Grace Harding has more than 30 years’ experience across a number of business disciplines and today runs South African seafood franchise Ocean Basket.
Grace started working when she was just twelve, selling paraffin, matches and blankets in Troye Street in the centre of Johannesburg. She loved it and immediately knew that she wanted to work and be with people.
University felt intimidating, so Grace opted instead to take her first post-school job as a receptionist for a legal firm and studied HR at night at Wits Technikon.
A difficult childhood had ensured that Grace quickly developed the agility and ability to adapt to anyone and any environment and was able to offer empathy in abundance to others.
This has remained at the core of Grace’s work experience: Be curious and courageous and empathetic in every role – from head of advertising at Edgars to running her own employee engagement consultancy for 15 years.
Her experience also spans leadership development and change management; which has ensured that she’s well-equipped for the challenges in her role as a company leader.
In 2012 Grace found the love of her life – Ocean Basket: “I am a very proud CEO and wake up terrified every day. The responsibility of driving this brand that was built with guts, determination and a vision is huge. I could not do this work without the unwavering support of my leader and Ocean Basket founder Fats, or the skills and incredible brains of my colleagues.”
Grace believes in creating work environments that focus on the customer and people; environments with no fancy titles or cumbersome hierarchies.
“At 53 I’ve worked for a long time and every day I feel anxious that I am closer to the end of my life and not the beginning because I am still learning and feel so excited about the future of the world. I admire Elon Musk, the truck drivers and cleaners who work with me at Ocean Basket and love courageous people.”
Today she sees Ocean Basket as the perfect environment for her to fulfil her own dreams: It’s a down to earth, tenacious and very real brand – a true David in the world of Goliaths.
Grace has two teenagers, one husband and four dogs.