Braam Van Huyssteen clearly doesn’t believe in doing things by halves. It was only in 1999 that he opened his first Sport City store, followed in 2001 by the first of his Tekkie Town outlets. Now, not much more than a decade later, there are 185 stores. Much the same could be said of his time as a racehorse owner. It has only been three years since his bright dayglo yellow colours were first seen on a racecourse, yet today – just two years since he enjoyed his first winner in March 2010 – he owns 74 horses either outright or in partnerships, with thirteen different trainers. He enjoyed his biggest success to date when Grey Cossack won the Gr 2 Gold Vase at Greyville on Vodacom Durban July day in 2011, and that first Gr 1 success for Braam is surely coming. With plenty of young horses yet to make their presence felt, Braam van Huyssteen’s colours will become ever more regular visitors to the winner’s enclosure after races both big and small. A measure of just how much success Braam is having in both business and racing is highlighted by the fact that the race meeting at Kenilworth this Saturday 21st April 2012 is being sponsored by Tekkie Town. This is the 2nd consecutive year that this highly popular initiative takes place. Tekkie Town vouchers to the value of R50 000 will be given to winning owners, trainers and jockeys on the day. He is very much a new force to reckon with in racing, and we’re sure you’ll find his Profile both entertaining and informative.
What is your name and age? Braam van Huyssteen. Age 47.
What is your star sign and birthdate? Aries – 11- April-1965.
Where were you born? Johannesburg.
Where do you live? Fancourt Golf Estate, George.
Tell us about your family? Wife Charmaine, dam of daughters Lara 14 (miss perfect). Bianca 16 (my champion horse rider and the influence in my liking horses) and son Braam jnr 11 (ten tries as a prop forward last season). Hope I can find a race horse as promising as him.
Do you have a ‘nickname’? Not that I know of.
Favourite food? Peri-Peri prawns.
Favourite drink? J&B whisky.
Favourite music? Leonard Cohen.
Favourite sport? Golf and cricket.
Are you interested in soccer and if so, which is your favourite soccer team? Only since the World Cup in SA. I follow Swansea (English Premier League) as one of the owners, Brian Katzen, has horses including Grey Cossack with me.
What is your favourite holiday destination? Umhlanga Rocks in SA, and Wasserwendi in Switzerland, outside SA.
As a school boy were you always interested in buying and selling or did this passion start after you had completed your studies? I sold silk worms as a young boy.
What did you do to earn a living when you left school or did you study further? I went to Stellenbosch University (played u/19 and u/20 rugby) and sold fleece tops with the Maties name on.
How did it come about that you did the accounts for the Women’s Army College in George? After finishing basic training in the military I managed to change my posting from Rundu, on the Namibian border, to the Women’s Army College in George which was only three furlongs from my parent’s home. When I arrived, there were 2 men and 200 women. At 100/1 this was the type of odds we regularly get on a Carl Burger trained horse.
For how long were you involved with the college? Only 18 months, unfortunately. The war then came to an end.
Thereafter you joined your brother, Marius, who owned the Tropika Sport Store in George. At that time another store was opened in Mossel Bay. Did you run the store in Mossel Bay? Well, he had a store in George and my father found me a site in Mossel Bay at the same time as 10 000 contract workers arrived to work on the Mossgas project where I started a shop.
About 13 years ago the first Sport City (sporting goods) and Tekkie Town (just footwear) stores were opened in George. How many stores do you currently have? The first Sport City store opened on the 27th of May 1999 in George with the first Tekkie Town store opening in Somerset-West in June 2001. There are currently 185 stores.
Is your brother, Marius, a partner in all your businesses? No. He has an interest in Tekkie Town and one of my property companies.
When did you start franchising your businesses? We tried franchising in the beginning but subsequently took over most of them ourselves.
You have set very high standards as to how your stores should look and the service that must be given to your customers. Is your training outsourced or done in-house? Store lay-outs have been done with the help of our shopfitters but the rest is mostly done in-house.
Tekkie Town was founded in June 2001 and the 100th Tekkie Town was opened in Mossel Bay in 2008. That is phenomenal growth and must have taken great teamwork. Who are the team which helps you plan and organize this monumental task? General Manager: Mike Brown-11 years (Military strategist).
Ops Manager: Dawie van Niekerk-11 years (2 metres tall).
Projects and Marketing: Gert Claassens-16 years (Super fit runner).
Financial Manager: Ben Vermeulen-5 years (Epic cyclist).
IT Manager Willem Wait-5 years (The silent assassin).
HR Manager Stephan van der Merwe-3 years (CCMA proof).
Since then you have continued on an upward path and the group now has 185 stores. Do you have a figure in mind where you will stop expanding? Now on 185 stores and will keep opening more as long as it makes sense.
From the above figure how many stores have you kept? How many employees do you have working for you? Stores all owned, not franchised. More than 1000 permanent employees and up to 700 temps at times.
You recently won the South African chapter of the Ernst and Young World Entrepreneur Award. Are you the first South African to be awarded this honour and how excited were you to receive this? A South-African normally wins the Southern African chapter. It was very humbling and a big honour for everyone involved in the business.
In June you will meet in Monaco with 50 other winners from around the world to see who the World’s No 1 Entrepeneur is. Could you give us some idea just how this is decided and by whom? There will be a 3 day retreat where I will do a presentation of my business and then have an appointment for an hour session with the panel of judges which has been put together by Ernst and Young. The idea is to find, and reward, someone with a unique entrepreneurial spirit and success story stemming from it.
Your Tekkie Town businesses must take a great deal of your time, but you have, at the same time, managed to build up a nice business in horse racing. When did your interest in horse racing start? My daughter Bianca, now 16, got me interested about 4 years ago when buying 50% of Young Caesour whilst driving to Margate from Durban with Andy Williams and after overhearing Andy doing a deal with a breeder for this Caesour filly. From her first 7 runs she had 2 wins, 4 seconds and a fourth.
Your dayglo yellow colours have become an instant hit in South African racing. When did you get your first colours? Three years ago when I started racing.
Those colours came to the fore on July day when Grey Cossack won the Gold Vase at Greyville at huge odds of 50/1. Was that your biggest win yet and describe the feeling of winning on such an auspicious occasion? Did you have a tickle on the horse? Yes, it was my biggest win up to now and first Group 2 win. The best ever feeling experienced especially after running pretty much last in all 3 prep runs. I had 200k/3k the win, 100k/10k the place, a place double of 100k/3k with Young Caesour at 12/1 who ended up running 3rd. Yes, I had a tickle be it with my heart and not my head. I also won the pick 6 which paid 118k twice with Grey Cossack 50/1 and Fighting Warrior 12/1 as the outsiders and 4 favourites.
How many horses do you have right now and which are the various trainers that you are supporting? I have shares in or own 74 horses outright. Carl Burger has got the most with Greg Ennion second most in Cape Town. Mitch Wiese gets the not so good ones to win in PE. In Durban the majority are with Frank Robinson/Herman Brown, Pat Lunn and Dennis Drier.
How do you decide where to place your horses? I have to play Solomon but like to split them between Cape Town and Durban as I spend a lot of time in both Cape Town and Umhlanga.
Which was the first horse you owned and who trained it for you? Young Caesour: Herman Brown/Frank Robinson.
When and where did you have your first winner? Young Caesour, Clairwood 28 March 2010.
To date which do you rate as the best horse you have owned? Grey Cossack.
How many trainers do you have horses with at the moment? 13.
How many winners have you had to date? 23.
Which is the most exciting horse you own right now? Grey Cossack.
The KZN Winter season is about to get into top gear. Do you have any horses which you feel could be involved in any of the feature events to come? Grey Cossack in the staying races and Ann Trulove in the juvenile races for fillies.
Do you have a punt on your horses when you believe it has a really good winning chance? Absolutely.
Do you find that your racing interests are a good way to relieve the stress of big business or just a good way to relax away from the ‘office’? A good way to relax away from the “office”.
On a personal note do you think there is any way a big owner can break square on the training costs in the long run? No.
Do you have a racing manager or do you handle all the racing business on your own? Kerry Jack recently joined as racing manager. I am also actively involved.
How involved are members of your family in horse racing? Not too involved.
As an owner you probably watch racing very keenly, especially when one of your horses is racing. From the outside looking in do you think racing is ‘straight’? Yes I do watch racing keenly. Yes, racing is straight, just a few not so straight characters that should go and hustle somewhere else.
Have you any ideas as to how to bring more people, be they owners, punters or generally just those who like to watch horse racing, back to the racecourses? Anything in life is only impossible until you have done it. Having said that I think we should market racing to the massive emerging market which will be driving the SA economy in the foreseeable future.
Lastly, but certainly not least. The saying is that “Behind every great man is an accomplished and equally great woman” Does that apply to you? YES.