The expansion of South African based retailer Woolworths into the rest of the African continent has opened new doors for African entrepreneurs including a family-owned and run shopfitting business based in Ottery in the Western Cape. Founded by Stuart Hopley the company, Stuart's Joinery, has manufactured and installed essential store fittings including change rooms as well as till banks for Woolworths stores since the 1980’s. Commenting on the impact of his relationship with Woolworths, Hopley says: “It’s been an incredible journey. In the beginning I just hoped the business would support my family. I started the business in a small garage and today I have a 2,000m2 factory and 68 full time employees who have experience at the highest level locally and on the continent. We’ve worked hard, but there is no doubt that Woolworths has opened many doors for us.” African expansion In the last year alone Stuart’s Joinery has completed the shopfitting for 14 stores in countries which included Nigeria, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania and Mozambique. Hopley’s team has also been contracted to do the shopfitting for newly extended stores in countries like Mauritius. Stuart's son Jody is his right-hand in the business, and father and son have travelled the continent extensively for Woolworths store developments. Learning from the challenges Jody says that working in various African cities involves extensive planning and presents them with an opportunity to learn and grow from new logistical challenges. He says fittings are first designed and manufactured at the factory in Ottery, before being shipped to Woolworths stores. The shopfitting installation, which is designed like a puzzle, then gets assembled at the new store site. Jody explains: “Outside South Africa our turnaround time on a store is between 10 to 20 days, whereas we have between two to six months available when we construct stores at home. To ensure that the job is done fast and efficiently we send in a core specialist team. However, we are also committed to the development of local communities and therefore make use of local labour in African countries to create employment and to share our skills.” Woolies and enterprise development “Stuart’s Joinery has played an integral part in our African expansion plans and we value our relationship with them,” says Maurice De Villiers, Woolworths Group Head of Real Estate Development. “Through our Enterprise Development Programme we make use of our supply chain to empower emerging suppliers and entrepreneurs. It means that small businesses are given the tools required to succeed, as well as the ongoing support needed for sustainability and growth.” Ends. For media enquiries or visuals, contact Dominique van Onselen at 082 802 8184 or via email