Jenni was born in Kuruman in the Kalahari and grew up in Salt Rock, KZN. After graduating, she worked as a TV producer, political researcher and journalist in Durban and Joburg, before moving to London to interview movie stars for international magazines and to tackle British teen angst for UK TV shows. After marrying a fellow South African, they emigrated to Australia to start a family and set up a web design studio. In 2010 they relocated to France for a year and haven’t left. Jenni co-authored The Expat Confessions (2004) and co-wrote a chapter in the book Should I Stay Or Should I Go (2010). She’s happiest paddle boarding on the Med, writing, or sipping rooibos in the African bush.
Q: How did you start your business?
A: I’ve lived in the UK, Australia and France, but no matter where I am, my heart always skips a beat with pride when I hear an inspiring story about South Africans doing well anywhere in the world. And I’ve always cared about what’s going on back home.
I figured there would be other expats who felt the same, so I created SAPeople where we can celebrate and connect South Africans at home and abroad. I’ve always been a journalist (and used to interview all the Hollywood stars, including our Charlize Theron) and at the time I co-owned a web design studio which built and managed SAReunited, the biggest reuniting website in SA. I also co-wrote a book about SA expats. So, my journalism, web design, expat interest and SAReunited all combined in a fabulous way to help make SAPeople happen.
Q: What obstacles have you faced and how have you overcome them?
A: Google swallowed up most of our advertisers, and for a while I worked only for love and a belief that this site does so much to help bridge the gap between expats and those in SA – and for the greater good of South Africa. I never stopped believing in the site, and I submitted proposals to every bank and company who I felt could benefit by sponsoring us. They all said no. Until one said yes. I’ve now built close relationships with a few advertisers and sponsors who fit perfectly with our readers – and for whom I’ll always go the extra mile (more than Google ever would).
There are other obstacles – we could benefit from more investment. Facebook’s ever-changing algorithms (adapt or die.) Crazy insults on social media from people who forget that we’re people! Copycat sites.
I’ve learnt to not take anything personally, to enjoy doing what I love, have fun and just focus on SAPeople. Focus is key! We’re so blessed – contributors send us their photos and stories to share, and we receive messages daily from expats thanking us for connecting them to “home”, and from those at home thanking us for making them feel proud to be South African.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: My three daughters. Cassie dances to the beat of her own drum. Tara is an oasis of calm and testimony to the law of attraction. And Jadie is a truth missile who makes everyone feel like a movie star. I learn from them every day. I’ve also been inspired by Brand South Africa’s Pumela Salela who told me that before she makes a decision, she asks herself, “What would Mandela do? What would Jesus do?” And so now, when I face tough choices, I ask myself, “What would Pumela do?”