Home grown

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.

 

Albert Wiffen

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.

 

 

Wayne Craig

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.

 

Deánne Viljoen

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.

 

 

Brad Thomas

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.

 

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sew together

Sewing, a skill passed from mother to daughter for decades, has become a dying art in today’s throw-away culture, but a handful of Garden Route women are very successfully expressing their creativity in fabric and thread.

WORDS Janine Oelofse PHOTOGRAPHS Colin Stephenson & Raquel De Castro Maia/create photography

 Demitasse

At this year’s Kamersvol Geskenke expo at Lourensford in Somerset West, the demitasse stand was the place to be. Three friends, Alida Wilkin, Lindsay Bennett and Louise Leggatt – each entrepreneurs with their own label and successful in their own right – banded together to collaborate under the label “demitasse”, showcasing their shoes, clothing and handbags.

Alida owns Shweshwe handmade, a clothing company, while Lindsay owns Bennett & Co shoe company and Louise owns Gypsey Lou handbags.

The trio came upon the name “demitasse” after seeing the word during a business trip. It’s French for small coffee cups and means “half a cup”.

“Besides just liking the sound of the word, we liked the positive ‘glass half full’ idea attached to it as well as the significance of halfway marks in life in general.

“We each started our own businesses in the George and Wilderness area between five and eight years ago, and we ran them individually but when we met each other, we worked so well together. We coincidentally chose something that worked together, but it was more about the end product than the actual sewing,” says Alida.

How it started “We all felt we had natural creativity and the ability to run our own business, so we brought together those elements to find an outlet for our creative drive. We all started off small and sold our products on local markets in the area.”

Since those early days, the businesses have grown considerably, with each either owning their own small factory or outsourcing their work to a local factory.

“We are still all very hands on. We still all design products, source fabrics and play a role in the manufacturing side. We also market our own products and are involved in the retail and wholesale end.

“We pretty much do everything. The demitasse range is not designed to be a perfect match, but complimentary,” they say.

How the business progressed The trio is opening a shop in the Church Corner Building in Courtenay Street in George this month (December) that will double as both creative and retail space.

“We decided after the end of November last year that although we loved running our own businesses, it could be lonely. Now we have created an environment where we are with our friends and we can bounce ideas around,” says Lindsay.

The women say they value each other’s support and understand the demands of running their own show while still juggling the responsibilities of a family.

“In between coming up with new ranges, we still need to pack school lunch boxes and change the odd nappy!”

Where creative inspiration comes from Louise says they often draw inspiration from something they’ve seen, be it in colour, texture or just a feeling.

“We’ve always said that we’d only make things that we would want to buy for ourselves, so we try to create products that have a broad appeal while still using great quality fabrics, colours and textures.”

The women collaborate on themes, from suede handbags to vintage floral shoes and stunning outfits.

“It’s not a matchy-matchy thing, but we work around a complimentary look.”

How the business was set up The women say because they started off small and individual, by the time they got together for their collaboration, they were all running medium scale workshops.

“We grew year on year and learned as we went along, catering to a steady evolution of where the businesses were headed. By the time we got together, our teething problems were out of the way. We knew our way around design, patterning, manufacturing and marketing,” says Alida.

She said none studied in the fashion industry, but they just loved what they were doing.

Where to next Opening the new shop this month will be demitasse’s main focus, but the women say they soon want to create a web presence, selling online and via Facebook.

“We’re not trying to think too far ahead. We are just taking it one step at a time, which is important in this business. If you think 10 steps ahead, you get overwhelmed. We just tackle one issue at a time and once we’ve come to grips with it, we move on.”

Biggest Challenge Cash flow and bank balances were the biggest challenges. Keeping the businesses afloat and the creative and marketing momentum going was vital.

“It’s never a case that the business ticks along on its own. Every day we have to meet new challenges.”

Greatest Achievement All three women now take part in high end expo shows, and all have featured in a variety of magazines and television programmes.

But that aside, Alida says: “Our biggest compliment comes from women loving our product. You can see they get the same thrill out of it that we would get from buying something that grabs our attention.”

Advice to others Do not go into business with pre-conceived expectations. Take it one day at a time, move forward at a slow but steady rate and be content that life will unfold as it must.

 

Peg&Thread

Knysna entrepreneurs Nicola Reardon and Svelka Sharp have found a way to turn their passion for needle and thread into a business that offers customers a relaxing way to while away a Saturday afternoon while at the same time making a functional and beautiful keepsake.

How it started Following 10 years in the corporate world, Nicola felt the need for a change and decided to start her own business.

Nicola says she always loved fabrics, thread and being creative. The concept of teaching children to sew simple projects and encouraging people to be creative was hugely appealing to her.

“The chance came up for me to work with my close friend, Svelka, on the quality and design of the products,” Nicola says.

Svelka, who had 14 years experience in advertising and design, created a corporate identity for the new company and in November 2010, Peg & Thread was born.

How the business progressed They have expanded their product range from 12 to 21 sewing and knitting kits.

Each kit contains all the necessary equipment to complete the craft and includes a tape measure, fabrics, yarns, pins and needles, scissors, glue, stuffing, sequins, ribbon, and patterns as well as step by step instructions. A mini glossary of sewing, knitting and embroidery stitches is included in each kit to demonstrate how to create and decorate with stitching.

Where creative inspiration comes from They get their inspiration from reading books or craft magazines, or just sewing quietly. They also attend Embroidery Guild meetings.

“It’s important to take yourself off every now and again to feed your creative soul. Go for a lovely walk and be inspired by nature, attend designer shows, visit an art gallery or just watch the world go by!”

How the business was set up Svelka and Nicola enrolled at the Small Enterprise Development Agency, which helped them learn about exporting. They also attend expos to showcase their products.

Where to next Nicola and Svelka want to step up marketing and selling in order to establish a profitable and sustainable platform from which to keep up with demand. They also want to explore new opportunities and markets in Africa and other countries.

Biggest Challenge Marketing and advertising the business effectively, and ensuring sufficient finances to take the next step in their business, were big challenges.

Greatest Achievement “When our customers place repeat orders, we love this! Tapping into the corporate gifting market this year has been fantastic,” says Nicola.

Advice to others The first step is to create a company identity. “Your logo will form part of every bit of marketing you do. Spend time on it.”

Next, find magazines or publications that will suit your product and advertise.

The women also found having an online presence hugely rewarding.

 

Demitasse Alida: 072 542 6649 or [email protected] Louise: 072 427 4573 or [email protected] Lindsay: 082 525 2912 or [email protected] Peg & Thread www.pegandthread.co.za Working studio address: 5 Noble Street, Knysna Industria (Behind Whitewashed and opposite Fechters). Nicola: 083 265 7730 Svelka: 082 889 3522

 

Turning challenge into opportunity

A deal that has become legendary in shoe retailing circles led to the founding of a branded footwear empire which will soon be expanding to the rest of Africa.

In 2000, Mossel Bay businessman Braam van Huyssteen bought 12 000 pairs of shoes at R100 each – and paid for them with R1.2 million in cash. The transaction planted the seed of what is now Tekkie Town, a sport and lifestyle shoe chain selling branded footwear at affordable prices in 200 stores all over South Africa.

Braam has a talent most of us would love to have. He turns opportunities into money – not credit, but hard cash. He owns each of the Tekkie Town stores outright and debt free, employs 1 800 people and never spends money he doesn’t have. The group’s extraordinary rise over the past 11 years led to Braam being chosen as the Southern Africa winner of the prestigious 2012 Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur Award in June.

But real success comes with a price, and while everyone who works at Tekkie Town knows that excellence can be generously rewarded, the boss expects his pound of flesh. “Tekkie Town has been built on hard work, strong relationships, a good work ethic and exceptional dedication by everyone, for the greater good of the company,” says Braam.

South visits him at his home at Fancourt. It’s cold outside and we sit near an elegant fireplace, enjoying coffee and rusks baked by his wife, Charmaine. Somewhere in the house three teenage children on school holiday are still hiding under the covers. The house smells of muffins baking in the oven and we chat about his upcoming holiday to the Greek islands and the Olympic Games in London – his and Charmaine’s first real holiday together in years.

Braam has an upstairs office at home, handles all his own administration (he has no personal assistant), and spends most of his time negotiating rental contracts for both new and existing premises. “In the beginning, I was seldom at home. I was out on the road and involved in all aspects of the business. Now I have a hand-picked team of committed, quality staff members who know that going beyond the call of duty is expected but also rewarded.”

Entrepreneurship runs in the Van Huyssteen family’s veins. Braam’s mother Ria has had successful boutiques and clothing stores for as long as he can remember, and played a significant role in his initial success in Mossel Bay. Dad Vossie owned the Parys Hotel when Braam was a schoolboy and brother Marius, a successful businessman in his own right, gave Braam R25 000 to open his first shop.

In 1977, when he was 12, Braam’s family moved from Parys in the Free State to Wilderness. He matriculated at Outeniqua High School and obtained a degree in Business Economics from the University of Stellenbosch before signing up for his compulsory two years in the army. “My degree meant a job in the finance department of the Women’s Army College in George. I was one of only two men on the entire base, which was interesting, to say the least,” he laughs.

Marius had been running a successful surf shop in George for some time and offered to help Braam set up a branch in Mossel Bay. It was July 1989, at the dawn of the arrival of 10 000 specialist construction workers from all over the world to build the gas-to-liquid refineries of the then Mossgas, now PetroSA. “My mom had a real knack for determining their clothing needs, and for the next decade, we provided those men with durable, warm clothes and shoes. It was very successful and the profits, much of which we invested, would later play a major role in the start-up of Tekkie Town.”

As construction at Mossgas neared completion, Braam realised his market would change significantly once the builders moved out, and started adapting his stock to cater for the growing sports market. He opened Sport City stores – first in Mossel Bay, then in George and later in Plettenberg Bay.

In 2000, during a business trip to Port Elizabeth, a supplier introduced Braam to the owner of Caterpillar Shoes. On a whim, he negotiated an extraordinary deal: 12 000 pairs of shoes at R100 each – cash. “The man initially thought I was joking. Not only was the wholesale price for a pair about R300, but it also meant I had to hand him a bank-guaranteed cheque (those were the days before electronic transfers) for R1.2 million.”

A business friend, Martin Nefdt, showed him how to issue a cheque at an ATM, which he promptly delivered to Caterpillar Shoes the next day. Martin initially sold the bulk of the merchandise to farm cooperatives, where the significantly lower sales price led to it being sold out very quickly. “The profit margins were so high that it begged for a bigger market.”

Braam then bought 15 000 pairs of Reebok, 21 000 Hi-Tec and 9 000 Bronx shoes in a short space of time and had to scramble for warehouse space to store them all. “Such deals had been unheard of until then in the local shoe industry, and the news travelled fast. Soon other big brands were phoning me up to negotiate similar deals.”

The first Tekkie Town was opened in Somerset West in 2001. Each time enough profit was made to pay for another store, Braam would set up the next one. “I initially intended to go the franchise route, but realised that outright ownership was the only way to ensure the levels of quality and service I expected in each store.” By 2007, there were 40 Tekkie Town stores, an average growth of eight stores a year. The global economic crisis offered an unexpected opportunity when rental costs dropped drastically. “It required much less capital to open a store, and we could open at a rate of 25 to 30 a year. We will soon be moving into the rest of Africa and are investigating the possibility of going public.”

Braam says the Tekkie Town model is simple. “There is one distribution point in George from which everything is managed. Operations managers visit stores regularly, ensuring that the day-to-day running of each store remains efficient and honest. Despite our size and reach, we intentionally don’t have the feel of a corporate organisation, but rather that of a team working towards a goal.”

He adds that his approach to staff appointments is to select people who not only have skills but show character, integrity, a business ethic and a willingness to work hard. “My management team in particular consists of people who have been with me a long time and are as committed to and passionate about the brand as I am.”

Braam is known to reward outstanding employees generously – from taking a loyal housekeeper to the races to buying a long-serving manager a house at Fancourt. “However, I expect honesty and respect in return and won’t hesitate to act against deceitfulness and corruption, especially if it can affect my or Tekkie Town’s reputation. One’s name is ultimately all you have and I am proud to say that after all these years I still have a clean criminal and credit record.”

Braam also believes in giving to others, but prefers projects that are connected to shoes and/or children. “We have ongoing projects in which good quality shoes that children have outgrown can be handed in at Tekkie Town stores, from where they are distributed to needy kids. Last year we also sent new shoes of which one of a pair had gone missing in the retail process to a charity in Mozambique where they were distributed to landmine victims. While we are inundated with requests for sponsorships and donations, we believe in investing responsibly in projects that embody specific goals and characteristics.”

For fun, he keeps horses in Cape Town and Durban, and is the personal groom of his daughter Bianca, 17, a talented horsewoman, when she competes. Middle daughter Lara, 15, sings like Maria Callas. The family enjoys skiing, and he took son Braam, 12, to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup last year. “I was not at home much when Tekkie Town was established and feel privileged now to get to know my children as they approach adulthood,” he says.

Braam believes that “big money means great responsibility”. “I believe I have been given the ability to make money, but also the skills to work with it responsibly. It can be devastating in the wrong hands. Wealth really only moves through us, not to us, and should ultimately not only benefit charitable organisations but also improve the lives of those who work for us and their families.”

www.tekkietown.co.za

Braam’s tips

Find a job at a company where you can learn about all aspects of running a business. Then save up enough money to start your own venture, but ensure you do it without debt.

Grow your business as your cash flow allows.

Only hard work, together with risk-taking, results in financial success. There’s no get-rich-quick way of doing business.

For the first couple of years, reinvest every cent back into your business. Don’t buy that new car or house immediately: you’ll be able to do so (and more) once you’ve established your venture.

 

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Cashing in on knowledge

The Garden Route has traditionally sustained itself mainly through tourism, but this is no longer enough, says a George academic who believes a ‘knowledge economy’ could reverse the area’s economic slump.

WORDS Nicky Willemse & Janine Oelofse PHOTOGRAPHS Colin Stephenson/Create Photography

The Garden Route is in a depression because tourism and the region’s other traditional economic drivers, the services and construction industries, are all in a downturn and can no longer sustain the region on their own. Also, further challenges await over the next decade or so, including unemployment and a dwindling percentage of skilled and educated inhabitants.

Prof Christo Fabricius, principal of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s George campus, believes there is a solution.

“Knowledge, underpinned by quality education, should be one of the central economic drivers for the George and Garden Route areas. A few well-thought initiatives could be the catalyst for a great future built on a ‘knowledge economy’ – underpinned by information, education and innovation.”

Key elements would include skills development, improved access to communication technology, focusing on quality education at all levels and investing in research and development.

“George is a city small enough to make such a vision a reality, but not so small that it is insignificant.” This is a unique concept in South Africa, one which Fabricius is confident will work and eventually be replicated elsewhere.

He cites global research that links education and economy. For instance, a 2004 report by the Upjohn Institute in Michigan indicates that a one percent increase in the proportion of people with higher education qualifications raises the income of everyone – including those without higher education – by 1,4 percent. “This is because of higher wages, an increased supply of skilled labour and the attraction of new employers to the area.”

In George, only 37 percent of the population is skilled or highly-skilled. In fact, the number of young people who have completed high school has dropped significantly over the past four years, despite an increase in primary school enrolment. Between 2001 and 2007 the number of residents with matric decreased from 22 100 to 17 700 – a drop of 20 percent.

“If one takes into account that having Grade 12 instead of Grade 11 increases a person’s chances of finding employment by 11 percent, as indicated by a recent Stellenbosch University research report, then it is easy to imagine the economic impact of this skills gap.”

A drive towards quality education would reverse the city’s growing unemployment rate, which in 2007 included almost 20 percent of George’s economically active population, more than half of them aged between 15 and 30. Ironically, the tourism industry is experiencing severe shortages in skilled personnel. Education would fill that gap.

Fabricius says implementing a ‘knowledge economy’ is all about capitalising on existing education resources.

“Conditions are ideal for George to become a pioneering educational hub. It has a large number of top primary and secondary government schools with committed, highly-qualified teachers. It is also one of the few small cities with its own campus of one of South Africa’s top 10 universities, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, which offers comprehensive qualifications, from diplomas all the way through to post-graduate degrees. The city is home to South Cape College, one of the country’s best-performing Further Education and Training Colleges (FETs). There is a growing School of Culinary Art and an emerging hospitality school under the auspices of the Francois Ferreira Academy, and there are a large number of highly-qualified people, including many retired academics and school teachers. This highly qualified corps of senior academics and educators offers great untapped potential.”

But it will require innovation and the participation of stakeholders who have the power to make a difference by “aligning their budgets with the knowledge economy dream”.

Fabricius suggests that the municipality could join forces with provincial and local government to establish a network of small community learning centres where students could study in a safe environment and have access to internet facilities. These centres could be linked by a bus network and bicycle paths to enable students to move safely from one to another.

“Institutions of higher education could work with schools to provide in-service training of teachers, as well as winter and summer schools for pupils.

“Municipalities, government departments and the business sector could establish a database of service-learning opportunities and internships, for which students and pupils could apply.

“Provincial, national and local government could also pool their funding to establish science parks, agri-parks and technology hubs which could be hives of activity and entrepreneurship. Churches and charity organisations could put their weight behind these initiatives, all in pursuit of one dream: sustainability through knowledge and quality education.”

Education is already a major priority in the Western Cape, so not much new investment is required. “The Western Cape government is already investing heavily in education (more than 36 percent of its R13,3-billion budget was spent on education in 2011, equating to R4,7-billion). It should be easy to align funding priorities with the goals of education in a combined effort, with George as a pilot project,” says Fabricius.

“Education is a major contributor to local and national economic development. Research by Stellenbosch University has found that South Africa’s GDP could be between 23-30 percent higher if more people could be literate and better educated. The more people are educated, the greater the increase in economic activity and entrepreneurship. This leads to more jobs, greater buying power and economic growth..”

Returns for investors in education are also high. “A 2004 project shows that in sub-Saharan Africa, the rates of return range from 11 to 18 percent for society as a whole, while private rates of return could be as high as 28 percent.”

Fabricius’s vision, shared by many partner organisations, that George will be viewed as a pilot initiative in coordinated planning for quality education, can eventually be rolled-out to other towns “once lessons have been learnt”.

“Can you imagine a future where George and the Western Cape take the lead in positioning South Africa as a beacon of prosperity and growth through quality education?“Success is within an arms-length, right here on our door-step.”

 

Thinking outside the box in George By Janine Oelofse

George, the capital of the Garden Route, is the fastest growing metropole in South Africa, but while people are flocking to the city for a better lifestyle, some serious changes will need to be made if its economy is going to keep apace.

Role players in economic growth say that while tourism and construction have long been the Garden Route’s main economic drivers, other ways will have to be found to keep the regional economy bubbling.

Western Cape Finance, Tourism and Economic Development MEC Alan Winde says business process outsourcing (BPO) ventures, including call centres, are one of his government’s key priorities.

“They are high growth and job creating industries. We also have a competitive edge in these industries because we are in the right time zone, speak the right language and have a ready workforce,” Winde says.

The Western Cape government is working with Business Process Enabling SA (BPeSA) to promote the call centre industry.

According to BPeSA official Patrick Gordon, the industry is working well in Cape Town, creating 28 000 agent jobs, excluding back office and support staff, and contributes R8 billion to the provincial economy.

“The majority of the sector is made up of local companies, but there is an important offshore sector that generates new jobs for the country.”

Gordon says international brands outsourced to Cape Town included Shell, Amazon, Lufthansa, iiNet and Bloomberg, while talks were in progress to see George benefit from the same type of venture.

“We are currently in talks with a couple of companies from the region which include Solluco, and Eden Connect, both in George, to see how we can set up a BPO hub for the region,” he says.

Solluco is a financial services provider in the insurance industry and specialises in outbound telesales for major insurance corporations and banks, while Eden Connect offers BPO and call centre services.

“BPeSA is always looking to bring jobs to the Western Cape, whether it’s to Cape Town, George or any other relevant centre. George has a very competitive offering in terms of property prices and staff salaries which potentially makes it an attractive BPO or call centre destination for both local and international companies,” Gordon says.

George executive committee councillor for finances, Leon van Wyk, says the town needs to look into changing from a consumer to a manufacturing based economy, with plans afoot to investigate the development of a science and technology park.

There is massive unemployment and poverty in George, making economic growth vital.

“George must become an exporter of goods rather than just importing,” Van Wyk told a local newspaper.

Van Wyk said council was in favour of developing so-called clean industries, such as computer businesses. There was also potential for agriculture and education and training ventures.

George mayor Charles Standers says a project team has also been established to gather information and prioritise ways in which more jobs can be created.

“A number of projects were forwarded which could deliver quick and visible wins, and more importantly, they are not big budget items in these tough financial times. These projects will all be driven by private sector champions and we as the municipality will do our utmost in co-operating, whether it is in reducing red tape, accelerating approvals or relocating resources.”

 

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Writers Route

The beautiful surrounds of the Garden Route have long been the home of creative personalities, including a number of authors in a variety of genres.

Mari Roberts

Romance writer Mari Roberts writes under a pseudonym for the sakes of her farmer husband and three school-going daughters. But it’s been an open secret for a long time in the small Karatara farming community outside Sedgefield, where many a local have wondered about Mari’s inspiration for the saucy love tales that flow from her laptop. Describing herself as an incurable romantic in a happy marriage, Mari, like most authors, has been writing for as long as she can remember.

Initially she dabbled in short story writing, but couldn’t get any published. A qualified social worker who traded her job for mothering, Mari decided to try her hand at romance novels. Although her first attempt was well received at first read, the publisher did not take it on. “In retrospect, the content was way too serious for the genre, but I only found that out after getting some help from author Chanette Paul, who at the time was giving writing courses.” She sent Chanette a copy of one of her manuscripts, and received a 17-page feedback report in return pointing out mostly technical mistakes.

“The romance genre in South Africa is written according to strict rules, with specific word counts and limitations. It is meant to be escapism and the content can’t be too serious or intimidating to the reader. While every book does not have to contain detailed sex scenes, the lovers must at least kiss passionately – which is much more difficult to write than you may imagine,” Mari says with a laugh.

Dans in die reën was accepted by Lapa and published in September 2006 and, after a quick rewrite of her first attempt, Sprokiesprinses appeared a month later. From 2007 to 2009 she published another five titles, of which Sterrereën was at the top of the romance fiction sellers lists for two weeks in 2009.

Mari took a break from writing when the demands of motherhood and a farm suffering through the worst drought in the Southern Cape’s history took its toll on her creativity. But now she is back with her latest romance, Liefdesdroom, which was launched March.

“Writing is a lonely job and requires many hours of just sitting and writing. I do it because it is my passion and I love telling a story. I find every part interesting, from observing people and listening to their stories to background research and putting it all together. There is something tremendously satisfying in seeing a completed book in print.

“However, writers have to learn to not take things personally when their drafts are returned with instructions to rewrite – most people don’t like to be edited, but it is a give-and-take process and publishers have the end product in mind, which has to sell.

“Writing is my escape. In my books the people do what I want them to do and characters can be explored at will. While I certainly don’t make a spectacular income from my efforts, it is a hugely rewarding hobby.”

www.lapa.co.za

James Fouché

James Fouché of George pays the bills by offering financial advice, but his first love is writing. He has published short stories and poetry for some time, but recently bit the bullet and took a year off work to write his first crime fiction novel, Jack Hanger. He offered the manuscript to several publishers around the world until Raider Publishing in New York published his book in March last year.

While the overseas connection means his book gets international exposure, the arrangement is complicated by import and administration costs in South Africa. “Fortunately, the days are gone in which authors had to rely on book shops alone to sell their stories. Internet sites such as Kalahari.com are excellent ways to get a book out there at competitive rates.

James is now working on his second crime novel, this time on a part time basis.

“The recurring question is always: why put so much time and effort into something that may be turned down or edited beyond recognition and which doesn’t really pay that much?

“I guess the answer is the same for everyone – passion. I can’t really help myself, I love telling stories, doing the research, developing characters and then turning it into something that someone else may like to read.

“To all those authors out there, I say: ‘Sit down and complete that story. Sometimes success lies in just finishing something.’”

www.jackhanger.com

Chris Karsten

Arguably the most successful author to come out of these parts is multiple award-winning writer Chris Karsten, who not only has some 18 Afrikaans and English titles under his belt and another two on the way, he also has a movie deal in his pocket.

The former senior deputy editor and Garden Route bureau chief of Sunday newspaper, Rapport, has done the bulk of his book writing since his arrival in George in 2004, including the award-winning historical novel Frats, a six-part true crime series, a biography of actress Charlize Theron and two parts of a trilogy about a serial killer who harvests his victims’ tattoos.

The first in the series, Abel se ontwaking, published in 2010, won two coveted Afrikaanse Taal en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV) prizes last year and will be published in English in September, around the time that filming will commence on a movie with the same title. The last in the series, Die afreis van Abel Lotz, will hit the bookshelves in August. The final in the trilogy was written in Canada, where Chris now lives.

Frats was written while Chris was still working at Rapport and arrived at publishers Human & Rousseau just as a non-fiction writer was being sought for the true crime series. His newspaper background and captivating writing style was a perfect fit for the job.

But there are factual limitations to non-fiction, and he wanted to explore the human side of criminals and their motivation for aggression in fictional terms. Cleverly written and well-researched, his thrillers fell on fertile soil and continue to impress.

“Writing is an all-encompassing thing for me. I dream of my characters at night, wake up with their words in my head and their actions can haunt me until the last word is written.

“Being a writer is a very vulnerable position to be in – you offer the work of your soul up for criticism. I had to learn which criticism to take seriously and which to ignore.

“It is also not easy for a new writer to get a foot in the door, but the good news is that publishing houses are always looking for new writers, and it’s always worth a try.”

www.humanrousseau.com/authors/257

Other Garden Route authors include:

  • Anoeschka von Meck is the award-winning author of three Afrikaans books, most notably Vaselinetjie, which has also been translated into English. Essie Honiball – Die Ontwaking came out in 2010, the same year she moved to Knysna. www.benedic.net
  • Internationally acclaimed embroiderer Lesley Turpin-Delport, based in Knysna, has published eight full-colour hardcover and a few soft cover drawing books in her field of expertise. Just Stitch, published in 2007 and re-launched recently under the title Embroidered Flora & Fauna, was the first in conjunction with her daughter Nikki Delport-Wepener and has been translated into French. www.les-designs.com
  • Wildlife researcher Gareth Patterson, also from Knysna, has published nine titles about his research on lions and elephants. The second print run of The Secret Elephants came out in June last year. He is currently busy with his autobiography. www.garethpatterson.com
  • Knysna writer Stanley Trollip is the co-author of the award-winning Detective Kubu novels with Johannesburg-based Michael Sears. Their third book, Death of the Mantis, has been nominated for several overseas fiction awards. www.detectivekubu.com
  • Bev Moodie, based in Knysna, has written and self-published several entrepreneurial handbooks and owns Business Opportunity Books, which markets business-related handbooks online. Her first book, Entrepreneurship made Easy, has sold 16000 copies. www.business-opportunity-books.co.za
  • Trees of the Garden Route – Mossel Bay to Storms River was launched in November 2011 by Elna Venter from Mossel Bay. 083 653 0013
  • Paul Nel of Knysna is the author of a 900-page historical novel The Law of Douglas van Yssen.
  • Plettenberg Bay artist June Morris has written and illustrated a children’s book titled Cathy finds a home.
  • Arn Allingham is the author of The Ascension Papers. www.zingdad.com
  • Knysna-based Jeanne Bredenkamp turned the basic story idea of Chris Smith of Mossel Bay into Mis oor Victoriabaai, a love story which was published in September 2011. Her first children’s book, My boet Jan, will be published later this year.
  • Garden Route top chefs Liezie Mulder, Geoffrey Murray and François Ferreira have all published cookbooks.

 

Knysna Literary Festival

The third annual Knysna Literary Festival takes place in venues around the lagoon town on April 27 to 29. Writers’ workshops, a literary lounge, children’s poetry and creative writing competitions, a movie festival of authors and children’s theatre will combine with an array of interesting speakers to promote reading and writing among locals and visitors. Authors and storytellers who will share their experiences and present workshops include well-known crime writers Mandy Wiener (Killing Kebble), Margie Orford (Gallows Hill) and Mike Nicol (Black Heart), as well as Anglo-Zulu War storyteller Stanley Trollip, co-writer of the internationally acclaimed Detective Kubu-books. www.knysnaliteraryfestival.co.za

 

Local publishers include:

  • Real Dream Publishing in Mossel Bay assists aspiring writers in getting published and marketed. They offer services such as ghost writing, translation, editing, cover design, ISBN-registration and more. www.realdreampublishing.co.za
  • Hornbill Productions is the George-based family publishing business of former Rapport and The Citizen journalists André and Ronel Venter, their son Ben and his fiancée Teresa Smith. Their products include books about herbs, old motor cars and a series of sell-out colouring books. 044 871 3730
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A history of figs

A friend of the Koorts family recently came across an old telephone directory from the year 1913. When she looked under Weltevrede in the Prins Albert area, the Koortses were already there. Probably some of the fig trees on the farm were already there as well….

WORDS Marliza van den Berg PHOTOGRAPHS Piet van wyk

Today fifth and sixth generation members of the Koorts family are still living on the farm, still growing figs and running the popular guest houses.

Weltevrede farm, about 25km from Prins Albert, is set in the scenic Klein Karoo. “There were always about 54 fig trees on the farm,” says Suzelle Koorts, wife to Pieter, who was born and raised on the farm. Dried figs from Weltevrede are famous throughout the country, sold to farm stalls and people who have been clients for almost 60 years.

Pieter’s great grandmother started to dry figs according to a special recipe. The figs were peeled before drying, then packed in old paraffin tins and swapped in town for other products. The rest were stored on the solder for food during the winter months.

About 18 years ago Pieter decided to replace ostriches with fig trees – even before figs became a sought-after product. He realised that Adam figs, the beautiful purple, soft, skinny fig with an intense pink colour on the inside, flourished in his beautiful valley. A combination of the soil, fresh water from the mountain streams and the cooling, southerly winds produced figs with an exceptional honey sweet flavour. The trees thrived and about 10 years ago Weltevrede started supplying fresh figs, along with its output of dried figs. A Cape Town delicatessen was their first client. Today, during fig season, trays of Adam figs from Weltevrede line the shelves of Woolworths.

The first figs of the season, so-called voorvye, are ready in December. Voorvye are the best and most sought after, but the real season runs from February until the end of April.

During harvest time the farm is a hub of activity. About 120 temporary workers pick, peel and pack the figs, all done with extreme care. The workers wear gloves that have to be replaced every hour. Scissors are used to pick the figs, which are then placed on a tray in a single layer to prevent bruising.

While trays packed with figs are brought in from the orchards, another team of workers is constantly chasing birds away from the ripe figs still on the trees.

“Birds are our main problem. We have to chase them away all the time. Damaged figs cannot be sold,” says Suzelle. “We have gas cannons and high frequency sound systems, but you have to be visible all the time. If one team goes for lunch the next team must immediately stand in for them.” People are constantly banging tins, cracking whips and shaking bottles filled with stones to keep the birds away.

Even Suzelle and Pieter’s daughters, Liezl and Lienkie, are involved in the business. Lienkie takes care of marketing the dried figs, still made according to the old family recipe but under the new brand name, Miss Figgy.

Liezl and husband Jaco de Klerk live on the farm and manage the popular guest houses, each one tucked away to give guests the feeling of retreat to a peaceful hideaway. With no electricity on the farm the skies are clear, the nights dark and the stars bright. Mountain streams, endless walks and the opportunity to indulge in figs in season make this a paradise for tired souls.

The guest houses are original farm houses, restored with the utmost respect for history and ambience. Wide open verandas, thick walls, high ceilings, shuttered windows, crisp white linen and long tables for leisurely lunches create a luxurious country atmosphere, like bygone family holidays on grandma’s farm. “Some guests even cook bottles of jam during their stay,” remarks Liezl.

“Guests usually plan to explore the town of Prins Albert, but once they have settled, they end up sitting on the veranda the entire day just soaking up the beauty and the calmness of the setting.”

Each guest house is unique. De Hoek is situated among orchards and has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, a fireplace and a beautiful veranda. During summer months guests often spend the night on the veranda, sleeping under the stars. Vredenhof has two bedrooms and a dream kitchen with antique copper pots. The house is filled antique lamps, embroidered pictures on the walls and precious silver cutlery. Klein De Hoek and Fonteinskop are the latest additions and will be completed by December. Klein De Hoek will be similar to De Hoek, but smaller and more cosy. Antique Oregon and yellowwood furniture will warm the interior of this house and guests will enjoy a spectacular view over the kloof.

Fonteinskop, built by Jaco, will be the ultimate getaway for romantics. Situated in a secluded spot, the house is decorated in the natural shades of the Karoo. Raw silk curtains and natural linen accessories in earthy tones set the scene.

To make the stay even more special and relaxed, Liezl provides delectable breakfasts and dinners. She is the ultimate country cook, the type one reads about in culinary magazines. One senses her love for food from the moment you meet her. “I love herbs and spices like cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg, fresh coriander, saffron and flavoured salts and sugars.” Food is this woman’s love language.

She believes that food cannot be treated lightly. “With so many hungry people throughout the world one has a responsibility to treat food in a decent way. You have to take care and effort in preparing and serving it. It must be served beautifully. Lay the table, make an occasion. Few people have the opportunity.”

Venison is treated with the utmost respect. “When a kudu has been shot, I know that I have a responsibility to make the most of the precious meat. Everything cannot be used for biltong. Through trial and error I have learned to do justice to a kudu fillet.”

A typical summer menu for Weltevrede guests will start off with a salad of rocket, figs and cheese with a balsamic reduction, followed by rack of lamb served with seasonal vegetables like soetwortels the way Liezl’s grandma prepared it. During harvest time the dessert usually contains figs – baked, caramelized or dipped in chocolate and served with scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream.

In winter months menu favourites include potato soup with parmesan, followed by venison with stewed dried peaches, yellow rice and old fashioned beans cooked with potatoes and onions. For dessert traditional classics like malva pudding are given a twist by adding a good shot of coconut liqueur for extra comfort and decadence.

Liezl is inspired by both her grandmothers’ love for cooking, respect for the abundance of good produce, tantalising recipes and the products in season. “If a recipe requires an orange I cannot make it in January. There is no way that I will find oranges in Prins Albert during summer.

“Living on a farm means you are often limited by what is available. Sometimes you are confronted with loads of ripe apricots and peaches.” Part of farm life is the cycles of abundance followed by periods of shortages. “When nature gives you fruit, it cannot be wasted. What you can’t use fresh must be used for jam making.”

Liezl’s grandma taught her the art of jam making, using tips that have been passed from generation to generation, like melting the sugar before the jam starts cooking, and cooking rapidly for intense colour. “Trial and error was part of the learning process and in the beginning the jam was often too thick to spread on bread and ended up in puddings!”

Today Liezl cooks about 10 000 bottles of fig jam per season. Ordinary fig jam and whole preserved figs are cooked in the Weltevrede kitchen. She uses the so-called Kaapse bruin vytjies from an orchard planted by her dad especially for jam making. “It is a beautiful small fig. It stays firm when cooked and has a subtle flavour.”

“I also experiment with fig and red onion marmalade prepared with cinnamon and star aniseed.” The jams and preserves are sold at local shops and farm stalls.

“Life on Weltevrede is not always easy,” remark both mother and daughter. It involves hard work and long hours. “Often we are so busy that we do not realise how beautiful and peaceful it is. But this is the lifestyle that we are used to and that we love. We live in such a safe and wholesome environment, and very few people can say that.”

Weltevrede figs available at: Woolworths; Fruit & Veg City in Oudtshoorn, Knysna and George; Lady Lizard in Prins Albert; Crisp and selected stores of Melissas in Cape Town. In season one can buy figs from the farm from Monday to Saturday 10am-12pm daily, by phoning in advance 023 541 1229. [email protected] www.figfarm.co.za

Facts on figs

Figs are originally from Western Asia and are some of the first fruit to be cultivated. Fig remnants have been found in archaeological sites dating back as far as 5000BC.

Plato promoted the fig as being the best nutrition for athletes.

There are over 600 fig cultivars.

Figs grow best in Mediterranean and warm, dry climates.

Liezl’s baked figs

 Ingredients

Two Adam’s figs per person

Honey

Cinnamon
Method

Preheat oven to 180°C

Place the figs in a single layer in an oven proof dish.

Make a small incision in each fig and put a teaspoon of honey in each fig. Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve with muesli and yoghurt for breakfast.

The recipe can also be adapted for dessert. Replace the cinnamon with vanilla extract and serve the figs with vanilla ice cream.

 

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Art meets Business

The Garden Route is increasingly becoming home to people who mesh artistic talent with entrepreneurial skills.

There can be no finer example of this new wave of creative release than Nic Kruger of Knysna, who fashions furniture out of wood salvaged from ships that foundered along the coast. The wood from such wrecks is typically African hardwood, Oregon pine and mahogany and is generally well preserved. Nic saw a window of opportunity when he was offered timber reclaimed from the wreck of a trawler in Port Elizabeth harbour. “Boats and ships built from wood in South Africa in the 1940s and 1950s are now coming to the end of their working life. New vessels are fabricated from steel. I have been able to acquire the wood from shipwrecks and turn the timber into quality furniture.”

When starting out on the fabrication of furniture from shipwrecked wood, all the square shank nails have to be painstakingly removed by way of hammering, chiselling and drilling. This process leaves the timber adorned with nail holes, rust patterns, bitumen and other marks caused by a life at sea, and the finished product is often left that way, sometime even with paint splatters. “We preserve the original character of the wood,” says Nic. His business is rather charmingly called Shipwreck Furniture and he makes coffee tables, dining room tables, servers, side tables, headboards, benches, frames, bookshelves and chests of drawers. Everything is constructed out of recycled wood and on occasion the timber from scaffolding and pallets is used, but no newly processed wood is put into the furniture. “We take other people’s trash and give it a second life” says Nic. The coffee tables feature an abstract pattern of pieces of wood painted in different colours and are works of art in their own right.

The products of Shipwreck Furniture can be seen at fFiago in Knysna, Hullabaloo in Port Elizabeth and at Object Furniture in Mossel Bay.

Donatella Pontesilli in George has established a niche for herself in the fabrication of custom designed chandeliers. Donatella, of Italian extraction, studied fine art and textile design at the Cape Technical College and the Cape Technikon and has a personality that effervesces with creative ingenuity. She bubbles over with ideas, design-speak and thoughts for new motifs. “I have always had a creative streak,” she enthuses. “At school my geography and history textbooks were filled with patterns, doodles and sketches and even when I went to the beach with friends I would sit drawing on a sketchpad.” For 14 years Donatella worked in a whirl of painting, interior decorating and jewellery manufacture. Until three years ago, when a friend asked her to make a chandelier. Since then she has been given one commission after another, making chandeliers to suit particular settings. “I use crystal, glass, pearls, semi-precious stones and even nuts and bolts and cuff links on one occasion. I work in a combination of colour, material and style that ranges from traditional to modern, such that each chandelier is unique.” Clients give Donatella the style and colour scheme that they want and she then works out a design that is presented with photographs and a quotation. Orders have come in from across South Africa and from international destinations as far afield as New York. Recommendations by word of mouth bring in new business and many orders come through Donatella’s website. “My designs are specialised and exclusive. None of my work is mass produced.” Donatella’s inspiration comes from her interests in cooking and gardening as well as her love of animals, coastal scenery and music. “I’m into everything that sparkles and shines,” she says, and it shows in her chandeliers which reflect, refract and rework light into a kaleidoscope of colour and contrast.

Also based in George is Hendrik Carsten of Grog Studio, located in the heart of the town adjacent to the Strydom Gallery in Market Street. Hendrik studied art for three years, and following a ten year stint in the construction industry as a technician, he returned to his first love of ceramics. “It has always been my intention to go into art. I have had a passion for ceramics since my earliest years.”

Hendrik makes up his own clay and adds talc and crushed, pre-fired clay or grog. Manganese dioxide, iron oxide and salts of cobalt and cadmium are used as colourants and firing is done between 1000 and 1120˚C in an oxidizing atmosphere. Grog Studio produces a diverse mix of jugs, teapots, mugs, flower pots, vases, planters and urns. Hendrik is working on a “designer series” of tableware that is pleasing to the eye, but which requires considerable time and skill in the making. His work was featured in a ceramics festival in Franschhoek during October and can be viewed at Knysna Fine Art and at his studio in George.

DP Ferreira and Hannes Stander specialise in floral art and work from a 1,7 hectare farm in Rheenendal near Knysna. The floral designs of their Ecozest venture are much in demand. The partners are well qualified for their chosen field – DP has a diploma in Fine Art and Hannes a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture. They work only with indigenous flora and grow many species on their farm, mostly varieties of Cape everlasting, succulents and fynbos as well as species of buddleja and plectranthus, waterblommetjies (Cape pondweed), the confetti tree, the Natal bottlebrush and klapperbos. The floral designs of Ecozest are augmented with pieces of driftwood, beach pebbles, lichen, bark, moss, sedges, restios and reeds to produce stunning displays. “We work in a manner that is gentle on the land and connected with the environment,” says DP. In this spirit, Ecozest has had great success with a fynbos Christmas tree developed specifically for the South African market. The tree is made from fynbos and Helichrysum and adorned with shells and grasses. The same materials are used to make wreaths and garlands for the festive season. “The pine tree comes from the northern hemisphere and is not really appropriate to the celebration of yuletide in South Africa. We wanted to make a festive tree that related to local conditions,” says Hannes. Their fynbos trees range in size from 30cm to 1,8m and the exclusive Kurland Hotel in Plettenberg Bay always puts three on display over the Christmas season. The work of Ecozest can be seen every Saturday morning at the Wild Oats Market in Sedgefield. DP and Hannes also conduct two-day workshops on floral design and gardening at their farm, with overnight accommodation provided in delightful rustic cottages.

Two of the most successful artistically minded entrepreneurs of the Garden Route are Carla and Neels Engelbrecht of La Carla Atelier, 6km from Plettenberg Bay at Holt Hill. Carla and Neels have developed a market for handcrafted Venetian masks that have become all the rage at corporate events, launch functions for new products, weddings and social gatherings. Carla started making papier mâché masks as a hobby in 2006, and when someone ordered 100, the idea for the business took hold. Today La Carla Atelier distributes about 1000 masks per month to both local and foreign customers.

“Masks have an illustrious history but there is always scope for new ideas and different applications,” says Carla. “We recently developed a small mask to fit around the neck of a bottle and subsequently 5000 were ordered for the launch of a new wine. Masks have been around for several centuries and we believe the potential is unlimited, so long as we continue to push and extend our creativity.”

The masks of La Carla Atelier can seen at La Chique Boutique in the Vaal Park Mall in Vereeniging, the Boutique Shop in Pezula Resort Hotel, Knysna and in Plettenberg Bay at their place of work, which is signposted from the N2 highway, by appointment with Charnelle on 072 445 6697.

Cottage industries tend to promote their merchandise on websites, since the cost of renting retail premises and advertising can be prohibitive. Haus Muti manages a collection of web pages covering eight design categories, representing forty practitioners of the arts. The disciplines of fine art, jewellery, sculpture, ceramics, photography, furnishings, mosaics and homeware are collated into galleries of high quality images that can be browsed online. The site was the idea of Delia Johnson, who trained as an interior designer at Design Town in Cape Town and now lives in Plettenberg Bay. After attending an exhibition of the work of 32 different artists in Bitou in 2008, Johnson realised that “there was a need for creative people on the Garden Route to have a voice”.

The saying ars longa, vita brevis tell us that art is long and life is short – for those of artistic persuasion along the Garden Route, the future beckons.

 

Contact

Shipwreck Furniture

www.shipwreckfurniture.co.za

[email protected]

073 258 7800

 

Donatella Pontesilli

www.donatella.co.za

[email protected]

044 877 0581

072 283 1182

 

Grog Studio

www.grogstudio.wordpress.com

[email protected]

072 044 1153

 

Ecozest

www.ecozest.co.za

[email protected]

044 389 0083

 

La Carla Atelier

www.modelvision.co.za

[email protected]

082 499 6295

082 461 7731

 

Haus Muti

www.hausmuti.co.za

[email protected]

044 533 9079

072 222 1020

 

 

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The time is now…

The property market slump may sound like bad news, but there has never been a better opportunity to purchase a house on the Garden Route, particularly for first time buyers.

WORDS Janine Oelofse PHOTOGRAPHS Tamara Claire

House prices are currently at a five to 10 year low, and with interest rates sitting at around nine percent, lower than they have been since the 1970s, buyers are presented with the ideal opportunity to make a long term investment in property.

Auction Alliance chief executive Rael Levitt says property prices have dropped the most in traditional resort areas, which are often seen as secondary house markets and not essential investments. Houses along the Garden Route, often seen as a millionaire’s playground, are now more affordable to average salary earners.

Older homes are selling for between R850 000 and R1,2 million, while stands in gated security estates can be picked up for anything from R80 000 to R650 000.

“Residential property is still in distress and prices have dropped in real terms during 2011. In a low interest rate environment buyers are finding great deals and often purchasing below replacement value. In other words, the trend is that it is a real buyer’s market right now,” says Levitt.

“This means that buyers, often first time home owners, can now get into the market at significantly reduced prices. Right now it’s cheaper to buy and cheaper to borrow, and those investors who see this historic opportunity are getting into the market.”

Areas which have seen the strongest growth in new property developments over the last five to seven years, like the Garden Route, are now suffering the greatest downturn. Yet property on the Garden Route will always remain a good investment, provided that buyers remember that it’s a long term investment that will take time to show good returns.

Levitt says the sharp decline in new property developments coming to the market because of the slump will ultimately cause pent up demand that will push property prices up again.

“I believe that the areas which will be the best investments are where property prices have dropped sharply and bargains are on offer… I like Mossel Bay because everybody is selling right now and it’s a beautiful town with great weather in a good location. I also think luxury areas such as Knysna and Plettenberg Bay will always hold value simply because good areas always remain appealing, despite the vagaries of the market.”

Ricus Serfontein of Aida in Mossel Bay says although the property market in the town is slow, those with cash in hand are dictating the property prices, forcing sellers to lower their demands.

“Business will definitely pick up again now that winter is behind us. And as a lot of people are serious about selling, there are a couple of excellent bargains available at the moment, creating good opportunities for investment. We still live in the most beautiful part of our country, so we’ve got a lot to offer potential buyers.”

Pam Golding principal agent Ling Dobson says Knysna is likely to remain a good investment area because available prime coastal investment properties are limited. New legislation has also tightened the criteria on development close to the ocean, leaving established waterfront developments such as Leisure Isle, Thesen Islands, Brenton on Sea, Buffels Bay and Pezula private estate boasting prime and unique investment status.

“The revival of real estate sales over the past few months has been mostly in the cities, yet I believe the value of investment in coastal properties will resurface. This year, whilst being a definite improvement over 2010, has reflected a slow steady cycle with discerning buyers looking and finding really good investments, mostly in the R1 million to R2,5 million bracket,” Dobson says.

John Fuller of Chas Everitt in Plettenberg Bay says current property sales of around 200 per year amount to only about a third of sales in the heydays between 2003 and 2005, when the market was booming.

“There are still buyers with aspirations to invest in the lifestyle that the town offers. Prices have reduced to a level where buyers are now coming back into the market.”

Fuller says the town has grown sufficiently to offer leisure, shopping, schooling and health facilities in just the right mix while the quality of its infrastructure is well above that of its peers.

Plett was voted the third best beach and sun destination in Africa in the 2010 TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Destination Awards and the eighth most popular wildlife destination in Africa, while its drinking water was voted the ninth best in the country.

“It is factors like these, plus the combination of a wonderful climate, spectacular mountains, forests, rivers and beaches that continue to ensure that Plett remains high on any astute property investor’s list of desirable destinations,” says Fuller.

Although overseas investors might be skittish about government interference in the market, many countries have restrictions on foreign ownership.

“This sort of regulation is certainly not unique to South Africa and if the country’s fundamentals are in place, it won’t deter them. I think investors are far more concerned about socio-economic instability, political risk and an unstable currency,” says Levitt.

The beginning of the property market downturn about three years ago saw a slew of house repossessions and distress sales as home owners defaulted on their bond repayments, but now larger developments are hitting the wall. The Garden Route in particular is seeing a larger number of developments going bust than other areas of the country.

In recent months high value properties such as Le Grande George, Hartenbos Landgoed, the Hartkorp Group, Fernwood Estate and Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay went under the auctioneer’s hammer following liquidation.

In September, three Mossel Bay hotels, the Riviera Coastal Inn Suite Hotel, Diaz Beach Garden Route Boutique Hotel and the Boland Park Hotel & Lodge, all in the Hartkorp Group stable, sold at auction for R43,7-million.

Levitt says the distress in the Garden Route’s hotel sector was caused largely by too rapid development during a previous boom. However, distressed selling has opened up opportunities for new buyers keen to enter the hospitality industry.

“Investors are realizing that they currently have a unique opportunity to access the hospitality sector at significantly discounted prices.”

Although housing sales are set to remain weak for the foreseeable future, the rental market may offer the boost the property market needs.

More affordable housing is currently experiencing a surge in rental demand – a phenomenon that is likely to last decades because of a shortage of housing in the country.

Many would-be buyers are forced to rent because they cannot access funding due to the lending requirements set out in the National Credit Act, and tenants are likely to be queueing around the block for a roof over their head.

Remax broker Mark Brickles says with many economists predicting an interest rate hike in the next six months and possibly another downturn in the economy in the near future, the rental market is expected to show a marked increase.

“If the interest rate does increase and the market sees a double dip as predicted, more and more people will be unable to qualify for finance and in turn will look to rent.”

However, Brickles warns that with increased municipal services costs and higher bond financing costs, rentals are likely to increase as well.

George has not enjoyed the property market prestige traditionally linked to neighbours Plettenberg Bay and Knysna, but seems to be experiencing a boom now. Marcel Deacon, CEO of Susan Deacon Property Group, says buyers are flocking from all parts of the country to invest and settle in the town.

“We have not seen a tremendous decline in property value as in other parts of the country. However, we have seen property prices stabilise and with the odd auction, the George and surrounding area property market has been very stable.”

Deacon says sales through their offices increased by 80 percent over the six months preceding September, with residential property in a variety of price ranges, as well as rural land and smallholdings, proving popular.

Oudtshoorn, however, did not escape the nationwide downward spiral in property prices. Elmarie Jacobs, CEO of Elmarie Jacobs Estates, says there is an oversupply of properties, with new listing requests made every week, resulting in a veritable feast for discerning buyers.

“Properties generally take longer to sell now because many sellers are still holding out and hoping for a high price. Buyers, however, are cautious and make offers of on average 10-20 percent lower than the advertised price.”

The town, it seems, is a buyer’s dream with many sellers settling for up to 40 percent less than their asking price.

And while it might sound like doom and gloom for sellers, who have to face the realities of what their homes can fetch, agents say they will be sure to get a deal when they buy again. “Sellers must remember that what they lose on the swings, they will make on the roundabouts,” says Levitt.

Fancourt

In recent months a slew of golf estate properties became available along the Garden Route as the property market slump hit home, with Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay being liquidated.

Auction Alliance chief executive Rael Levitt says although there is an oversupply of golf courses, in the long run the better positioned golf estates will remain a good investment although it will take time for the market to strengthen and demand to rise again.

His predictions are borne out by Fancourt in George, the first golf estate built on the Garden Route and host of major tournaments such as the President’s Cup.

Fancourt sales and marketing director Carl Reinders says Fancourt has been a secure investment for the last 16 years. He says despite an increase in the number of homes for sale on the estate, Fancourt is also seeing a significant increase in the number of enquiries from business people who want to settle their families in the Garden Route while continuing to commute for business.

The estate recently underwent a R42-million refurbishment that included a complete remodeling of the original 140-year-old Manor House into an exclusive boutique hotel with 18 luxury suites.

The shareholders also approved the redesign of two hotel restaurants.

“This investment signified a new era for Fancourt, presenting its first foray into the luxury boutique hotel market as part of its ongoing dedication to continuously upgrade and improve the property and its world-class facilities,” Reinders says.

Fancourt chief executive Kerrin Titmas says the investment also presented the local economy with a welcome boost, increasing job creation for the community.

Fancourt employs 378 permanent staff, making it one of the largest employers in the area. In the last 18 months it underwent a restructuring which saw a reduction of staff in some departments, while the sales department grew significantly to gear up for the estate’s future business growth.

PROPERTY TIPS

Rael Levitt

CEO Auction Alliance, countrywide

“There is no better time to buy than at the bottom of the property cycle… My sense is that we are bumping along the bottom right now and that it is a brilliant time to get into the market.

“The Garden Route is a unique, aesthetically beautiful part of the country where many people want to live and thus it will always hold value and be attractive to investors. My advice is that if you can get a ‘geluk’, move quickly because this historic period won’t last forever. “Buyers should secure their funding before they go shopping and move quickly.”

Contact: www.auction.co.za for your nearest branch

 Marcel Deacon

Susan Deacon Property Group, George

“Now is the time to invest in the George property market. The town has infrastructure, all amenities needed, top schools, great medical facilities and the airport which makes it the ideal place for investors.  If you have property and don’t need to sell, then don’t sell. If you are a buyer, by all means do your best to get into the market or expand your existing property portfolio and make property part of your future investment portfolio.”

Contact: [email protected] or 044 8746882

 Ling Dobson

Pam Golding Estates, Knysna

“Make sure that you are working with a reputable, qualified and knowledgeable agent who can answer all your questions. Take the stress out of your holiday investment purchase. Do your homework beforehand via the internet and try to get finance approvals/guidelines upfront.”

Contact: [email protected] or 044 382 5574

 Elmarie Jacobs

Elmarie Jacobs Estates, Oudtshoorn

“Now is not the time to sell unless you really have to because of personal circumstances. On the other hand, if you sell now for less than your asking price and you immediately buy again, you have the same advantages the buyers of your property had when they made a lower offer. Remember, cash is king.”

Contact: [email protected] or 082 783 2214

 Ricus Serfontein

Aida, Mossel Bay

“Sellers must realise that buyers are educated, and will only pay as much for the property as they perceive the value to be. I have seen over and over again that a neat, well-kept house just creates a much better atmosphere. If you are serious about selling, get your house in order.”

Contact: [email protected] or 044 691 1582

John Fuller

Chas Everitt, Plettenberg Bay

“Sellers must price their property realistically the first time or it will eventually sell for much less. Buyers should steer clear of new developments unless they can demonstrate strong recent sales successes.”

Contact: [email protected] or 044 533-5250

,

The Ostrich kings

Few industries in South Africa have as colourful a history with as dramatic fluctuations as the ostrich business. Unspeakable riches, royal associations and high-end fashion extravaganzas can be mentioned in the same breath as disastrous collapses, frustrations and disease.

WORDS  Athane Scholtz PHOTOGRAPHS Desmond Scholtz

In a business as extreme as the landscape in which they flourish, the strange-looking flightless birds of the Klein Karoo continue to capture the imagination of consumers and the loyalty of diehard farmers.

Kobus Potgieter is no ordinary farmer. He is ostrich royalty. No kidding. His great-great-great-grandfather Armaans first shot wild ostriches for their feathers in 1846 and bought the farm Rietfontein with the money he made. Kobus’ grandfather Koos was one of three brothers who by 1910 had accumulated 6000 birds, making them the owners of the largest working ostrich operation in the world. Albeit not as elaborate as the houses of some of the other “ostrich kings” of the time, Koos also built an “ostrich palace” at Rietfontein, where Kobus Potgieter and his family continue the family legacy.

But on the day South visited the world’s oldest working ostrich farm, there wasn’t an ostrich in sight – the week before they had all been slaughtered after one bird tested positive for the H5N2 virus, better known as avian flu. Far from defeated, Potgieter is already making plans to buy new breeding stock.

“Ostrich farming is not for the faint-hearted. It carries huge risks and the returns are relatively small. Many farmers have given up over the years, but there remain many who believe in an upturn. For me the secret lies in keeping the size of ostrich flocks manageable and farming with a variety of other products that are not as vulnerable to fluctuations.

Ostrich leather and feathers are mostly luxury items which will not do well while the world recovers from economic recession, but when things are better the quality of our products will prevail. It really takes only one very famous person to love ostrich products for the entire industry to benefit.”

Potgieter has reason to be optimistic. Not only has his family’s ostrich business survived everything fate has thrown at it, in real terms ostrich products continue to do well on the international market – and South Africa is by far the leading producer.

South African Ostrich Business Chamber CEO Anton Kruger says the country has 75 percent of the world market, with the demand for especially ostrich meat exceeding production by far. “In a world where healthy living is becoming increasingly important, ostrich meat is king. It is a tasty, soft red meat with almost no fat, is rich in protein and contains no hormones or additives. Ninety percent of our meat is exported to Europe and the East, and still we can’t keep up with the demand. Today almost every part of the ostrich is being used and the industry has a bright future, despite the challenges,” says Kruger.

About 70 percent of the country’s 700 ostrich farmers are to be found in the Southern Cape, 15 percent in the Eastern Cape with the remainder scattered around the country. The industry directly supports some 20 000 jobs in the farming and processing sectors, and the ostrich business is responsible for tens of thousands more jobs in the fields of tourism, specialist crafts, by-products, transport, feed and veterinary services. The industry is worth R2 billion per annum in foreign currency and has R2,5 billion invested in infrastructure.

In the 1970s, ostrich leather became a new earner for the industry after a specialist tannery was established in Oudtshoorn and design houses such as Hermes, Yves St Laurent, Christian Dior and Nina Ricci started incorporating the supple, durable and distinctive leather into their designs. “The leather colours well and responds well to processes such as suedeing, which lends itself to wonderful design interpretations. While handbags, shoes and accessories have always done well, new applications such as upholstery, jewellery, jackets and formal wear have attracted much attention in recent years,” says Kruger.

The worldwide recession hit the leather industry hard because it is a luxury item, he adds. “In an effort to not lose the market entirely, we’ve embarked on a project in which the chamber provides master students at leading overseas fashion design schools with tanned, dyed ostrich skins that have to be turned into fashion items. The best items will be prototyped and exhibited and the overall winner rewarded with a trip to South Africa. The response so far has been excellent and three schools have agreed to take the project further by including ostrich leather in the curriculum for senior students. Attracting the attention of industrial and fashion design students to this extraordinary leather is exceptionally important as they will become the trendsetters for the next generation,” says Kruger.

While feathers may have taken a backseat, they remain an important export material for fashion, entertainment and industrial use. About 350 000kg of feathers are processed by the Klein Karoo Group every year. Processing involves sorting, bleaching and dyeing in a wide range of colours before the feathers are stripped and turned into accessories such as garment fringing, multi-layer boas, shoulder capes, feather handbags, stoles, shawls, cushions and gift items. “The Moulin Rouge and Rio Carnival take thousands of kilograms of feathers every year to decorate the elaborate costumes of their trade. Even the tiniest feathers are dyed and used as confetti, which has become popular at weddings over the last few years. On the industrial front, ostrich feathers are used for their exceptional anti-static qualities in rollers that swipe the surfaces of vehicles just before the last layer of paint is sprayed.”

Kruger says new applications for ostrich products continue to be found by ingenious farmers, artists and entrepreneurs. “From pet treats and food to stunning hand-crafted homeware and jewellery, the ostrich’s shells, skin and feathers continue to inspire. Teaming up with producers of quality products, the chamber continues to aggressively pursue the local and overseas market to ensure ongoing awareness and long-term sustainability.”

www.rop.co.za | www.ostrichsa.co.za | www.kleinkaroo.com | www.mosstrich.co.za

history

The first official records of trading in ostrich products in the Klein Karoo come from around 1863. After realising that overseas fashion houses were paying incomprehensible amounts for feathers that could be obtained relatively easily and right on their doorsteps, the local farmers caught the chicks and harvested eggs from wild ostriches. The region’s economy rocketed as the price of ostrich feathers continued to climb. To improve the feather quality, ostriches with superior curly feathers were imported in a hair-raising expedition from the Sudan in 1911 and inter-bred with the local wild ostriches – creating the registered African Black ostrich that has dominated the market ever since. The First World War in 1914, combined with the advent of the open-top motor vehicle which ruined feather fashions, caused a major crash of the industry. An abattoir was built in 1960 and a tannery in 1970, developments which led to the exportation of leather and meat. Today the industry is highly regulated and represented by the South African Ostrich Business Chamber. The Klein Karoo Group is the largest buyer, seller and exporter of ostrich products in the country.

Avian Flu

While H5N2 is not harmful to humans, infected birds are culled to prevent it from spreading to other farm animals, where the virus could mutate into more harmful strains. Stringent regulations demand that an entire flock must be destroyed, including eggs and chicks, if just one bird in the flock tests positive.

The most recent outbreak of bird flu in April this year was considered the most severe in history because it hit the heart of the industry in the Klein Karoo valley. Compounded by a weaker Rand and one of the longest droughts in living memory, which was only recently broken, the industry is expected to only recover fully in about three years. “In accordance with international requirements, the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) suspended all ostrich meat exports. While some processing activities for the local market have resumed, the process of re-entry in the European Union is complicated and we will probably only export meat again by October or November,” says Anton Kruger, SA Ostrich Business Chamber CEO.

At the time of going to print, some 27 000 ostriches had been culled on 23 Klein Karoo farms where birds tested positive. In cases of age appropriate birds, the skin and feathers were salvaged, but all meat was incinerated.

Kruger says while government compensates farmers, other producers are experiencing cash flow problems because no movement of ostriches is allowed in the quarantine area. “Despite these set-backs, the farmers of the Klein Karoo are resilient and have proved for more than a century that they can produce the very best and they will continue to do so.”

Ostrich Tourism

The farmers of the Klein Karoo have long realised that ostriches alone will not sustain them. Cleverly turning the funky-looking birds and beautiful farms into interesting attractions, the industry has successfully introduced show farms, ostrich riding and racing, tours, accommodation and restaurants serving ostrich meat and egg. On farms and in towns such as Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp, beautiful examples of “ostrich palaces”, churches and other buildings form part of an extensive heritage tourism component.

www.oudtshoorn.com

www.oudtshoorninfo.com

Ostrich Products

Leather, Leather Bags and Accessories

Cavalli, Great Brak River

www.cavalli.co.za

Cape Cobra Leathercraft, Cape Town www.capecobra.co.za

Christin, Cape Town

www.globaltradecentre.com/christin/

Karoo Classics, Stellenbosch and Cape Town www.karooclassics.co.za

Lorenzi, Johannesburg

www.lorenzi.co.za

Lugro Ostrich, Oudtshoorn

www.lugro-ostrich.co.za

South Cape Leather Tanning, Mossel Bay www.scot.co.za

Ulka Designs, Cape Town

www.ulkadesigns.com

Via La Moda, www.vialamoda.com

Woodheads, Cape Town (leather) www.woodheads.co.za

Furniture

Resonance, Cape Town www.resonanceonline.co.za

Ostrich Shell Creations and Mosaic

Avoova, Cape Town

www.avoova.com

Feathers

Feather Frenzie, Port Elizabeth

Table décor

Klein-Karoo www.klein-karoo.com

Ostrich Emporium, Port Elizabeth www.ostrichemporium.co.za

 

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Executive Therapy

When you’ve worked hard to get to the top, you expect the best: business class travel, top-end hotels and silver service professionalism. But where do you go when the pressure gets too much to bear?

WORDS Gareth Pretorius PHOTOGRAPHS Colin Stephenson and Raquel de Castro Maia

With great power comes great responsibility, but often great responsibility brings on even greater stress. As a result, and particularly in South Africa, top business people tend to live on a knife-edge of anxiety caused by economic pressure, dire political turmoil, crime and environmental degradation to name but a few societal ills. Many of these executives try to deal with all the angst by immersing themselves in excesses that malevolently masquerade as stress relievers, such as cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine and drugs – pharmaceutical and otherwise. Unfortunately these indulgences are no help at all and often amount to either thinly veiled attempts to ignore the deep-seated depression many of them feel on a daily basis, or offer a one way whirlpool into illness.

It really is no wonder then that every Thabo, Dick and Jannie have written self-help books or are offering some form of healing. But South Africa’s executives desperately need to look at their problems differently; or they need someone else to discover better solutions to the cycles of stress and self-inflicted inner turmoil.

Enter Dr Herman van Rooyen, a medical practitioner whose extensive experience, training and knowledge has given him the foresight to establish an Executive Stress Recovery Unit in George, in conjunction with the Neurocare healthcare group and the KeNako Golf and Sport Academy. It is just one of two centres in the country focusing on this niche market, the other being the Rustenburg Hydro in Stellenbosch, also managed by Neurocare.

With glorious vistas of the Outeniqua Mountains ranging above the rolling fairways of the Kingswood golf course, the modernistic facility, to be known as “KeNako Executive” within KeNako, is an ideal location for CEOs and top businesspeople to escape the stress or problems they are experiencing in an upmarket environment, while benefiting from across-the-board therapeutic treatment on a variety of levels. With a laid-back confidence, Dr van Rooyen explained to South what he, Neurocare and KeNako are aiming to achieve with the project.

“We wanted to create an upmarket programme. A lot of these top end businesspeople who run into problems don’t want to be admitted to a rehabilitation institution, such as an alcohol unit for example, because of the stigma that might come with it. Although many of these people manage big companies, they sometimes forget to manage their own lives. Here, the person gets admitted into a five-star, hotel-like facility and then receives a full assessment by a doctor and a tailor-made, medical-based, individual plan is drawn up. And whatever the person needs, they have access to – whether it’s special treatment, medication or sessions with a clinical psychologist to help them with a psychological issue, or a biokineticist or physiotherapist to help them with physical ailments.”

The unit aims at a holistic approach to healing problems, the cause of which is often underlying. The facility therefore offers a full range of specialists, both from George and rotational doctors who are part of the Neurocare group, to focus on the needs of each individual. But as Dr van Rooyen points out, guests are not constantly bombarded with doctor or psychologist sessions. Rather, they are afforded the opportunity to get away from their usual lifestyles on a “therapeutic break” in order to have some time to relax, take stock, adjust previous negative patterns and so be in a position to return to their families and jobs in a far stronger mental and physical state.

“Apart from just medical treatment, what we’re trying to do is encourage these guys to change their lifestyles. We hope to send them back home after their stay with better life skills. We obviously also have constant feedback, and ongoing follow-up after they leave.”

As the Neurocare website states, their aim is to restore each individual “to complete health by focusing on aspects of body, brain and mind. [They] combine comprehensive, specialist health recovery programmes with upmarket recreational activities to achieve best results.” Everything at the facility is high-tech and state-of-the-art, from neuro-lab testing to specialized sport therapies, from biokinetic programmes to sleep and energy restoration courses.

The group has a number of specialist clinics around the country focusing on brain care and physical rehabilitation. Here on the Garden Route there is the neuro-rehabilitation and substance-abuse centre in Knysna, the memory unit at Blue Mountain Retirement Village in George, focusing specifically on issues such as dementia, pseudo-dementia and Alzheimer’s, and now the new Executive Stress Recovery Unit. KeNako is also now the home to a Sports Injury Clinic and Rehabilitation Centre that Dr van Rooyen has established in conjunction with other team members, including a biokineticist, sports psychologist, dietician and physiotherapists.

A passionate sporting enthusiast himself, the project will benefit from his years of experience both at home and abroad, where he has worked in New Zealand with top physiotherapists setting up a sports medicine practice in Palmerston North, now home to the New Zealand Rugby Academy. He is registered with the American Sports Medicine Association and has worked extensively as a maritime physician, running medical centres on cruise liners. He also has substantial experience in hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is highly rated as an adjunctive treatment for brain injuries, sports injuries, burns and even cancer treatment.

“There’s a big sporting culture here in the Southern Cape,” says Dr Van Rooyen. “From the successful Eagles rugby team, to golfers, runners and cyclists, but there isn’t actually a specialized sports rehabilitation centre like you find in some of the larger cities around the country. We felt there was a need for this. We’re hoping to put George on the map. There’s such a lot of potential in this area. So here at KeNako, it’s not only perfect for sports injury therapy, but the executives can come here and play golf, they can go cycling, hike in the mountains or go to the beach as part of their treatment.”

When Van Rooyen initially conceived of the project, he and a friend were hoping to start a step-down facility in the area, a recovery centre for people who aren’t sick enough to stay in hospital, but also not well enough to go home. Then after connecting with KeNako and liaising with Neurocare from Cape Town, which was looking at expanding into the greater Western Cape region, the emphasis shifted from a step-down facility towards stress management, neuro-rehabilitation, specialist sports therapy and executive/individual health and wellness, which is becoming ever more important in today’s world. After 18 months of negotiations and planning, KeNako Executive has opened its doors to both local and international clients.

The rapid actualization of the project could in a large way be attributed to the commanding, professional attitude Dr van Rooyen exudes. As he says, “Everything in life is negotiable, except quality,” and if this personal motto continues to be injected into the project, the country’s stressed out businesspeople, injured sporting enthusiasts and others looking to improve their health and wellness can rest assured. Here, in the glorious Garden Route, quality help is at hand.

Neurocare

086 111 3438

www.neurocare.co.za

KeNako Sport Academy

044 874 0370

www.kenakoacademy.com

KeNako Sports Academy

KeNako aims to become a global leader within the Sports Academy, Sports Science Institute, and Health & Wellness arenas. Although the academy was built around sporting disciplines, it offers a great deal more.

This multi-discipline training and development institution incorporates the latest research, technology and the abilities of consummate professionals into tailor-made programmes for a wide range of markets: school-going students who stay on the premises; school leavers who enjoy golf and wish to take some time off before embarking on their chosen career path; and golfers of all levels, from recreational to professional. All are given the opportunity to fine tune their game on every level, including mentally, physically and technically.

For the health conscious, it is an opportunity to enjoy a personalized Health & Wellness programme that will positively influence their lives.