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Despite her recent semi-retirement, Beryl Eichenberger brims with youthfulness. Her smile is enthusiastic, her short hair is streaked with purple, her laughter is infectious, and she speaks confidently and clearly.
“I would like to term myself as a ‘seenager’ – a senior teenager,” she said.
Eichenberger grew up in England, where she attended the Worthing Girls High School in Sussex and received a degree in fashion design from the West Sussex College of Art in 1966.
In 1969, she immigrated to Johannesburg, where she worked as a window dresser for two years before landing a job at Greatermans. She worked there for six years, doing public relations works and eventually becoming the Special Events Manager.
“Organising events was something that seemed to come quite naturally because it’s about logical progression and about being quite organised,” Eichenberger said. “And detail, detail, detail. That’s my mantra, I think, and follow-up, follow-up, follow-up.”
In 1978, she moved to Cape Town and worked for Woolworth’s until 1991, working with buying products and doing public relations work. After, she worked for The Argus Newspaper Group. During her tenure, the Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour, which she helped organise, grew from 15000 to 35000 entrants.
In 1996, Eichenberger became Promotions Manager of the Independent Newspapers Cape branch and in 1999, she began project managing the Cape Times’ “One City, Many Cultures” initiative which led to the creation of the Cape Town Festival.
In 2000, she formed her own event management business, HIPPPO Communications. She led it until late 2015, when she decided to sell her share of the company to her business partner.
Although she’s “semi-retired,” as she puts it, Eichenberger still works for the company on occasion and is involved with numerous volunteer organisations, including Woman Zone, the Milnerton Players, the Jewish Literary Festival, and the Shine Literacy Foundation. She’s also pursuing a personal passion – doing voiceover work for advertising.
Woman Zone is an NGO that aims to unite women from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds in Cape Town. Their initiatives include a library, a book called “Being a Woman in Cape Town,” and organising story-telling sessions in which women gather together to tell their stories.
“If you live in Lavender Hill, you’re hardly likely to expect to get visitors from a more affluent suburb,” Eichenberger said. “But the people and the women of Lavender Hill have stories to tell, you know. Uniting women is really important. We’re very powerful, and we have affected so much change, not only in the city, but also throughout the world.”
She’s also currently working on launching the first Jewish Literary Festival in Cape Town in 2016, and volunteers for the Shine Literacy Foundation at Prestwich Primary, helping children with reading and writing difficulties.
“I just know that keeping busy and doing something that I believe is worthwhile is what makes me feel particularly good,” Eichenberger said. “And when I’ve achieved a project or completed a project and it’s been successful, then I’ve satisfied myself more than anybody else. It doesn’t matter how big or how small [the project] is.”
Listen to Beryl Eichenberger’s podcast interview below: