As part of our series of blogs on coworking in the countryside, we’re interviewing members at the Business Barn to understand more about what they do, how they work and what attracted them to working remotely here at the Barn. This week, we interview Pierce Synott of Jenman African Safaris. Stay tuned for more interviews from our diverse community.
Jenman African Safaris is a South African based tour operator and we offer tours and holidays throughout southern Africa, east Africa as well as Madagascar. Although we do sell directly to clients via our website, we are mostly geared to working with agents and outbound tour operators.
As it happens sales development and marketing for Jenman is only part of my work, I’m also working with Jenman’s sister company: Hideaways, which is a collection of eco-lodges currently in Zimbabwe and Mozambique (new lodges are in the pipeline…). As if that wasn’t enough, I’m also running our inhouse Grow Africa Foundation, which supports various projects in disadvantaged or rural communities close to our offices and lodges. Working with Grow Africa and local communities is both hugely rewarding and extremely humbling at the same time.
Long story… after university and a couple of years working in Dublin, in 1997 I moved to South Africa and got involved with setting up an overland truck company there. Not such a good idea when interest rates hit 23%! I branched into guiding and travelled much of South Africa as a guide before setting up my own niche tour operating business specializing in tailor-made holidays and special interest groups. After 12 years or so in tourism I sold the business and set off on a new challenge – food production, again starting a business from scratch. However, a partnership gone bad put an end to that in 2016. The position with Jenman offered the opportunity to combine a role in tourism as well as within the world of NPO’s as well as allowing me to travel both in Africa and Europe – what’s not to love?
Although tourism always sounds glamorous, the reality is 90% of my time is spent at a computer. I try and get in early, grab my customary window seat, set myself up with a cup of coffee and get cracking. As well as answering the mandatory deluge of e-mails that seems to come standard with most positions, I’m communicating with our agents throughout Europe and in and out of the Business Barn’s ‘phone booths’ for phone calls and online meetings. However there’s always time for a bit of banter with whoever’s in on the day and I like to break up my work-day with a lunch stop followed by a walk around the fields – fresh air, clear the head, and get some phone calls done.
After 21 years in South Africa, my family and I moved back to Ireland in July 2018. Being used to the busy Jenman office, working remotely from home was my worst nightmare: distractions, claustrophobic and unmotivating! I looked for options and a google search pulled up the Business Barn (as well as other hot desk options). Contrary to other spaces I had seen, the Business Barn was contemporary, airy, light, funky and offered those amazing view over fields, woods and wildlife (I’ve seen rabbits, foxes, deer, pheasants, buzzards…) as well as decent coffee. I’m now working 3 days a week at the business barn and once settled in I haven’t looked back.
Well, I’m writing this interview from Istanbul airport waiting for my connecting plane to Johannesburg and then onto Zimbabwe. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be spending time with the Dingani community (on the fringes of Hwange National Park). It’s not an easy time in Zimbabwe at the moment and due to the politics, the state of the economy as well as a pronounced drought life is very tough for this community who rely mostly on subsistence agriculture. Working to help them get through this year taking up quite a bit of headspace right now and the results of this trip will almost certainly lead to a few new projects to put in place over 2020.
With Hideaways we have recently opened a new lodge in Mozambique, which I will be visiting with some Nordic agents I’m hosting, as well as launched some sunset, sailing, cruises on the Zambezi close to the Victoria Falls. Later this month we’ll be opening a 2nd lodge in Hwange National Park, so exciting times ahead…
Best is to check out our websites: