ENTREPRENEURS: FAMILY BUSINESS
Two entrepreneurs tell us why going into business with a parent was an obvious choice
Andre Pienaar’s background is in music, having fronted indie-rock band, Ashtray Electric, and composing music for film and TV. Yet he felt the urge
to craft something different. On the recommendation of his father, Schalk, who’d been designing equipment for distillation for more than 40 years, Andre bought a tiny still, hoping this new hobby would satisfy his craving. He soon realised this was something he could get good at, and joined forces with his dad to create Pienaar & Son.
‘We’ve been trading for four months, and the reception has been amazing!’ says Andre.
Pienaar & Son Distilling Company was established in 2015 after the two had spent six months refining the idea of opening a distillery. They spent a year setting up and getting the liquor licences, and officially launched in December 2016. Their distillery specialises in gin but they’re also introducing a Waskis vodka range. Waskis is Andre’s mother’s maiden name (she is of Lithuanian descent).
‘Our gins reflect an aspect of Cape Town’s history that we feel has shaped the culture of the city I call home,’ says Andre. He chose not to dwell on what would make a ‘traditional gin’ and try to emulate that recipe. ‘We also decided to not rely on the “fynbos-infused thing” everyone else was doing.
Andre says they use bespoke equipment, and to his knowledge, the processes they employ have never been attempted on this scale.
‘It’s debatable whether our modern processes add a certain flavour or character to our spirit. Sometimes it’s not about what you do, but how you do it: the way we make liquor is more efficient, greener and safer than a lot of the old ways. Instead of “triple distilled”, we believe in getting something right the first time,’ he says firmly.
As far as father and son relationship is concerned, Schalk says working with his son has been very rewarding.
‘Andre has an amazing grasp of the technical issues, which made it easy to teach him the ropes. It’s amazing to share my experience and for him to have a glimpse at what I did to put bread on the table,’ says Schalk.
With his own business in chemical engineering, Schalk developed a special method in alcohol distillation that continues to this day. He describes the enterprise as his personal ‘swan song’ before retirement.
‘It’s awesome to create something with the family name on it,’ says Andre. ‘My dad always encouraged me to be an entrepreneur, and I’ve never been too comfortable not having complete control of my destiny. South Africa is in a unique and challenging position. But if you get it right, there isn’t a more beautiful place to go to work in.’