A fond farewell to Karen Stretch


A fond farewell to Karen Stretch

Goodbye – and thank you!

Karen Stretch joined Kemtek in 2015 and spent the next six years as the company’s Head of Marketing & Sales Support. She has recently left the company to emigrate to the UK, but before she left, we took the opportunity to ask Karen a few questions about her time with Kemtek.

How did Kemtek change during your time there?

Karen told us that when she joined, Kemtek was still very focused on conventional printing, and its structure reflected this, with multiple print divisions. These also received the lion’s share of the marketing focus.

Kemtek’s role has changed significantly as the print industry has evolved, with technology coming much more to the fore. As Kemtek has transformed into a supplier of solutions, bar coding and labelling technology, among others, have become more prominent. This pivot is also apparent in the way that the company’s marketing communications have changed.

What have been particular highlights for you, during your Kemtek career?

Karen revealed that she particularly enjoyed having the chance to expand what was originally a relatively small marketing platform, and expanding Kemtek’s online presence to support the ongoing efforts of the company’s salespeople, who remain the ‘tip of the spear’ when it comes to spreading the word about Kemtek’s services and technology offerings.

Today, Kemtek has a true 360°, multi-channel marketing offering with consistent messaging and compelling CTAs. This ‘transformation within a transformation’ has helped Kemtek to attract many new customers.

Karen also pointed to the 2019 launch of the new corporate identity, and the reworked, solutions-focused website (which went live in 2020) as highlights for her personally.

What were the main challenges you had to overcome?

Karen talked us through how the print industry has changed almost beyond recognition, but that with people being Kemtek’s great strength, the company has been able to pivot to continue to be relevant and to add value to its customers. The depth of knowledge around digital opportunities that exists within the Kemtek team, has made the company the go-to source for advice, knowledge and leadership.

The COVID-19 pandemic has of course been an immense challenge for every business, but Kemtek has been able to respond by staying in contact with customers through digital means, and has even been able to ramp up its levels of engagement with both existing and new customers through the synchronicity of technology, and through determined efforts to help customer continue to operate in these testing times.

Throughout the pandemic, Kemtek’s end-to-end solutions provision and order management processes have passed this ultimate test. Karen explained that she was proud of how the entire Kemtek family had rallied round to be there for people.

What were your stand-out moments as a Kemtek team member?

Karen describes herself very much as a people person, so it came as no surprise that the connections – or rather friendships – that she built up the years are her most enduring and treasured memory.

Pre-COVID, Karen’s role involved attending multiple trade shows across South Africa and she has fond memories of always receiving great support from the regional teams for both events and campaigns, with everyone pitching in to ‘make it work’. This, for Karen, is the DNA of Kemtek.

How do you see the next five years for Kemtek?

Karen outlined her vision of continued evolution towards Kemtek being a technology solutions provider and expanding into new verticals and additional partnerships with international partners and principals. As new technologies come onstream, she sees this organic, continuous evolution only gathering pace, with Kemtek becoming able to support new customers in new industries.

The mixture of experience and fresh energy from younger, even more tech-savvy team members, will enable Kemtek to take new perspectives, and deliver on solutions using emerging tech such as contactless systems, AI and RFID.

Any final thoughts as you prepare to start your new adventures in the UK?

Karen highlighted Kemtek’s ‘people first’ philosophy, and expressed how grateful she feels to have had the chance to connect with and learn from her colleagues. She described her time at Kemtek as a continuous learning process, and attributes her success in her role in part to the desire of those around her to see her succeed.

That’s a common approach at Kemtek, and helps explain how the company has weathered over 30 years of change – both internal and external – to emerge as the cutting-edge solutions provider it is today.

Connect with Karen on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karen-stretch-85041918/