This incredible woman entrepreneur has not only contributed to the building of a formidable and socially responsible retail empire, Pick n Pay Stores, but has also devoted her life to making a difference to others in South Africa.
Wendy Ackerman was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and started out on her career path as a student at the famous University of Cape Town, followed by the University of the Witwatersrand and UNISA. In the early 1960s, she became a teacher at the English Academy in Soweto, and got involved in teaching English to black students at night school during her student years. Her introduction to business came when she joined her husband, Raymond Ackerman, in the retail company Pick n Pay, which he acquired, and was appointed a Director in 1981, with a responsibility for employee liaison, employee benefits and their welfare. Wendy’s philanthropic journey began to take seed during this time. Together with her husband, Wendy has been an outstanding entrepreneurial leader who has helped to drive change, growth, vision and innovation in the retail sector in Africa.
She has always been deeply involved in the promotion of education in South Africa, particularly in terms of providing access to education for the most needy and underprivileged in society. She became a trustee of the Ackerman Family Educational Trust which today assists students from all over South Africa with much needed bursaries to cover their tertiary education, providing them with greater access to opportunities. She is also a trustee of the Pick n Pay Bursary Fund which provides education assistance to the children of employees in the company.
Wendy’s work amongst the underprivileged in South African society has also seen her becoming deeply involved in initiatives to provide proper housing for the company’s employees. She has been instrumental in developing company-assisted housing schemes for staff in traditionally black and coloured areas across the country, one of the first being a housing development in Soweto which is now known as Wendyville.
Her legacy as both a leading and inspirational woman entrepreneur, and a highly committed philanthropist in South Africa and beyond, is a constant source of inspiration and motivation for generations of women entrepreneurs to come.