Remarkable success stories often have humble beginnings. Likewise, behind many success stories there is a remarkable individual who refused to concede to daunting challenges, and through sheer determination, sacrifice and visionary aspirations, turned dreams into reality. This is true of Bernhard (Kiepie) Herholdt and the Herholdt’s Group as his legacy.
Being interested in electricity from an early age, Kiepie completed his apprenticeship in 1959 at the age of 18 years – making him one of the youngest qualified electricians in the country. In 1964, he and a partner established Power Electrical Contractors in Bloemfontein. During the next 10 years, the new business rapidly made its presence felt in the local industry by obtaining installation contracts for several large and challenging projects in the city. Some of these included the new library of the University of the Free State and its Medical Faculty at the Universitas Hospital.
After selling his shares to his partner, Kiepie proceeded to launch Herholdt’s Electrical Contractors in 1974. He offered Frikkie Esterhuizen, a valued friend and former employee of Power Electrical Contractors, shares in the new business. Together they laid the foundation for one of the most successful business ventures in the Free State and central interior of South Africa. Herholdt’s Electrical Contractors primarily focused on the electrification of master building projects, such as hospitals and libraries.
In 1983, Kiepie and Frikkie relocated their business to 3 Maroela Street in the Old East End Industrial area, Bloemfontein. The premises in East End would eventually also become the centre of operations of HEG Properties, established in 1986 to commence the development of a property portfolio and Herholdt’s Electrical Wholesalers, established in 1989 in order to strategically reposition their business from electrical contractors to a wholesaler of electrical products.
In 1994 Kiepie, Frikkie and two other partners opened a branch in Harrismith. This branch was later sold to the other two partners in 2004 and they changed the name from Herholdt’s Electrical Wholesalers to Dakota Electrical Wholesalers.
Herholdt’s Lighting Division was opened in 1995 in an adjacent building to accommodate a shop floor, lighting showroom and warehouse.
In 2010, Herholdt’s decided to open a branch in Kimberley due to the demand in the electrical wholesale market in the Northern Cape. Heine Herholdt, Kiepie’s youngest son headed up the branch in Kimberley. It was here, where he met up with a customer that convinced him to look into the renewable energy sector. This led to the establishment of Herholdt’s Renewable Energies: Kimberley, Herholdt’s Renewable Energies: Bloemfontein and Herholdt’s Electrical Exports in 2016.
Due to the various businesses having their own identity, the directors decided that it would be easier to refer to all the companies as a whole, as ‘The Herholdt’s Group’.
After significant success had been achieved in the Free State and Northern Cape, the Directors of the Group committed themselves to expanding the Herholdt’s brand to the Western Cape. A branch consisting of electrical, lighting and renewable energy products was opened in George in 2018.
Through the years, The Herholdt’s Group established itself as a role player of growing stature in the electrical industry in three provinces, providing electrical, lighting, renewable energy and property solutions to national customers in South Africa, as well as international customers based in bordering countries – indeed a remarkable success story and legacy despite humble beginnings.