Marise Grobler believes in the power of women and the significant role they play at work and at home. She is the founder of Urban Concepts, an architecture and design company based in the Western Cape. The company has extensive experience working with sensitive sites, such as heritage resources, schools, public facilities and urban renewal projects.
Marise Grobler believes in the power of women and the significant role they play at work and at home. She is the founder of Urban Concepts, an architecture and design company based in the Western Cape. The company has extensive experience working with sensitive sites, such as heritage resources, schools, public facilities and urban renewal projects. She has a master’s degree in Urban Design from the University of Cape Town. The degree not only focuses on designing a building, but designing a whole area; all the outside and inside spaces and how they connect with each other. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of the Free State. She is skilled in strategic planning, architectural design and management. Beyond her achievements, Grobler is a tenacious businesswoman.
That tenacity was tested by Covid-19, which locked up a whole lot of businesses as economic activity mostly came to a halt in March. Many had to retrench their workers or subject their employees to salary cuts. But Grobler, while being extremely sick because of Covid-19, was able to manage her company. This helped her save all her employees’ jobs and keep all her existing contracts. Some of them were in partnership with the City of Cape Town, and others were from her overseas clients.
Keeping her company going had a knock-on effect, also saving jobs at the building and engineering companies whose employment depends on her contracts being honoured.
Although her business is doing well, she says the experience of running a company from her bed while being sick has been one of her biggest challenges so far in her career. Another thing that she struggles with is having the skill to be able to say “no”. She adds:
“I will never completely master this skill, but testing positive for Covid-19 certainly helped.”
She describes herself as a woman without an ego, who is a good listener, very observant and trusts her own instincts.
She says the lesson she learned running a business in a male-dominated industry is to avoid trying to act like a man. She has learned to accept being a woman in her industry and embrace the challenges and the positives that come with it. But she acknowledges that she has been very fortunate throughout her career as she has had great support from both male and female role players. Even though this is the case for her, she explained that one cannot shy away from the challenges of being a woman in the workplace. Change can only be brought about by talking about the challenges, leaning on those who understand, and educating and supporting others.
Her inspiration in life is derived from the people she spends most of her time with — her family and colleagues at her company. She believes in teamwork, and her team collaborates on all projects. Grobler says they believe that the success of the business is greatly enhanced by the mutual respect they have for each other, and excellent communication between team members and with their clients. She lives by the quote that “successful people don’t hold grudges”.