#Do More Mentoring With Denzel Swarts
We have all been at a stage in our life where we felt lost, and like we needed some guidance. You could be that person for somebody else.
In this blog, we spoke to Denzel Swarts – a truly gentle soul with a passion for all things wine, hard work, and mentoring our youth of tomorrow.
Denzel Swarts and Mentorship
Denzel Swarts, is a brand ambassador for Simonsig Wine Estate. He joined Simonsig Wines back in 2011 as a tasting room wine advisor, but this was not where his journey with the wine estate began.
It began back when he was a young boy, his father was a foreman on the Simonsig farm, his mother was a domestic worker there, and this is where he grew up. His family did not have much savings for tertiary education, however, Denzel Swarts certainly persevered, and through sport, saw the amazing opportunities there are in the world. Once he matriculated, he then became a tasting room wine advisor on the farm, where he was mentored by Maureen Basson.
After spending two years there, he decided that he too needed to become a mentor so that he can inspire the youth. He joined Youth Unlimited which is an international Catholic organisation involved in youth development. Fast forward to today, Denzel Swarts has his own foundation called Son of the Soil Leadership Foundation which is aimed at mentoring other farm children of today.
1.) Can you tell us about your experience at Simonsig Wine Estate? What was it like growing up there and then moving on to working there?
Growing up there I always felt that I had this freedom, especially since farm life is still relatively, some of the safest environments. At the same time, you also grow up feeling like something is missing, you are far away from the city, so you miss that. So, I always had these thoughts at the back of my mind, but I had the exposure and made connections with the people on the farm. I grew up with the children of the owners of the farm as we were of similar ages, and so this broke a lot of barriers for me in terms of how we, people, understand each other. I always say that I don’t care about the colour of people’s skin, but rather, I care about the colour of their hearts.
2.) Did you always know you wanted to be in the wine industry?
Yes, I was so determined to be in the wine industry, that in my matric year I actually dropped out of school for a quarter to do a preliminary at the agriculture school just because I felt I needed to do something in line with that work. I wanted to shape my career in wine, and I did all this just for me to realise that there was no money for me to actually go study this. In a sense, that is where a bit of my resistance to the industry built up, the fact that I couldn’t study it.
3.) How would you describe a mentor or what would you say are important qualities to have in a mentor?
I think as a mentor it is important to show leadership, but also to have enough empathy to understand what people are feeling and going through. Finally, having that ability to guide people is the most important, because it is not necessarily about telling people what to do but showing them guidance is very important. Many times, I tell young people that I am not teaching them what to do, I am guiding them to realise where they can be better, what they can do more of, what is wrong and what is right.
4.) As someone who has been mentored and has mentored others, can you talk about the difference between these experiences? (i.e., what was it like being mentored and then moving on to mentor others?) and what resulted from your mentoring and being mentored?
The biggest thing I took away from being mentored, is being able to break down barriers. If it wasn’t for the mentors that I had in my life, I still would have been that farm child that looked at life as a challenge. The mentors I had in my life encouraged me to be better and to dream bigger, they helped me realise that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to, and this changed obstacles into opportunities. In fact, I am most likely one of the few children who grew up on a farm and can now proudly say I have my own label.
5.) Do you think it is important for our youth to participate in some sort of mentorship programme? And in what areas do you think this can help them?
Yes, I do believe it is very important, for people to be mentored by others but also to be a mentor to others because it is a way for you to give back. I always say that young people should never rely on handouts, but rather, hand ups. The reason I say this is because handouts mean that you get something and you walk away, whereas when it comes to hand ups, whatever you receive you realise you also need to give.
6.) Would you say that you still keep in touch with your mentor Maureen today? Or how would you describe your relationship now that the mentoring is over?
I do still keep in contact with her, in fact whenever we’re both on the farm, we’ll make some time to chat and catch up. Everything I know about managing a tasting is through her knowledge and guidance and so we certainly will always keep in touch.
Denzel Swarts, is the prime example that no matter what background you come from; you can always achieve what you set your mind to, especially when you are willing to accept guidance from those who want to help you. But also, he reminds us that once you have received help from others, then you should also give back. Today, he certainly embodies what Cat Footwear believes in by always trying to Do More. In fact, his foundation is one of the only charities whose proceeds go 100% to charity.
Together with Cat Footwear, you too can do more. Simply take the first steps today by mentoring our youth of tomorrow.