Bheki Dube, 25, is the young trailblazer behind this Johannesburg inner-city-based business that offers locals and tourists a glimpse of the urban jungle’s hidden treasures on foot, as well as affordable hostel accommodation.
Born and raised in Troyeville, east of Johannesburg, Dube was exposed to a multi-cultural society, which encouraged him to think out of the box.
He recalls, “Growing up in Troyeville was exciting! My neighbourhood had artists and black consciousness activists, who made me fall in love with the city.”
After high school, Dube was not to sure about his path, so he took a gap year, later deciding to pursue his passion of photojournalism, which he studied at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown.
In 2009, he had the opportunity to work for the Bioscope Independent Cinema in Maboneng, where he plied his trade as a photojournalist.
“But I wanted to widen my lens,” he explains, “so I started a company called Main Street Walks, which offered tours of the inner city.”
But he didn’t feel that people were getting the real experience because their tour usually only lasted three hours, which meant that they only got to experience a small snapshot of life in the city. “So while I was taking pictures at some hostels, the idea of strengthening my business
model came alive,” Dube says. “That was the birth of Curiocity Backpackers. At the time, it made sense to open a business in Maboneng, which was gaining popularity because of its vibrant culture.”
Dube says working from an early age encouraged him to pursue his dream of being an entrepreneur and shaped his business DNA. At age 21, he officially opened Curiocity Backpackers and made a conscious decision that the business would last for the rest of his life. The business has since grown and he has another branch in Durban.
He says, “I was very fortunate to have a mentor like Jonathan Liebmann, founder of Propertuity Properties, who helped me secure a building and found ways of acquiring funding, and I learnt the importance of investing back into the business in order to see my long-term goals come to light.”
READ MORE: New kid on the Maboneng block
Curiocity Backpackers has a team of designated tour operators at different locations. Their flagship city tour looks at the history of Maboneng, followed by a tour of 50 public artworks in the inner city. This is followed by a visit to the Mai Mai healers’ market in Jeppestown, which is one of the oldest markets in Johannesburg, then a visit at local restaurants where tourists get to taste proudly South African dishes.
“For the crowd that loves the nightlife, we offer a tour of local taverns and party hotspots so people can experience the inner-city vibe,” he says.
The packages they offer are affordable and start at R100. The exclusive package starts at R1 500 and allows visitors to also experience Soweto and its history.
His advice to other youngsters just starting out? “Surround yourself with like-minded people who share a vision for their business that’s similar to yours and learn from each other,” Dube says.