This feels exactly like writing my obituary. Speaking of obituaries, the one accomplishment of my life I would like mentioned come that final farewell is, ‘Nicky considered her greatest work achievement as playing a role in creating over 4000 jobs across Africa and India.’ Yes, finding beautiful wilderness locations, building handsome lodges, hotels and restaurants, choosing and installing perfect finishes and furniture, and preparing delicious meals are one thing. Finding, training, inspiring, growing and working alongside people who share your purpose is surely the greatest gift of all. My final blog as founder, CEO, chef-trainer, guest-delighter, guest-finder, nagger-in-chief of Angama on 28 June 2022 will be dedicated to the remarkable men and women who have accompanied me on this madcap adventure of a lifetime.
If one more person asks me any of the following questions, I will simply have to bop them on the nose: 'Retire? You will be bored stiff.' 'You know you won’t last a minute?' 'Why?' 'Have you really given this some thought?' 'How are you going to fill your days?' 'This is not really retirement, is it?' Blah blah. What these caring people don’t know is that this is my 4th attempt at retirement and this time it is for real. Take it from me.
After 15 rollercoaster, wonderful years at CC/Conscorp/CCA/CC Africa/&Beyond and growing that business from 3 lodges in South Africa to 55 across 6 African countries, including 4 in India just because, I firmly told Steve in 2009, 'I am done and done'. We scampered around Latin America for a couple of exciting but fruitless years and I experienced the great joy of being on Babylonstoren’s launch team. Then one fine day in April 2013 Steve’s phone rang. This was followed by a swift departure for Kenya and on his return, beaming from ear to ear, told me to forget about retirement because we were going to build one (little) last lodge. Little indeed. 0 to Nicky; 1 to back-to-work.
After the heart-breaking loss of Steve in 2017, only 2 years after we opened our delicious (huge) monster up on the edge of the Rift Valley, I was asked by my board to please take over as CEO. Just for 12 months, they said. The title of my memoir will be one of the following: The Unwilling CEO; The Unwitting CEO; The Pretender. This was absolutely the last role I ever wanted. But of course, I stepped up and carried on. 0 to Nicky; 2 to stick-at-it-girl.
After a smashing 2019 and with the business looking set to soar, I asked my board 'Pleeeeeeease may I retire on 31 December 2020?'. Done, said the board. And then something happened on 16 March 2020 that blew that right out of the window. President Kenyatta closed the country, and I withdrew my retirement request. No ways could I jump ship during a pandemic. 0 to Nicky; 3 to Covid
Okay, I said but how does 30 June 2022 sound? Now I was starting to whimper and whine. Yes, said the board, as they simply couldn’t stand this unseemly behaviour a moment longer. So, if anyone thinks this is a knee jerk decision, please reread what I have written. The business is flying, the team is the best, opportunities are a-plenty and Mitch is (more than) ready to take over and grow Angama to greater heights. My beloved Kate will carry on doing what she does best — telling our story and finding the lifeblood of our business: guests and more guests. I am so proud of what she has achieved since before we welcomed our first guests nearly 7 years ago.
This is not goodbye as I will be on (the other side of) the board table; I will remain as a shareholder and I will be buzzing in Mitch’s ear for the next 18 months. What fun that will be.
So please don’t ask me ‘What next?’ as I have no clue.
Filed under: Inside Angama
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