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Catherine Dvorak : Launching the First Boat Park in Mauritius

29 July 2012 - Défi Media Group

Catherine Dvorak : Launching the First Boat Park in Mauritius

Perseverance and patience were her allies during the two long years she dedicated to her project. Catherine Dvorak, Chartered Accountant, is very proud of her forthcoming unique project.

‘Unique’, yes it is. Catherine is the first person to open a Boat Park & Self Storage in Mauritius. Proud of her hard work, Catherine says “It is a wonderful feeling to create something new.  I am very pleased with the end product and ever so grateful to all those who have accompanied me ... ever so patiently ... every step of the way.  Every little bit counts.  Without a fantastic team and wonderful support, I could not have realised this project.  You all know who you are and I thank you.”

Mauritian at heart, Catherine Dvorak came back to the island after spending twenty years in South Africa. “In 2004, my family and I were delighted with the opportunity to come back to Mauritius when I was offered a job with Investec Bank.   I had always wanted to come back but somehow, 20 years had gone by so quickly,” she says. But what brought Catherine to South Africa ? In the first place her thirst for education.

 “I am the youngest of 7 children.  When I left school, I dreamt of going to university overseas to become an architect or an interior decorator. I worked in Mauritius for a few years, saved as much as I could to enable me to go to South Africa to study.  I soon realised that it would be difficult to study architecture or interior decoration on a part-time basis.  I worked for a while in South Africa and eventually started with a Bachelor of Commerce on a part-time basis at Wits University at the age of 23,” she tells us.

Hard worker and with the will to succeed, Catherine’s sacrifice was rewarded at the end. In my first year of study, I had a full-time job as the PA / Secretary to the Managing Director of a French company in Johannesburg. 

I attended lectures at Wits University from 5 to 9 pm almost every night and every Saturday morning until 1 pm… It was very long hours and hard work.  At the end of my first year, I was introduced to the large accounting & auditing firms who were recruiting on campus and this is where I changed directions and decided to become a Chartered Accountant.  I continued with my studies on a part-time basis and 4 years later, after many hours of hard work and sacrifice, obtained my Bachelor of Accountancy and passed the Board Exam.  Shortly after, I left the accounting profession to start my career in "Specialised Finance" with a "boutique" Corporate Finance company in Johannesburg.”

The Boat Park & Self Storage

Though being far away from her family and her country, Catherine kept thinking of them. “We lived in Johannesburg but ran away from the fast city life every weekend to a small place called Vaal Marina, about one-hour drive away. The lifestyle at the Vaal Marina on the lake was my substitute for the seaside in Mauritius,” she confides. Having a high-profile job and being a career woman, Catherine spent many hours at work but always accorded her family top priority. “A high profile career and being a mother need a lot of compromise both ways.  I was forever guilty of not giving enough time to my family or not giving enough time to work.  With 2 young children it became more difficult.  I felt that I was losing out too much on my children growing up so fast and decided to take a sabbatical leave when my youngest daughter turned 2.  I enjoyed every moment of this special time with my daughters.  Two years later, when the youngest was of school going age, I decided it was time to get back to work.”

Catherine came back to Mauritius in 2004 and after spending 7 years working at Investec as Head of Banking, she needed a change: “I wanted to change direction, review my personal priorities and consider new opportunities. Initially, I did not really know what I wanted to do but "Me" time and flexibility were ... and still are top priorities.”  Her objective was to set up her own business and she started thinking about this unique opportunity. “In South Africa, I had been exposed to living in a Marina environment every weekend and experienced the pleasures of boat ownership when surrounded by the appropriate infrastructure. Such infrastructure is presently seriously lacking in Mauritius. With the development of La Balise Marina in Black River and the coincidence that I have owned some land just across the road since the late 90s, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to build a private boat park and self-storage facility.   The association with Bertrand Hardy of Yacht Management will add a whole range of related services to all boat owners in the region.”

However, Catherine had to experience the challenges of property development. “At first, I thought that it would be up and running within a few months.  I soon realised the long and frustrating path ahead to obtain all the relevant permits.  It has taken the best part of 2 years to obtain the relevant permits from various authorities,” she highlights. She agrees that handling such a project and also being a mother was not always easy. “It has not been easy and has required almost full-time dedication and effort to make it all happen.  I don't think that I could have handled it if I was employed on a full-time basis,” she argues. “The experience as a Chartered Accountant and Investment Banker has been very valuable indeed. Although the sole shareholder of the company, I have been surrounded by a fantastic team of different people all along, without whom I could not have realised this project.

A dedicated woman

Did it ever happen that Catherine thought that it would be impossible for her to open her business, specially being a woman? Her answer tells all. “No, I don't think so.  It's all about having the right "can do" attitude If you are positive and if you want it bad enough, you can do almost anything.” Indeed, Catherine strongly believes in women’s potentials. “I strong believe that women have as much potential as men.  Women can do almost anything that men can ... and do even better!  You just have to believe it.”

According to her nothing is difficult for a woman. As she says “the key is to understand that being a woman is not a constraint.”  What one mostly needs to handle such a big project is “a lot of patience, dedication, hard work, and most important, a well selected team.” She believes that the most important thing in a woman’s life these days “is to be financially independent.” Now that the project is in its final phase, nothing makes Catherine prouder than being the first person to open a Boat Park and Self Storage facility. “The project is now almost completed.  Store Nautique Limited, in association with Bertrand & Laurent Hardy of Yacht Management Limited, will be operating from 1 August 2012.

"Making your boat a pleasure craft - it's our business"!” she says with a big smile. Catherine's advice to women who also dream of opening their own business is “Don't be afraid to think big in whatever you do.  Just keep a positive attitude and surround yourself with other positive people.”

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