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#WiBAVoices From Kitchen to Commerce: inspiring South African women entrepreneur Gisela Harck's Entrepreneurial Journey


A brunette lady (Gisela Harck) smiling and holding colourful iced flower shaped gingerbread cookies
Gisela Harck, founder of Harck and Heart

Image source: Harck and Heart


Every entrepreneurial journey starts with a spark—a moment of inspiration that ignites the lifelong passion for creation and innovation. For WiBA member and inspiring South African women entrepreneur, Gisela Harck, founder of Harck & Heart, that spark was struck in the warmth of her childhood kitchen alongside her mother, crafting gingerbread houses that were more than just confections; they were a prelude to a flourishing career in business.


A strip depicting the history of Harck and Heart - the founder Gisela Harck, the first gingerbread house made by her mother in 1972, her mother and her grandmother

Image source: Harck and Heart


Growing up, Gisela was fascinated by the annual tradition of baking gingerbread houses for her brother’s Scouts cake sale. Under her mother’s guidance, she mastered the art of baking, assembling, and decorating these intricate creations.


It was these early experiences, surrounded by the sweet aroma of gingerbread and the joy of creation, that planted the seeds of entrepreneurship in Gisela's mind.

 

By the time she was 18, Gisela harboured not only a profound love for baking but also an insatiable wanderlust. However, travel required funds she didn’t have. Leveraging her skill and passion, Gisela began selling homemade gingerbread houses at local flea markets. The overwhelming positive response from customers transformed her weekend hobby into a viable business venture.

 

Gisela pursued higher education in graphic design and photography at Stellenbosch University, a decision that later proved invaluable. After graduation, she entered the fast-moving consumer goods packaging industry. This experience equipped her with critical insights into packaging, branding, and strategic marketing—skills that she would soon channel into her burgeoning business.

 

In August 2014, armed with a robust set of skills and a cherished family recipe, Gisela officially launched Harck & Heart. Initially, she juggled her graphic design job during the day and her baking business at night. Her dedication bore fruit during the Christmas season, which turned her part-time passion into a full-time pursuit.


Harck and Heart's logo sprayed in white on a face brick wall

Image source: Harck and Heart


Despite her passion and drive, the road was not always smooth. Gisela faced the daunting task of managing a growing staff, maintaining her creative spirit, and handling the operational aspects of her business. These challenges necessitated the development of a strong leadership team focused on strategic planning and product innovation.

 

Harck & Heart’s flagship product, the DIY gingerbread kit, allows customers to experience the joy of building and decorating their own gingerbread houses. Rooted in German tradition, these kits have not only brought families together but have also introduced a piece of Gisela’s heritage to a broader audience.


Harck and Heart's gingerbread house DIY kit

 

Today, Harck & Heart operates out of a spacious facility with a dedicated team of 17+ employees. As the business continues to expand, Gisela looks forward to exploring potential exports and partnerships with other companies to create synergy and leverage economies of scale. Her vision extends beyond business growth; she aims to spread joy and celebrate traditions through her creations.


A strip of three images of the team at Harck and Heart at work (icing gingerbread cookies)

Image source: Harck and Heart

 

Gisela's story is a testament to the power of passion fuelled by entrepreneurship. From a young girl helping her mother in the kitchen to a successful businesswoman impacting the lives of many, her journey underscores the essence of the Women in Business Association (WiBA) —empowering women to turn their passions into enterprises that resonate with and inspire others.

 

Join us as we continue to share more inspiring stories from our members in the "WiBA Voices: Stories of Inspiration" series. Be sure to follow us on our social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

 

Explore Harck & Heart to learn more about Gisela's delicious creations. https://www.harckandheart.co.za/ and follow them on social media: Facebook and Instagram


Harck and Heart's logo

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