunities in the wine and agricultural industry if you are willing to listen and do things the right way. When you are young, your head tells you too many things. Find a mentor, show your dreams, and make use of the support network that is out there. There is opportunity for growth if you are willing to start from the bottom and show what you’re made of.”
The nominations for this year’s Prestige Agri Awards closes on 29 June 2018. Riebeek Cellars encourage producers countrywide to enter their deserving employees. This kind of recognition celebrates the invaluable contribution of vital role players in the all-important production process, so let’s ensure that our stalwart team members get the recognition they reserve.