Words: Peter Feldman
Cape Town’s Charlene Curran is an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere. What started out as a way to make pin money in her spare time has led to her earning a six figure salary, managing a staff complement of more than 200 people and walking away with her company’s top award.
Curran – who now wants to pay it forward and is actively changing the lives of women in her community – smiles at the thought that it all started with a piece of plastic 23 years ago when she started selling Tupperware.
She was recently named the company’s best performing team leader in South Africa – for the second year running, a feat never yet achieved in the brand’s 50 years in the country – having attained the magical goal of R10-million sales over the past 12 months and achieving a R1-million turnover for five consecutive months.The ebullient Curran is part of a growing Tupperware female sales force of 2.6 million women in regions like China, India, Indonesia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America and South Africa. It is what the World Economic Forum at Davos dubbed the “Tupperware effect” – how training, financing and mentoring women can transform villages and entire countries from the inside out.
It’s a philosophy that Curran is passionate about and believes that she and her team of more than 200 (mostly women) are living proof of. “When I first started out in the business it all about me and what I wanted to achieve in life and how much money I would make. And, make no mistake, I did well and it did revolutionise both my and my family’s lives. It allowed me to give my children a good education and improve our lifestyle. However, in 2010 my priorities changed: it was about creating more employment and giving people in impoverished opportunities the same chance I had. People became my focus and how I could help them grow and develop a sense of worth.” When she won Tupperware’s top award last year it was the pinnacle of an already incredible career. “Then I buckled down and told myself I had to do it again!”
Twenty three years ago, Curran had just returned to work after giving birth to her second daughter when she was held up at the bank she worked at. Then it happened a second time and Curran decided to stay home with her growing family and try something from home. “My husband had just been sold Tupperware at work and he encouraged me to do it. I was shy and wasn’t a natural salesperson but I decided to give it a go for three months.” And the rest, as they say, is history. Curran insists she wasn’t an instant success and that she’s slowly and steadily worked her way up through the ranks. “I tell people I was always a background sort of person but look at me now. I am in control of my own destiny. It has not only changed my life but it has given me a confidence in myself that I would never have thought possible.” Incentives have meant access to a car and travel throughout the world.
“In the years I have been a team leader I have seen people grow in front of me and watched them do better in life. No money can replace the satisfaction I get. I tell people you don’t have to go hungry and you don’t have to struggle in life; all you have to do is take the plunge. You don’t have to be educated, you don’t have to live in a specific area – the opportunity is for everyone. What you must have is passion and if you’ve got that then the sky’s the limit.”