This Women’s Month, we feature prominent women who are pushing boundaries in the printing industry. Michelle Robson, COO, shareholder and Executive Director at Merpak, has been in the print and paper industry for over 25 years. Robson also oversees Rotunda (Pty) Ltd, which Merpak purchased eight years ago, as the CEO.
When leaving school, Robson’s passion was to enter the hospitality industry. She started off working in restaurants, then moved into industrial catering. After having children, her career path took a different turn, and a new journey began.
Robson’s career in print began at Ince (Pty) Ltd in a sales position. ‘I knew absolutely nothing about print. I was given a budget, with no customers, and soon had to teach myself very quickly how to get a sale. When I think back, my experience as a waitress may have taught me a lot in dealing with all kinds of people — some nice and some not so nice. Although I did not realise it at the time, I also learnt a lot about production. The better you managed the whole system, from customer choice, through the kitchen to perfect on-time delivery and presenting the correct invoice for payment, the bigger the tip you got,’ said Robson.
After having her second child and taking some time off, Robson joined Merpak Envelopes in an internal/external role. Over the years, she worked her way up into various roles, including internal sales, a spell in operations (where she was unpopular with factory managers who liked to plan production their way, not thinking about the customer requirements), to external sales and then into sales management, and finally into her current position as CEO and Executive Director.
Robson joined Printing SA in 2004 and in 2011 she joined The Central Chamber of Printing SA. In 2016, she became the Vice Chairperson and in 2021 the Chairperson. She also serves as a non-executive director on the Printing SA board.
‘My passion throughout my career has always been to strive for customer service excellence, embrace change and motivate and develop staff. Turning data into knowledge is always a challenge to drive efficiency and productivity through the implementation of process improvements. I pride myself on my proactive work ethic and commitment to achieving business objectives. I love what I do, work hard at what I do and I believe that a positive attitude and work ethic will yield the results you want to achieve,’ concluded Robson.
Robson will be part of a panellist discussion at the inaugural Women in Print Luncheon, to be hosted by Printing SA this August. For the first time in Printing SA’s 111 year history, it is hosting an event that honours the ‘Women in Print,’ across all the sub-sectors that the association represent, who have emerged as stalwarts and heavyweights in an industry that has been male dominated for over a century. Ren-Form is a title sponsor of the event, and Africa Print is a media partner.
The first part of the luncheon will be a panel discussion with some of industry’s most formidable heroines, who will be looking at the following:
Disruption: don’t just survive but thrive in a production world
The discussions will highlight tips and tools that can be taught, instilled and implemented for print businesses to navigate and/or redefine themselves and company culture post-Covid, while also exploring how attracting female talent into their businesses has led to increased profitability and greater business success. Industry guru, Jean Lloyd, Global Principal Analyst of Colour Digital Label and Packaging (CDLP), will be leading the discussions.
Part two will see the young mavericks of the industry take the stage and unpack how they have managed to forge careers in a production world that is integrating and accommodating the diversity of the next generation at a very slow pace. These ladies will be exploring diversification within business and how businesses can do their part in finding and nurturing young and inexperienced talent to help ensure the future of print in the workplace by using technologies, machine learning, big-data, advanced process workflows and collaboration in changing the traditional way of looking at every facet of our industry. Sign Africa editor Meggan McCarthy will be leading this panel discussion.
In the step towards equality, Printing SA has opened the upcoming Women in Print Luncheon 2022 to everyone – men and women.
‘We have a long way to go in understanding the dynamics in our industry in the past three years alone. Printing SA is committed to bringing all the leaders, male and female, along this journey. The event promises to be a day of vibrant, energetic and robust discussions and debates with fun and exciting entertainment,’ said Abisha Katerere marketing executive at Printing SA.
Book your seat at the table now.
Johannesburg date: 19 August 2002
Venue: The Tryst – inside the Woodlands Office Park, Woodmead.
Cape Town date: 25 August
Venue: Belmont Square, Conference Centre, Cape Town.
Theme: ‘Perfect in Print.’ Dress-code: showcase various unique/unusual, printed garments.
Cost: R450pp ex VAT (members); R500pp ex VAT (non-members) and R4500 ex VAT (table – 10-seater).