Listening to Douglas Hoernle share his journey is like climbing aboard a high-speed freight train; you are at once aware of its weighty cargo and the speed at which it’s moving. Doug is a driven and highly motivated young man who is always on the move and always busy with a next big venture.
His entrepreneurial flair can be traced back to primary school where, at the age of 10, he sat daydreaming in Grade 3 Maths class about starting a business before leaving high school. And that is exactly what he did. He made his first big profit selling rubber bracelets to his mates at St Stithians College. They were an emblem of school spirit and bore the school colours: white and blue. It was Doug’s first taste of entrepreneurship, but his parents made sure that it would also be his first taste of social entrepreneurship. They encouraged him to donate his profits to charity. He ended up doing a little bit more than that. With the help of some friends and Habitat for Humanity, Doug built a house for a woman in Ivory Park, a township outside Johannesburg. The experience left an indelible mark and the joy of making a difference is still what motivates him years after.
All Doug wanted to do was start businesses after high school. He gave no thought to studying further until, of course, his paths crossed with the Foundation. He vividly recalls the image of a snowboarder jumping off a mountain in the Foundation’s video presentation. This idea of entrepreneurship as a life of taking risks and embracing thrills resonated with him and he applied for the Fellowship.
Once he was awarded a Fellowship, he elected to study Business Science Finance (Honours) at UCT. Set on making the most of his time in the Winelands, he signed up for wine-tasting courses and became involved in the wine society at UCT. In time he became the go-to guy on campus for affordable wine with personalised labels and glasses and soon after that he launched the City Bowl Wine Market in Cape Town. His passion for the finer things in life – food, wine and spirits – continues to inspire him. He is currently in the process of setting up a craft distillery for producing craft South African gin.
The businesses Doug started during his varsity years and his involvement with the Fellowship laid the foundation for the future he was busy shaping – a future that sees him starting many more small businesses and using the stories of these startups to inspire more young South Africans to become entrepreneurs. He attributes a big part of this shaping process to his mentors, Pug and Joubert Roux, who continually encourage him to dream big and reach further. Just a few minutes in Doug’s presence reveals that he takes their advice seriously – always striving to do better and bigger things, and more than that, make an impact where it matters.
This passion for making a difference is most evident in his approach to our country’s pressing need for innovative education solutions. He first started thinking about business opportunities in education when he started a tutoring business with his brother. They lectured about 150 learners from surrounding high schools and soon noticed the lack of online education tools. Before long, he conceptualised and developed Rethink Education, an e-learning platform that allows high school learners to access content using a social platform while giving teachers the ability to track, monitor and observe the learners’ progress. He has already signed up a handful of high-profile schools like St Cyprians, Wynberg Girls’ High School, Groote Schuur High, Ridgeway College and Teach South Africa. His next step will be to take it to under-resourced schools once he has proved its viability.
For someone who has already achieved so much as a young man, Douglas Hoernle has his feet firmly on the ground. When asked what he is most proud of, he simply says, “I strongly believe that I have only put the first dot on my life’s page and still have the entire canvas to colour in.” He epitomes the Foundation Pillar of Achievement Excellence defined by the Foundation as the on-going pursuit of excellence with a tangible and specific focus on setting goals and a motivation to make a difference and leave a mark. Doug is well on his way to shaping a brilliant future for himself and his fellow South Africans. The Foundation is honoured to have been part of that shaping process and wishes him the very best with his future endeavours.