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Achievers

Transforming spaces for working moms

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Cara Saven, the founder and chief executive of Cara Saven Wall Design, isn’t just fulfilling her company promise of “transforming spaces around the globe, one wall at a time”, she’s also working to change the corporate landscape for working mothers.

“Cara’s created her business around doing the work and being a mother all at the same time,” says Stacy Closenberg, the company’s sales and operations director. “In this business, we’re all mothers, all doing this massive juggle between trying to run the business as well as fetching from school and running around. Cara’s given us the opportunity.”

Indeed, Saven started Cara Saven Wall Design 15 years ago out of a desire to be available to her children. “I’d entered the corporate world and while I loved my job with all my heart, it had no place for me when I became a mother,” Saven said upon accepting her Europcar Women in Leadership Award at the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards on 7 November.

“I wasn’t yet living in a society where they saw the benefit of retaining mothers in their ranks. So, I did what many women in my position who refused not to see their babies until 18:00 did, I quit, and figured out another way to make money.”

In doing so, Saven decided to employ fellow mothers. “I decided I would grow my company with the most competent people I knew – mothers – women who had mastered the art of efficiency and time management. So, we got building. With schoolwork and snotty noses and homework thrown in between. With flexible hours or working from home, we built.”

Today, Cara Saven Wall Design is an internationally successful business, offering a range of more than 1 000 wallpaper designs as well as customisable options. The company’s growth has been exponential. “Cara went from operating in South Africa only, to opening up international branches, with agency agreements and printers in the Netherlands, Australia, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates,” says Bryce O’Donnell, the managing director of Construct Capital. “She did this all in such a short space of time, it was inspiring to watch.”

“Not only is Cara exceptionally talented, she’s always striving to better her product, herself, and everybody works around her,” says client Andy Graff, of Andrea Graff Interior Design. O’Donnell agrees. “She lives and breathes her brand. The way she runs her business, the way she treats her people, the service they provide, there’s no doubt that she embodies excellence in everything that she does.”

Saven’s employees echo these sentiments. “Cara has been a personal leader who is inspirational and motivating,” says Creative Business Director Megan Sherratt. “I’ve seen the company grow exponentially, and I believe this is from the passion, the dynamism, as well as the hands-on approach she takes in managing her business. Her positive nature is what makes her grow.”

In her acceptance speech, Saven spoke of “lucky women”, women who have more opportunities than the female generations that came before them. She believes COVID-19 and the resultant fusion of our work and home lives has “broken down the illusion that we don’t have private lives that are happening while we work”. It gives her reason to believe that her daughters won’t have the same struggles she did. “They will be lucky enough to live in a society that doesn’t offer only two choices for corporate women, nine to five or quit when they have children. They are lucky women.”

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