Forty-nine years ago, founder of Pick n Pay Raymond Ackerman took a bold step. He’d just been fired from his job and was walking around Zoo Lake in Johannesburg wondering what he was going to say to his wife when he got home. The young couple had three children and a fourth on the way. If ever a man in retail was handed a bag of lemons, this was it.

What happened next is probably one of South Africa’s biggest entrepreneurial success stories. With what Ackerman called “10% capital and 90% guts”, Pick n Pay was founded with four small stores. Not even he could have foreseen this ambitious dream becoming such a huge part of South African life in a few short years.

From fighting monopolies and cartels to the opening of the first hypermarket, from clashing with the apartheid government to the launch of No Name value brands and online shopping, Pick n Pay has pioneered so much of what we now take for granted, and today it is one of the most trusted brands in South Africa.

In the early days of Pick n Pay’s history, competitors tried everything to shut down the new supermarket group, but Ackerman persisted by focusing on the most important thing – its customers. Today, Pick n Pay begins the celebration of 49 years of a business that now employs more than 70 000 people, has more than 1100 stores in Africa, and still operates on its founding principle that doing good is good business.

Pick n Pay has done more than just flourish as a retail store. Through the business and its enterprise development scheme, it has helped small entrepreneurs’ fulfil their potential and become part of the national retail chain’s supply network. Ackerman was recently honoured for this commitment to entrepreneurship when he received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Rutgers-Camden Business School in Philadelphia. He was lauded for his work as a global leader in the retail industry and for his contribution to building Pick n Pay as a company that prioritises its customers, is socially aware, and has contributed to economic growth in Africa.

In 49 years, Pick n Pay has become part of the landscape of South Africa in a way that few other retail businesses can claim to have done.