Even as the local economy sets them free every year, some of the Garden Route’s brightest young graduates return to plough back some of their spirit and enthusiasm into their home towns.
WORDS Fawa Conradie PHOTOGRAPHS Glenn Murray
Ever wondered what the Southern Cape’s best export product has always been – ostrich feathers, timber, dairy? Much like the Free State rugby teams, sadly our best export product is our people. Our raw, energetic, intelligent young people armed with starry eyes and big dreams, bursting with potential. Clutching a Matric certificate in one hand and optimism in the other, they set off year after year in search of a good life where the grass looks greener.
Yet despite the massive exodus of young talent from the Garden Route every year, a few unique individuals bubbling over with energy, passion and enthusiasm have returned to the fold to give back to the communities that nurtured them.
Renate & Sandra Roodt
Travel Bugs, George
Renate and Sandra are sisters who both attended Outeniqua High School in George before they left to study in Stellenbosch. Returning to George, they could not shake off their passion for travel and cooking. They schemed up a combination concept that they themselves would find attractive – a travel bureau in a restaurant environment where patrons can research travel destinations while enjoying a good meal. Travel Bugs, born 13 years ago, is one of the busiest establishments in George and has featured in the Garden Route Culinary Awards’ top 10 restaurants for the past four years, making the A-list “Garden Route Legends”.
The sisters obviously love what they do; and do well. Their client list, both local and tourist, supports that.
Perhaps, they say, they would have liked to see more theatre or shows that places like Cape Town and Johannesburg offer, but they simply adore the Garden Route. They have easy access to the mountains, the sea and golf courses. Then, of course, their family is here and their mom bakes their cakes. For everything else that they need, they make use of local suppliers: fresh chicken and free-range eggs come from Sedgefield; fresh fish from Mossel Bay.
Words of wisdom: Firstly, to follow your passions. Then produce quality to the best standards possible, no matter what your business is.
Bru of the Bay
One of the Garden Route’s most prolific entrepreneurs, Albert’s laid-back demeanor belies his strong work ethic.
So what brought you to the Garden Route? My dad, when I was four. I am a Yorkie.
And then? Went to Cape Town to study. It lasted four days.
And then? I was a runner at Mike’s Kitchen.
Good tips? I only got tipped by the waiters whose tables I cleaned.
Then? Back to the Garden Route. After a stint in Oudtshoorn, I got involved at Saddles in George and invested in Mossel Bay.
And also some other restaurants? Delphino’s, King Fisher Mossel Bay, Sea Gypsy, Kaai 4, Café Havana… and some others.
Only restaurants? No. Point Village Hotel, Oceans Hotel, a guesthouse.
That it? Some used cars, second hand furniture. Property. DHL agency. The aquarium at Point.
Wow. How do you find the time to manage all of those? Good managers. Most have shares.
And employees? All together more than 300. And then the suppliers and service companies. The knock on is huge.
How do you make it? Balance.
So I suppose you surf? I HAVE a surfboard. (He laughs, looking wishful.)
Was it tough to start? Sure. Still is. But there are opportunities. Don’t look for the bright lights elsewhere. It’s all here. You can make a good living in Van Wyksdorp.
How? Well, I have another bag full of ideas. I wish that the bag would leak some.
So it comes easy? No – 99% perspiration. I started with nothing. I work hard. I am busy from 7am every morning.
What do you miss about bigger cities? Nothing. I’d rather stay here and visit there than stay there and visit here.
Advice to youngsters? Develop your entrepreneurial skills, and business skills. Then look around. It’s all there – and work hard.
Jason Saayman & Renier Veldman
Solideo Media, George
Jason is fresh from the York High School benches. He is studying B.Com through Unisa, has done a two year stint at a large George auditing firm where he did more computer networking and systems than accounting articles, and so discovered where his skills and interests overlap. Together with Renier, a designer who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Theology, they set up Solideo Media 18 months ago.
Both cycle and run, hate queues and prefer the great outdoor life the Garden Route has to offer.
Their company offers a one-stop solution to corporate design needs, including website design and maintenance, and print design. Although most of the clients are local, Johannesburg inquiries are showing potential.
The key to their success is building relationships, having integrity and fostering trust.
Words of wisdom: Don’t rely on a job at a salary for too long. Look out for a niche. Be aware and be ready when opportunity comes knocking, but put in the hours to achieve success.
The Table and Off The Hook, Plett
When Wayne Craig left Plettenberg Bay after school and started reminiscing about his childhood, he realised that it would be exactly the kind of childhood that he’d like his daughter to have.
After high school in York High School and being part of the first Matric class at Oakhill in Knysna, Wayne left the Garden Route to study marketing. He spent a year in California but soon realised he wanted to return home. Wayne now owns two restaurants in Plett (The Table and Off The Hook). He is also involved in the community and was chairman of the Restaurants Association, Guest Accommodation Association and started the annual Wedge Classic body boarding event.
Wayne believes in collective buy-in. You don’t have to clean up your town, just clean up in front of your own house and encourage your neighbours to do the same. The philosophy has worked wonders for Wayne, who is now also the appointed DA councilor for Ward 2 in Plett.
Wayne says he learns from various mentors, from his small daughter to elders in the community.
Words of wisdom: Anything can be done, but you have to have entrepreneurial blood and work at it.
De Steyl Furniture, George
After completing Matric at Outeniqua High School, Deánne studied architecture and spent three years in London where she came into contact with Italian furniture designers. On her return to George, she started working at an architectural firm that soon offered her a move to their furniture design and manufacture company. Today, 16 years later, Deánne has invested and owns 50% of the De Steyl furniture company where she is manager and chief designer. She’s also on the committee of the Garden Route Furniture Manufacturers Association as well as on the board of the Western Cape Furniture Initiative.
She feels a strong sense of belonging in George and appreciates the natural beauty around here. Although George lacks some creative stimulation, she thrives on collaborating with other creatives like architects and interior designers. She seeks to provide distinctive quality products and solutions to building projects. De Steyl has an impressive list of clients, amongst others Fancourt and Simola.
Deánne believes design is an ever-changing art and the South African scene is becoming more and more design literate.
Words of wisdom: Follow what you are passionate about, not what is expected of you.
Pinnacle Painters, Plett
Young Brad is a real Home Bru – his family’s ties with Plettenberg Bay go back a hundred years. There was never any way that he was going to leave the place where he grew up riding little peewee 50cc motorbikes in the bush as a toddler, then skiing and fishing on the Keurbooms as a young teenager. Brad matriculated from York High School and waited tables at a local restaurant until an opportunity came up to paint a factory in Plettenberg Bay. Pinnacle Painters was established soon after and today services the high end of the market with specialist paint finishes for floor and wall coverings. They are amongst others the Marmoran licensed applicators for the Garden Route.
Brad gives back to the community too through his involvement with the National Sea Rescue Institute. He is a rescue coxswain and was selected to train with the USA National Guards and the SA Sea Helicopter Unit, part of the SA Coast Guard.
Plett, as Brad says, is not just home. You fall in love with Plett for life.