Simone Jacobs is a fulltime tour guide and owner of Bites and Sites Food Tours. Armed with a smile and endless insight on local hotspots, Simone spends her days sharing a love of local tourism with everyone she meets. She is also a mom of two girls and has a passion for sugar craft decorating, fitness and dancing.
When the global tourism industry came to a standstill in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Simone found herself in a very unique situation. She took ownership of a local walking tour business with a hope to rekindle a passion for local tourism. In July 2020, she became the new owner of Bites and Sites – Cultural Food Tours, offering guided walking tours that connect you to the heart and soul of Stellenbosch food.
When and why did you start your business?
I came from a 3-year stint overseas and found work as a booking agent at the Stellenbosch Adventureshop where I worked until 2011. I then decided to become a freelance guide and work from home. I became friends with the past owner of Bites and Sites food tours and started doing freelance guiding work for her until four years ago when I became a permanent guide and operations manager. The business started in September 2010 and I became the new owner on 1 July 2020
What is the one thing that you are most passionate about when it comes to your business?
I am passionate about my guests and sharing in their excitement when they experience our brilliant suppliers.
What has been the biggest challenge running a business?
In normal times – Consistently maintaining the highest level of quality no matter what the situation is. Now in COVID – it has been trying to attract local guests to keep the business open.
What has been some of the benefits or rewards of working for yourself?
Decisions I make are my own, although I do look for input from my colleagues, and the ideas I have led to reality. Also, I can add my own personal touch to how I treat my suppliers and guests making the relationship unique. I can also take off when I need to i.e. to help the kids with school, attend to any house admin etc.
What motivates you to keep going?
1. The product I have is unique to Stellenbosch and promotes job creation i.e. by supporting the local restaurants and artisans, we are ensuring they are advertised and hopefully more business comes their way.
2. I love people and by doing these tours I get to spend time with my guests as well as checking in with my restaurants.
3. I love Stellenbosch and burn to show people the way I experience it.
What tips can you offer to someone wanting to start out in this industry?
Ensure you believe in your product/ service that you are selling. Be ethical from the start. Don’t burn bridges with competitors; see if you can work together. Quality above Quantity in the beginning – Quantity will come later.
Working for yourself is the hardest you will ever work, but it is the most rewarding.
What tours do you have on offer right now?
Before COVID-19, we had 3 product offerings – we now have 2 additional new tours bringing the total to 5 products. Click on the tours below to find out more:
Classic Cape Cuisine Walk
The original food tour that introduces you to the authentic flavours of Stellenbosch.
Bites in a Box
Come and delight in the delicacies that have been uniquely created by our creative artisans who are motivated by “Thinking out of the box”.
Foodies on Foot
Send your taste buds on an adventure by savouring the handiwork of passionate food artisans whilst enjoying celebrated artworks in town.
Kayamandi Township Tour and Xhosa Lunch
Experience the true hospitality and creativity of township life.
Any exciting projects or business developments you have in the pipeline going forward?
I am working on bringing a voice-automated tour which will be available to purchase on Playstore. I am working with old clients of mine on starting a virtual tour too.
Just do it!
Three things you can’t live without?
Music, friends, my bank card
Connect with Simone on LinkedIn and be sure to check out the latest tours on offer at www.bitesandsites.co.za. They currently have amazing discounted tours until the end of April 2021 – so be sure to book your spot.
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