Jeff: Showing the township in a different way

Posted on May 19, 2013

Showing off the township in a way that doesn’t make people feel like they are baboons.

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I was born and raised in Alexandra. Three years ago, when I was eighteen, my hockey coach (who frequently dropped me off at home after practise) turned to me and said: “I would like to see the township, when you are free to show me.”

So I lent him a bike, and I took another, and although they were both pretty shabby, my first bike tour of Alexandra commenced. He enjoyed it so much he called fourteen of his friends to come do the same. But for that trip, we used a mini bus.

 

With the money I was paid, I bought more bikes, and really made an effort to enter the tourism market. Why bikes you say? Because of the history of the township, certain members of the public are afraid of getting in to it. I was been born and raised in Alexandra, and I have never been a victim of theft or any other kind of crime. So my purpose is to change that entrenched perception. Not to mention when tourists drive past in a taxi, its like we are in a drive-through zoo. But we are not animals. We are people, and we don’t live in a dump.

 

Three years ago, when my first tours started, I registered my business: Alexandra Bike Tours (Pty) Ltd. Now I employ three people from the township, and the company has offices in Alexandra, and will soon opening up offices in Sandton. We operate from and market at over 23 hotels in Sandton and 40 others from around the Johannesburg area.

 

When I first started, I would find that every time I placed a poster in the lobbies of the hotels, the concierge would take it down and throw it away as soon as I stepped out. I figured this was because I am young. So I had to contact Brochure Management and have them advertise in the hotels on my behalf. I laugh about it now, but it was quite painful then.

 

My favourite part about my business is that, like an extension of the culture in Alexandra, people have the opportunity to engage with the community of Alexandra – an experience which I am told the community loves, because it enables them to own their stories, and interact with the people who have come so far to see their lifestyle. Furthermore, it boosts the self-esteem of the community because it reminds them that not everyone thinks that they are worthless.

 

I went to the United Kingdom last week, to advertise my business, and to further understand the cultures and ways of life of my key clients.  The experience was the complete opposite of what I have been groomed to know from growing up in the township. Unlike at home, people in the UK seem to keep to themselves. Whereas here, because we live life outside, we grow up to interact with other people. And that is the driving component of my business: interacting with a public that  people otherwise might never have understood.

 I am inspired for the future. You should be too. I am youngpreneur

 Jeff