Caroline rebuilds an 85-year-old family legacy

When she entered the world of pump engineering at the age of 30, largely by default, Caroline Houghton’s peers wagered that she wouldn’t last more than a fiscal quarter in the male-dominated industry.

“At my first South African Pump Manufacturers Association meeting, everyone assumed I was there to take minutes,” quips the Rapid Allweiler CEO.

Armed with a degree in food and nutrition and a fierce determination to rescue the business her grandfather had founded in 1932, Houghton’s first daunting challenges were a R13-million lawsuit and a nil-balance bank account.

Undeterred by her youth and lack of product and procedure knowledge, she plunged in with enthusiasm and has gone on to secure her place among the pump-manufacturing industry’s best.

Fourteen years down the line, Houghton continues to innovate within the pump-engineering and manufacturing business, but it has not been without challenges.

Without a mentor in place, she has had to learn everything firsthand. “I took our catalogue home and it became my bedtime reading,” she says. “I learned how to build a pump so I could understand what function each component performed. Every time I visited a different factory, I asked questions and learned to steal with my eyes,” she adds.

Having an inexperienced woman appointed as their new boss at first made for an unsure factory workforce, but Houghton had a plan. “I paid them a bonus for the first time in three years and that was them sorted,” she says.

Sales and administration staff were harder to please. “I had to prove to them that I was there to work with them and save their jobs. I always reminded them that they knew more about the business than I did and that I needed their help.”

The irony is that Houghton had never planned to take over from her grandfather. She was searching for someone capable of doing the job, but the company could ill afford a managing director’s salary, so she stepped in and lived off a basic wage for two years to revive the business.

It was only after an international company shareholder remarked on “the amazing job” she had done and suggested she step in as managing director that she considered permanently taking on the lead role.

Houghton credits passion for the work she does, and self-belief and getting on with the job as vital elements to her success. She is also grateful that her grandfather lived long enough to see her turn the company around.

“My dad died when I was 19, so it was my grandfather who stepped in and helped me and my mom. When I had to go in and save the business with a huge lawsuit pending and no money, I never stopped to think that I knew nothing about pumps, I just had to do it for him,” says Houghton.

Today, Rapid Allweiler draws on more than 220 years of combined local and international expertise to offer pumping solutions to meet a wide range of industry requirements. Thorough briefing and assessment by a dedicated sales team ensure that the correct pump is supplied for each specific application, which has kept warranty claims to a minimum.

Acknowledgement of Houghton’s contribution to the industry has come in the form of awards such as the Best Centrifugal Pump Manufacturer – South Africa and Most Influential Woman in Pump Engineering 2017 in the MEA Sub-Saharan Enterprise Awards 2017; Enterprising Women of the Year Award (2014); IWEC Award (2014) and a Stevie Award (2015).

This year, the company turns 85. Not only does Houghton head Rapid Allweiler, but she is also CEO of Quantum Foundry Group, which manufactures pump components.

Her advice to other women in her industry and comparable fields is to believe in themselves and to prove that they can do the job.

“As women, we have to work harder to prove ourselves and we do not fit into the boys’ clubs,” she says. The only reasons why a woman would not succeed in a male preserve are lack of self-belief and lack of effort, she adds. “We even threaten them a little with our sixth sense.

“It’s said that the first generation builds, the second spends and the third destroys. I consider myself the first generation as I had to rebuild from scratch.”

Houghton continues to be inspired by her grandfather’s passion for and commitment to a company founded on the principles of quality and service that has stood the test of time.

Sub-Saharan Enterprise Awards 2017 - MEA Winner

A very big congratulations to our CEO, Caroline Houghton, she has made us very proud and won another award – BEST CENTRIFUGAL PUMP MANUFACTURER – SOUTH AFRICA & MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMAN IN THE PUMP ENGINEERING 2017

Rapid Allweiler is part of a select group of companies in South Africa whose proven and consistent quality and service have led to longevity.

Well Done Caroline – We are very proud of you!

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Talk and Tour - Open Day 2017

Rapid Allweiler invites you to a HOT day out of the office, come and experience the heat wave of a 1700˚C pour, a tour of our world class factory and the reason why we believe we can offer the best pumping solutions in Africa, and beyond.

We can assure you an insightful day filled with knowledge and true hospitality, because we only believe in the best.

Date: Friday 17 November 2017
Place: 10 Girder Street,  Isando, JHB
Time: 9:30am for 10:00am
RSVP: Eddie Hill | 011 573 7400 | 082 456 5399
Drinks and snacks will be served throughout the day.

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Women Around the World Recognized at Event in New York City

November 14, 2015 – Caroline Houghton has been named the winner of a Bronze Stevie® Award in the Business products category in the 12th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

The Stevie Awards for Women in Business are the world’s top honors for female entrepreneurs, executives, employees and the organizations they run.  All individuals and organizations worldwide are eligible to submit nominations – public and private, for-profit and non-profit, large and small. The 2015 awards received entries from 31 nations and territories.

Nicknamed the Stevies for the Greek word for “crowned,” the awards were presented to winners during a dinner event attended by more than 400 people at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.  The presentations were broadcast live via Livestream.

More than 1,300 nominations from organizations of all sizes and in virtually every industry were submitted this year for consideration in more than 90 categories, including Entrepreneur of the Year, Executive of the Year, Company of the Year, Startup of the Year, Women Helping Women, and Women Run Workplace of the Year, among others.  Caroline won in the Business products category for 50 to 1000 employees.

Stevie Award winners were selected by more than 160 executives worldwide who participated in the judging process this year.

“We are again humbled by the accomplishments of so many high-achieving women in this program,” said Michael Gallagher, founder and president of the Stevie Awards.   Their work is an inspiration to girls and women around the world who dream of starting and growing a business, managing a leading company, or improving their community.   We congratulate all of this year’s Grand, Gold, Silver and Bronze Stevie Awards.”

2014 IWEC Conference in Stockholm

IWEC′s mission is to develop a global business network for successful women business owners, helping them gain and expand access to international markets by presenting a platform for the exchange of knowledge, experience, and connectivity, further promoting dialogue among women entrepreneurs and business leaders throughout the world. This year 32 women from all over the world, will be honored for their achievements in business development, revenue, market penetration and innovation, among other milestones. Caroline Houghton our CEO was among these woman, for her contribution and achievements.

Congratulations Caroline, again - you made us proud!

Enterprising Women of the Year Award - 2014

Enterprising Women of the Year Awards, is an annual tribute to top women entrepreneurs from around the globe.

The annual Enterprising Women of the Year Awards, which recognizes the finest women entrepreneurs in North America and beyond, is in its 12th year. It is widely considered one of the most prestigious recognition programs for women business owners. To win, nominees must demonstrate that they have fast-growth businesses, mentor or actively support other women and girls involved in entrepreneurship, and stand out as leaders in their communities. Many of the honorees also serve as leaders of the key organizations that support the growth of women’s entrepreneurship.

"The Enterprising Women of the Year Awards Celebration continues to grow each year, attracting more nominations from outstanding women entrepreneurs around the world. Our class of 2014 includes 17 honorees from outside the United States, representing Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Ghana, Egypt, Kenya, India, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Brazil, and Switzerland.

Caroline Houghton was selected as one of the winners in the "More than $2 million and up to $5 million in annual sales revenues" category.

Congratulations Caroline, on this prestigious award