Kyle Heneke has a spring in his step as he walks to greet me. Although he’s wearing his mask, I can see the smile in his eyes. Known as “Akker” to his peers in Idas Valley, this tour guide and owner of Valley Cultural Tours makes you feel instantly welcome in his presence.

Within minutes of our conversation beginning, Kyle’s passion for his neighbourhood is obvious. As a young coloured resident of Stellenbosch, he is focused on providing visitors and locals the opportunity to experience the “real” Stellenbosch – the parts of the town that are a step away from the postcard “prettiness” of the mid-town and university.

Raising awareness about his community

While completing an internship at the Stellenbosch Museum in 2017 as a tourism student, Kyle was asked what his plans were for after graduation. Although Kyle was not sure of the answer to this question, he did know that he wanted to use his newly acquired skills to raise awareness about the history of the coloured community in Stellenbosch, specifically in Idas Valley – an area he is intimately familiar with.

Kyle admits that he was not always a “model child” growing up, and that many people in his community, including some of his teachers, did not foresee a bright future for him. Kyle however had bigger dreams for himself, and chose to persevere, eventually choosing Tourism over Education as his study direction (he is still planning on completing a PGCE at some time in the future).

Valley Cultural Tours – versatility and variety

In 2019, Kyle registered Valley Cultural Tours as a business, aiming to operate as a tour guide in the Western Cape while at the same time offering experiences locally that provide the opportunity to learn more about the traditions, heritage, and culture of Stellenbosch by means of community interaction.

Kyle is registered as a tour guide in the Western Cape and is able to offer services as diverse as a tailormade Garden Route itinerary, a walking tour in the Township, or a short airport or hotel transfer. Kyle is ideally positioned to guide visitors around the Winelands or provide hop-on, hop-off wine tasting tours. He can also comfortably accompany clients as they sample various cuisines on offer in the province and is equally at home hiking or facilitating outdoor team-building activities.

Got wheels, will tour!

 Valley Cultural Tours currently has a 5-seater and a 7-seater vehicle in their fleet and are hoping to include a larger minibus in the near future. They can also source larger vehicles if the need arises. While Kyle also has other guides and drivers that he can subcontract services to, he is hoping that in the near future he will be able to expand the business to take on more permanent staff.

Building business – and tackling Covid

The Ranyaka Building Business Programme has been of huge value to Kyle as a young business owner. “So, they’re basically helping me with developing my business more and more”, he says, “So far I have had workshops (including) marketing, and using Google Sheets and tomorrow there is a social media platforms workshop… and they help a lot with the marketing as well.” Through the programme, Kyle also has access to skilled professionals such as bookkeepers and mentorship by an experienced person in the tourism industry.

 While Covid has been a challenge for his business, and he has had to focus his attention on the local tourist market, Kyle also describes how he believes that support from within his community would make a positive difference to his success. He believes that a community needs a mindset of support and upliftment from within, and not just from outside sources.

“Something positive will come along”

Kyle says that the biggest lesson he has learned so far is to “stay humble, believe in your dreams, and know where you are heading.” He says that knowing what his goals are is what motivates him, even when things are tough. “I had a permanent job, and I couldn’t focus on my tours, so I decided I’m just going to go… so I went for 6 or 7 months without income… I thought I made a huge mistake, but then big doors started to open, I joined Ranyaka earlier this year, I joined the “Township and Village” team so it started to get right. Whenever I get negative, something positive will come along and happen.”

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

 Kyle believes in the importance of small businesses because “every business was once a small business. Rome wasn’t built in a day.” This entrepreneur’s mom is also a business owner, and he attributes his entrepreneurial spirit to her. He says that growing up he watched his mom work to uplift their family and improve their lives, and it is her dedication and perseverance that motivates him. His mom’s example is reminder to him that you do not just have to accept your circumstances and you can work towards the life to aspire to.

Kyle’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is “Chase your dreams. Never stop believing. Believe in yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it.”

{Professional images by Lizelle Lötter Photography}

Stellenbosch is one of 9 towns that is part of Nedbank’s Proud of my Town (PoMT) initiative. Ranyaka is the national implementation agent for PoMT. Building Business is one of ten programmes that forms part of the over-arching PoMT initiative.