Outdoor adventure adds an exciting element to Soweto

THE ever developing Soweto township now boasts outdoor adventure activities such as quadbiking, paint-balling and go-carting at Powerpark in Orlando East.

Soweto Outdoor Adventures is owned by a 32-year-old emerging entrepreneur, Kgothatso Pooe. The almost two-year-old business is a recent innovation providing an exciting lifestyle element for Sowetans.

I could not pass up an opportunity to spend a day checking out their activities.

We kicked off with an adventurous game of paint-balling with two other colleagues. We were given instructions on how to operate the gun.

The instructor insisted, for our safety, that we wore full protective gear and helmets that only exposes our eyes. I had thought my opponents would wear different overalls to make them easier to spot, but learnt just before the game that they would wear the same colour as mine. This made it more tricky and exciting for all of us.

At the paintball game I was running and screaming my lungs out as I tried to duck and dive the paint bullets. I got shot several times in my back and legs. But I got my own back when I also pelted my opponent a few times. It was an exhilarating experience.

It was a series of firsts for me since I was also going to try out quadbiking for the first time. I thought it was going to be as tricky as driving a car.

But it's actually like driving a motorised cycle and easier than I thought. The brakes and accelerator operated from my right-hand side.

At the beginning I was a bit cautious and went along at a slow pace. But one got the hang of it, I picked up speed on my next laps. I didn't want to get off when my time was up.

Back to Pooe and his business.

He says he always had a flair for marketing, which helped him brand the business. He says his passion for and exposure to bikes as a child provided the seed for the idea.

"I come from a family that  runs businesses such as supermarkets, petrol stations and a bottle store in Soweto - from my grandfather to my dad and uncles," he says, adding the decision to take a leap to become his own boss was not something that terrified him.

Before he became self-employed Pooe worked for a branding agency as a senior account manager.

He explains how the business idea was conceived: "While sitting at home watching television, a group of soccer players from Wits had gone quadbiking in Fourways and that sparked the realisation that Sowetans are constantly having to leave the township to enjoy such activities elsewhere.

"It took me three months to do research, find a location and put funds together to start up the business," he says.

 Pooe says the location was the biggest strategic decision to boost or break his business idea.

It was meant to help him target clients who come to Soweto's first bungee jumping towers with similar interests in extreme sports and activities.

 Pooe has employed 10 people and his staff is recruited on the basis of social fitness. They spend a day in training as part of the selection process.

"I also take all my staff to other businesses that offer the same service and get them to participate as customers," he explains. "This allows staff members to see how the job is meant to be done. Continuous training is offered, especially in customer care."

 The initial capital to start Soweto Outdoor Adventures was funded by Pooe and his younger brother, Suping.

 He says friends and family members have been his biggest marketing tool since they helped spread the word.

"In addition we have our website, and run promotions on Facebook, and various trade shows. We also offer group discount vouchers, advertorials in newspapers. And we also network with tour operators that market the business to their clients."