"When we get a chance to see how others live, it is an opportunity to appreciate what we have in our own lives or is the provided push that we need for us to do more. It opens a whole new scope of opportunities and perhaps things we never imagined in a career."- Julia Anne Creamer (On African Soil).
Where are on the planet are you currently based? Well it’s sunny and hot here, the birds are chirping, and browsing somewhere outside from time to time, you’ll find a majestic Kudu, or a little steenbok or even the odd ostrich. My company is fittingly situated in the heart of South Africa’s Bushveld Biome at the gateway to big game country, and close to an International Airport. You will find all of this, and me, in the Limpopo Province of South Africa...(FirstStep.me says the most descriptive introduction ever!)
You founded a Gap Year company called On African Soil, tell us more? The thought of leaving on a jet plane has always invigorated me. I have always loved travel, so directly after school I slung a bag over my shoulder and went out to explore the world. By its nature, the desire to travel is compounded by each new place discovered, by what you learn from new people, new places and new cultures. In spite of budgetary restrictions -I had to halt the travel march and take up permanent employment at various intervals I found a way to visit every continent in the world, sometimes as a traveler, sometimes as an employee, a tourist or even a resident. With this I got to understand the demands and logistics of travel.
On my travels in New Zealand to be specific, I found myself working in the marketing, advertising and sales industry. I learnt a lot about the Co-ordination of advertising, communication, events and public relations, and importantly how to provide a comprehensive service, based on ongoing relationship building, and the establishing of referral business.
You can see where I am going with the University of Life, and the odd course picked up on the way…
Then something happened along the way, and I ended up …wait for it…On African Soil! In Mozambique to be precise to take up the position as Joint General Manager of a 5 star diving resort. I loved it so much, I would have paid to do it–working with guests and assisting the local community with projects. It was an adventure, with a purpose, all nicely moulded into what we now do at On African Soil-the company I started!
Why are Gap years so important and what do you think people should experience/learn during one? Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the rules that society sets for us, yes it’s absolutely necessary to ensure that you have a good starting point after school. However there is a big wide world out there, and missing out on the experience of another culture and heritage would be unfortunate. No one should ever look back on life and say ‘Gosh I wish I had... ’ When we get a chance to see how others live, it is an opportunity to appreciate what we have in our own lives or is the provided push that we need for us to do more. It opens a whole new scope of opportunities and perhaps things we never imagined in a career. (FirstStep.me: well said!)
Was starting your own business always a goal and is your career better off for it? I always knew I was destined to be my own boss, I knew I could do it but I just needed the opportunity. Although it was not a mental goal, the events and opportunities along my life and career journey have lead me to On African Soil.
Is your work day planned or is it just a busy nonstop process? I am definitely a list girl, I write lists for lists. If I don’t plan my day and tick a whole lot of things off that list I don’t feel like I have achieved what I had set out to do for the day or week.
What are the biggest challenges that you see in terms of the current global economic climate for start-up businesses? Small businesses really have to work hard to stand out above the rest, there are company’s out there who have been around longer and therefore have a lot more experience, but that doesn't mean there is no room for a new company entering into a market. It’s a big wide world and space enough for everyone. It takes a good few years to get a business up and running, especially if you are on your own, you have to be a jack of all trades, which is fantastic as you learn so much. It is a good time to get all your ducks in a row to make sure your business is in perfect running order so that by the time the economic slump starts to lift you are ready with open arms. It is tough going but no one said it would be easy, the harder and higher the climb the more beautiful the view when you are at the top. (FirstStep.me takes notes...)
Where do you see yourself in ten years time? Wow that’s scary to think about! In ten years time, I am going to look back and smile on the success of On African Soil!
Do you believe that starting the day is best on a cup of coffee…? (The FirstStep.me team is coffee powered) I have to say I do enjoy my coffee in the morning, Coffee and a Rusk (A South African type biscuit). (The FirstStep.me team is reading up about combining Rusks with Coffee...will keep you all posted on that!)
What advice do you have for individuals looking to kick starting their own business? Everything takes time, so as long as you are not standing still and everyday you are getting closer to your goal then you are on the right track.
If you could name your own planet what would you call it? If I could name my own planet it would have to be O.A.S.is – ‘On African Soil is’.......whatever you make it!
Any inspirational words for the youth of the planet? It is important to be true to yourself and be proud of your individuality. Don’t wish your life away, the days fly by far too quickly and we are always aiming for what is ahead of us and forgetting to appreciate what is right in front of us. I have written my bucket list and aim to fulfil it....have you written yours?
About: Julia Anne Creamer is the founder of On African Soil, a Gap Year adventure company based in South Africa.