With a tradition of fine crafting and an unbridled passion for quality, Cornelis Nouwens set up a carpet mill in modest Harrismith premises in November 1962, using a converted blanket loom. As time progressed, the machinery and processes were updated and a range of different fibres were introduced. From the initial Haircords to the later well-known Nouwens Pure Wool Wiltons, the company evolved to tufted wool blends and own extruded synthetics products. Nouwens has since become known for its distinctiveness in style and quality, which live on long after the retirement of the entrepreneur and carpet master who started it all.
Over the years, Nouwens has become a major player in the commercial carpet market as well, and is recognised world-wide as a quality Carpet House with a grand reputation. As part of the 50th birthday celebrations which took place during November 2012, the original blanket loom was re-assembled after some 45 years in storage. It evoked a fond memory for Johannes Mahlaba, who after 31 years of service, and despite witnessing and being part of the progress to some of the most modern practices available, is still able to thread and operate this same loom, which now holds a place of honor as a part of the Nouwens heritage.
Fast forward to 2012 and Nouwens Carpets has gone on to become a household name and a worthy South African icon. Today, more than 25% of Nouwens staff have been employed at the plant for 25 years and longer. After the retirement of Cornelis in 1991, Luci and Pieter Nouwens took over the running of the company and were awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” finalist status in 2001 – a testimony to the values and skills passed on by Mr Nouwens.
The Nouwens success formula goes beyond innovation and investing in superior technology and equipment: investing in people from the local community has created a stable environment and provides valuable skills development. Nouwens Carpets has also headed up a number of worthy initiatives in the local community, involving surrounding businesses as well. Harriston Private School, which has achieved broad acclaim, and the Maluti Child Care Project immediately spring to mind, and both have grown significantly over the years.
Although the company has grown to become a notable and well respected industry leader, it remains a family run concern, today capably steered by Luci Nouwens. Apart from her genetic heritage, being the third successive generation in the Nouwens family to have grown up and dedicated her career to the carpet trade, Luci herself has over 40 years of working experience at the company and maintains a hands-on involvement.
In her address at the 50th anniversary celebrations, Luci welcomed the guests and acknowledged their role in Nouwens’ success on its journey. “In spite of the current difficult times, people have stood by us, employees, customers and suppliers,” she said. “The soul of the company is strong, but in today’s climate, we are more dependent than ever on relationships, which we value very highly.”
The Road Ahead
Nouwens is committed to applying its time-honored principles and best practices and will continue to innovate and uphold the quality for which it is renowned. “It is these values that have kept the business and the brand flourishing over decades and will continue to do so in years to come,” said Luci Nouwens.
Nouwens Carpets has survived many challenges and much change over the past 50 years, growing and evolving to become a highly regarded and unique brand, making a meaningful contribution to the South African economic landscape. It is an inspiring success story and this 50 year old is poised to enjoy further success and growth!
1962 – 12 November, Nouwens Carpets opens
1967 – Yarn spinning plant makes Nouwens a vertical mill
1968 – Incredible Ankara Twist is launched
1975 – First Nouwens synthetic carpets are introduced
1977 – First tufter installed at Nouwens Carpets
1987 – Nouwens produces its first carpet tiles
1988 – Semi-worsted spinning plant commissioned
1989 – First Nouwens TV advertisement wins ‘Ad of the Month’
1990 – Innovative wrap-spun facility introduces durable velour styles
1991 – Cornelis Nouwens retires
2001 – Luci and Pieter Nouwens are ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ finalists
2004 – Launch of Easi Fibre, Easi Care and Easi Carpet
2005 – Launch of dynamic flatweave Copenhagen in wool
2011 – Nouwens Carpets evolved to a modern brand and a new logo
(The logo design received a Loerie award)
2012 – Nouwens launches independent commercial brand
2012 – Luci Nouwens becomes the sole shareholder of Nouwens Carpets
2012 – Nouwens Carpets celebrates its 50th Anniversary
2014 – Nouwens commissions its own world-class nylon extrusion plant
2014 – Nouwens diversifies into a supplier of quality spun and extruded yarns.
2015 – Nouwens launches Modulyss
2016 : Launch of the Nouwens Rug Buying App
2017 – Nouwens Launch Fieldturf