Woman in business have the power to achieve great things. Not many people know that the muscle behind Vincent Hardware in East London for the past 23 years is actually a woman, Monica Clarke. It has been with dedication, hard work, long hours, sacrifices and with the support of a loving family, that Vincent Hardware has soared to great heights and has a flourishing business, hence Monica Clarke being nominated and now a finalist in the Business Women’s Association Regional Business Achiever Awards 2013 in the entrepreneur category. In 1990 Monica, with the support from her husband, Brian Clarke, a Design Engineering Manager who is now retired, carried out her dream to open a business for the family. “My husband always said we had to create a business to sustain a working future for our children,” Monica said. Brian’s role had been very much behind the scenes, but the Clarkes all agreed that he was at the heart of Vincent Hardware. From humble beginnings, they started on a small scale in Devereux Avenue with a shop of only 40m² situated where MacDonalds stands today. Brendan and Mark, who were 12 and 10 years of age at the time, would go to the shop after school to help pack nails and screws, mark stock and serve customers. They had to sacrifice spending time with their friends to help build the business.
Two years later they tripled the size of Vincent Hardware and relocated a block away to the corner of Frere Road and Devereux Avenue, opposite KFC. Brendan said: “We spent most weekends in the shop. It was good for us to be involved in the family business, as we quickly learnt about retail, communication, customer service and telephone skills.” Because of the central location of Vincent Hardware, many contractors would pop into the shop while working on sites in the area and would ask Monica for cement or other building related products. Upon the contractors, and customers, requests and over time the shop grew their stock variety. Vincent Hardware couldn’t initially afford to employ staff to assist on the floor and any profit that was made was ploughed back into the business. “When customers came in and bought cement, I would personally pick up the 50kg bag, hold it close to my body and shuffle over to their car,” Monica explained. This just shows the commitment she has to her customers.
After thirteen years Vincent Hardware moved further down the road to Devereux Centre into a 450m² shop. They planned the move in such a way that they could continue trading. The Clarkes, together with staff, packed shelves whilst the shop doors were open and then into the night to allow for a speedy move. Over the past ten years, Vincent Hardware took over additional premises and has slowly increased the store size at Devereux Centre, currently occupying an area of approximately 1 500m². Mark said: “We started off as a small DIY store and have grown to a builders merchant, stocking items such as plumbing, electrical, timber, bricks and blocks, lintels, paint, power tools, cement, ceiling boards, partitioning, etc.” Today Vincent Hardware has a dedicated staff complement of 25 members, who continue to assist in upholding the excellent service that customers and friends speak of. “Our staff are friendly and upbeat. Customers feel good when they shop with us. I enjoy introducing contractors to each other and creating a comfortable environment for shopping. Building relationships with our customers has been one of the best experiences, ” Mark said. Brendan added: “We are not franchise owned, we are one of the few remaining true independent stores and this is a huge strength because we are able to handle customer queries quickly and efficiently.” Monica and Brian together with her two sons and their wives, Brendan and Samantha, Mark and Annaline are very grateful and would like to thank everyone for their loyalty and support over the years. “With - out you we would not be where we are today – thank you once again.”