Startup Hour With Jo Pope

Jo Pope and Startup Junction founder Matthew Grollnek
Jo Pope and Startup Junction founder Matthew Grollnek

Starting with a short story of how she moved to Zambia in 1988, Jo Pope starting out working on a safari camp which was owned by a man who turned out to be her future husband, Robin Pope. The safari camp was one of the biggest inbound tours in Zambia and she helped manage it for over 22 years.

Speaking on being an entrepreneur, she denied being one, stating that she didn’t always want to end up with the career paths she’s been through. She’s been stumbling over herself and found herself in many jobs, from managing a safari company to aviation to media to being on the boards of over 8 companies.

What she’s learnt over the years

Having depended on common sense, which she said with a playful laugh has in abundance, Jo admitted she only started reading business management books about 5 years ago, even if her businesses had done well before she started reading about managing them.

She urged the Startup crowd to always decide firstly if they want their business to be run by a sole player or if they need a team, and if decided on  hiring a team, to choose one with key people who know their roles well.

She also stressed the importance of networking and getting as many contacts as possible, never burning bridges with anyone because it’s a small world and we never know when we might need someone we brushed off.

About Aviation

Initially having being forced to take the role of overall director in Zambia for the airline Airlink after the Managing Director bailed and left the company and its financial woes, she admitted she did not know how to properly manage the airline and things went downhill from that moment. The company ended up in debt and had to be sold off.

The problem was that the top line of the business line was being taken care of while the bottom line was unattended to. Every company should know that the bottom line feeds the top.

About Mojo New Media

In 2014, Jo joined Mojo which had been founded by John Mwanza (shown below) as Director and it has now grown to a small, close knit work family that plays and works together.

John Mwanza, Director of Mojo New Media
John Mwanza, Director of Mojo New Media (Source: Mojo website)

She encouraged business owners in a creative environment not to hire the same type of people, they should all have something special and be an asset to the team. Aside from the internal affairs, she said everyone should make friends with their competition, even though currently that’s not a thing in Zambia yet.

About 5 Year Plans

Jo told every startup owner to have a plan or end up flip-flopping around. The business climate in Zambia changes unexpectedly so entrepreneurs should be flexible, ready to adapt to any abrupt changes.

However, any decisions made today by any startup owner/entrepreneur will determine what action is taken later on, whether to take an alternative route or stick to the initial one, for the sake of the business.

Know Your Business

Most just start a business for the sake of owning one, without knowing what could make them special. Know what makes your business different from others and work on making that a core point that no one else can compete to. There will always be someone else offering the same product/service but it’s up to you to make it stand out.

 Her Motivation

Not money. For Jo what keeps her going is the need to see things done and to succeed. Even though she sits on the boards of about 8 companies, she doesn’t get a salary from most of them. They could make her money in the future but for now she just wants to see them work out.

Jo Pope then went on to answer the following questions from the crowd:

1. Did you hire friends?

Carefully. Don’t just hire friends and family because you can, make sure they can do the job.

2. How did you get the idea to sell the airline, and what did you consider first?

It took 2 years to make a final decision to put it up for sale. When the Managing Director left, the workload increased and eventually I got tired of it. We went for the first offer we got and now looking back I regret it because we could have gotten much better for it.”

3. How do you work in environment where intellectual property is not respected especially when you try to work on ideas with competitors?

As you network, observe your competition closely. Work with the ones you feel you can trust. Leave the others out. Always trust your gut.


As usual Startup Hour was very infromative and mind-opening. It always shows budding entrepreneurs that you don’t always start at the top, but rather work your way there. As seen from Jo Pope’s story, we learned that sometimes not having a plan about your career may lead you into very exciting opportunities, as long as you’re focused and work hard in each one.

Join as at the next Startup Hour. It’s every first Wednesday of the month at Protea Hotel by Arcades Shopping Mall. For more details contact founder Matthew Grollnek on Twitter here, or simply follow the Startup Junction on Twitter and Facebook, here and here respectively.


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