Ashlanders: Kyle Hopkins

When 35-year-old Kyle Hopkins is not crunching numbers for bomb-search projects, he is arranging tennis trips to Vietnam for people like him who enjoy tennis and travel.

Though juggling two very different jobs can be a stretch, Hopkins has found balance by making sure he never loses sight of his primary goal, finding happiness in his work, whatever it is.

"I heard a quote once that said something like, 'The really wise person can't tell the difference between playing and working,'" Hopkins said. "That's how I want my life to be. I want to always enjoy work."

Through his new company, Walkabout Tennis, Hopkins offers tennis playing trips and tours of Vietnam, a country he adores and knows very well. Hopkins, who was raised in Indonesia and has lived throughout Asia, sees the business as a way to share Vietnam with other tennis players, and to build cultural bridges in the process.

Alan Steed, manager of the Ashland Racquet Club, said Hopkins is on the right track.

"Kyle's business is a great idea, and I think it's going to succeed," Steed said. "He's a wonderfully nice person with enormous enthusiasm about sharing his passion for tennis and his love of Vietnam."

Hopkins spoke with the Daily Tidings about Walkabout Tennis and the cultural connections that can be made on a tennis court.

DT: How long have you lived in Ashland?

KH: We've lived in Ashland a little over two years, but we've been in the area for about five years. Ashland has such great open spaces and amazing public facilities. I love all the tennis courts. There are so many great places to play tennis. The Ashland Tennis and Racquet center is great, too. It's a wonderful facility with great people. We love living here.

DT: What brought you to Ashland?

KH: We were living in Portland. I came to work at Sky Research, a great local company.

DT: Talk about the company and your job there.

KH: It is a technology company that focuses on cleaning up military sites, primarily finding unexploded ordnances, different types of bombs — for example, the bombs that were used during military practice times that for whatever reason did not explode. When military sites close or are redeveloped they have to identify the still-live ordinances out there. I'm a project cost analyst. I work on various projects tracking the budgets and forecasts, manage the various security policies and try to help out in other ways that I can.

DT: How did you come to start Walkabout Tennis?

KH: I studied for my MBA through the university of Hawaii in a program based in Hanoi, Vietnam. When I was there, tennis was really popular and I started playing a lot. Since I've been back in America, I've been thinking a lot about the opportunities for people here to really experience a culture and be a part of the landscape, not just taking pictures or walking past something. It struck me that, by playing tennis, you are really engaged in what's happening in that culture. You don't just play, you have conversations and learn about people. That's sort of how I got the concept. I think this is my way also to reconnect with Asia, where I grew up and lived a long time.

DT: Where in Asia did you grow up?

KH: I grew up in Indonesia. My parents still live there and I have friends there. After Vietnam, Indonesia is the next place I'm developing for trips and tennis.

DT: How do you balance work at Sky Research with starting your own company?

KH: Sky Research is a fantastic place to work. It's a great employer and a great job. Walkabout Tennis would have remained a concept if if wasn't for that. Also, I learned to wake up early. I wake up and work on itineraries and pricing or the website, then I go to my other job. There's always a way. Besides, I'm not in a rush to make Walkabout Tennis hugely profitable or large. I want people to have a good experience. I enjoy both my jobs.

DT: What sort of steps did you take to make your business happen?

KH: When I was in Vietnam, I worked in a travel company that has a fantastic infrastructure throughout Indochina. I e-mailed a friend at the company and told him about the concept of Walkabout Tennis. Since then, I've been working with the travel company and developing the trips. I have lined up the best support staff, guides and tennis coaches. Each trip is personalized to people's interests. In Vietnam, there is also great shopping, art and food, of course.

DT: Who do you want the business to attract?

KH: I want the business to attract people who are interested in tennis and who want to experience another culture. When you know the country, it is easy to find people to play tennis with or to set up matches. I used to play with a former North Vietnamese army general. After tennis, we would have some food or beer and just learn each others stories. Tennis players tend to stay close to home, but travel and tennis work very well together.

DT: Tell us about something that is challenging for you.

KH: My challenge really is getting the word out more about my business. My personality and my training and experience is administrative. I started Walkabout Tennis with a strong business foundation and tackled all the details, but I'm not a sales or promoter personality.

DT: Talk about something you've done that makes you proud.

KH: I'm proud that WalkAbout Tennis exists right now. I'm proud that I was able to move from an idea, a concept, to a solid business. It exists and people can explore and play tennis in one of the safest and most interesting and beautiful places in the world.

DT: Tell us about your family.

KH: I have an amazing family, both here and in Indonesia. Here I have my wife, Sunshine, and our two children, a son and daughter. Sunshine and I met in Oregon and lived in Vietnam. About seven months after coming back to Oregon our son was born. Our daughter was born here in Ashland. She's almost 2 years old. My son has been playing tennis. He likes it. He likes a lot of sports. We want our children to travel, to love travel as much as we do.

DT: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start a business?

KH: I would say don't think about starting a business. Think about yourself, your hopes and your enjoyment. If you just want to start a business, there are heaps of books and opportunities, but if you think about what you want to achieve, how you can help people and better yourself you'll get something more meaningful and you'll have the drive to get it started. Finally, make sure you have fun with what you're doing, be sure it makes you happy.

For more information about Walkabout Tennis, go to

Angela Howe Decker is a freelance writer who lives in Ashland. Contact her at

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