Inspiring doyenne of home appliance retailing

Co-founder & Chief Operations Officer of Hirsch’s Homestores

Country: South Africa

Sector: Appliance & Homeware Retail

Margaret Hirsch is one half of a dynamic husband and wife duo that founded Hirsch's Homestores.  Back in 1979, as a secretary, together with her husband Allan, then an appliance repair man, they unwittingly became entrepreneurs who went on to build an appliance, electronics and furnishing retail empire. Today, Hirsch's Homestores is the largest independently owned appliance and electronics business in Southern Africa, with 18 Hirsch stores and four Samsung concept stores.

The Hirsch family business story is the quintessential story of making good against all the odds. From starting out unemployed, in a tiny showroom in Durban back in 1979 with just R900 (US$ 90) in savings, Margaret and Allan have built a business that by the end of 2012 topped the R1 billion turnover milestone.


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Margaret's Startup Story 

Over the past 35 years, this inspirational woman entrepreneur has risen from difficult beginnings in life, to the head of a major retail business success story that is the model for many others to follow.

Margaret Hirsch’s difficult start in life, with the death of her father when she was 11 years old, and her placement in foster care for a short period whilst her mother’s circumstances improved, probably gave her the fortitude needed to meet every challenge thereafter in life with fearlessness.  

Margaret’s entrepreneurial journey began when she and her husband both lost their jobs at the same time, and with two children and no income, they pooled their small financial resources (just R900, or US$90) and their considerable talents, and set up their first business - a home appliance repair and maintenance shop.

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Margaret's story is one that will fire up hope in any woman who feels the odds are stacked against her. She provides a compelling example of the never-say-die attitude found in many of the world's great entrepreneurs who have risen against all the odds to achieve great things. Her self-belief, tenacity, resilience and seemingly endless capacity to empower the people around her are remarkable qualities. Add to this her down to earth family values, work ethic, and sheer chutzpah and you have a great role-model for all aspiring women entrepreneurs.   --- Melanie Hawken, LoA founder & editor-in-chief

“We have built Hirsch’s from a tiny little 'mom and pop' store to a billion rand company and I hope that I will be an inspiration to others to know that they can live their dreams as well.”

"I regard myself as a 'jack of all trades', having done the selling, invoicing, demonstrating, being a delivery person on the trucks, installing and demonstrating in customers’ homes and generally taking care of everything at Hirsch’s for the past 34 years."

“We went from having no children and two jobs to having two children and no jobs in the space of just over a year. This was our big incentive.”


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Awards & Accolades

Margaret's recent awards and honours include:

  • 2016 - Margaret wins the Top Business Women of 2016 Award at the Topco Media and Standard Bank Top Women Awards
  • 2015 - Margaret is honoured as the most Influential Woman In Wholesale and Retail for the African Continent by CEO Global
  • 2015 - Margaret receives a Lifetime Achievement Award in her category in the Titans Most Influential Women in Business and Government
  • 2015 - Margaret is winner of the Regional, Country and Lifetime Achievers Awards for Most Influential Women in Business 
  • 2014 - Margaret is inducted into the Global Woman Leaders Hall of Fame
  • 2013 - Margaret receives the Top Woman Award for Best Woman Empowered Community Programme
  • 2013 - Margaret receives the Lifetime Achievement Award from Sanlam / Business Partners
  • 2012 - Margaret won the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (BWASA) Businesswoman of the Year Award Entrepreneur Category
  • 2012 - Margaret won the Business Excellence Award from the Ekurhuleni Business Initiative and Captains of Industry Forum
  • 2012 - Margaret won the Lady ROCCI (Roodepoort Chamber of Commerce) Gold Award for Business Woman of the Year
  • 2011 - Margaret won the CEO Magazine 'Wholesale & Retail category of SA's Most influential Women in Business & Government Award'