‘You have to absolutely love what you do...’

Jenna Edwards who is the new boss at Tiger Tiger at Gunwharf Quays
Jenna Edwards who is the new boss at Tiger Tiger at Gunwharf Quays
Lloyd and Karen Clewer, the founders of Farm4Life, at Haslar Hospital, Gosport, where they store goods ready to send to Africa  (Picture by Habibur Rahman)

Ghana trip changed Fareham couple’s lives

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Jenna Edwards sips a soft drink in the sun and surveys her empire. The place is buzzing.

Dozens of people are enjoying a late lunch on the terrace overlooking Portsmouth Harbour.

But for Jenna it’s a million miles from the career path she originally envisaged.

That was the world of aerodynamics, engine design, wind tunnels and the performance of Formula One cars.

For 10 years ago she was immersed in a motorsport engineering degree at the University of Hertfordshire.

She was 20 with A-levels in law, geography and English under her belt.

‘Up to then I’d been working as a fitness instructor and personal trainer for Fitness First near Fratton Park and I’d been doing bar work since I was 18.

‘But my family is quite academic. All my friends from college went to university so I thought I’d better do something with my life and get a degree.

‘I’m a practical person and wanted to do something that not everyone goes for.

‘I love cars. Love F1. Hertfordshire did the degree so I said to my mum ‘‘right I’m off to do motorsport’’.’

But while she was there she got a part-time job behind the bar in Batchwood Hall, a night club in St Albans.

It was a move which knocked her off the F1 track and on to a career path which would bring her back to Portsmouth.

Today, the 30-year-old has one of the top jobs in the city’s entertainment industry as the general manager of Tiger Tiger at Gunwharf Quays.

She’s the first woman to run the place since its early days more than a decade ago and, as far as she’s concerned, it’s just about the best job in the world.

She’s been there since the middle of January and says: ‘Running a nightclub doesn’t get much better than this. It’s my dream job.’

Jenna, 30, has a staff of 100, and the venue, with its restaurant, bars, functions room and four dance floors, regularly hits its 1,900 capacity.

She has the experience because she once ran the Oceana night club in Southampton, her home city, which would regularly cater for 3,500 revellers.

She’s a workaholic. She says she has to be.

‘My friends all think that all I do is go in at night, wear a suit, stand on the door and go home again.

‘But on Mondays I’ll be in at 8am, go home at 6pm and back in again at 8.30pm and work through until 3am.

‘I generally have Tuesdays off and Wednesdays I work roughly from 9am until 6pm, but on Thursdays it’s 2pm to 3am and Fridays and Saturdays it’s 8.30am until 3am. It’s a long, long week.’

She says she ‘chills out’ on the 40-minute drive between her home on the edge of the New Forest and Gunwharf.

‘I try to use my days off to catch up with family and friends. I don’t have any hobbies apart from the usual girl thing like shopping.

‘But the only time I really feel I can fully relax is when I’m holiday. It’s so important to have regular breaks, when you can turn the phone off, let your shoulders slump and recharge your batteries.’

Novus Leisure runs the Tiger Tiger chain and poached her from rival firm Luminar to run its Croydon club. They obviously had her earmarked for greater things and it proved a stepping stone for the Gunwharf move.

She has risen from working behind a bar to running clubs in five years and has worked in 10 places around England.

‘You have to absolutely love what you do. There’s a lot of pressure and stress and I spend most of my days off dealing with work e-mails and making phone calls to make sure everything’s all right with the place.

‘My phone’s on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s an addictive job and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. But to get on you have to have a passion for the entertainment and hospitality industry.’

Jenna uses the word ‘theatrical’. So does she perform? ‘Every night I probably have to be 10 different people depending on who I’m talking to.

‘It might be the chief executive of a company or a director having a corporate night out. Then I’m chatting to 18 and 19-year-olds when I have to be someone else completely. Of course it’s a performance.’

We look out over bustling Gunwharf Quays on a perfect early spring afternoon.

‘You know, the location is beautiful. I can’t think of any club in the country that’s got a view and location like this.

‘Gunwharf has changed Portsmouth hugely. The city had a terrible reputation before and I wouldn’t have come to the city before it was developed. As soon as the sun comes out this place is amazing.

‘For me, this is the perfect location. If I could pick any club in the country it would be this one.’

She adds: ‘This is a great industry to work in because people are generally out to enjoy themselves.

‘People do not come here in a bad mood.

‘You go to your bank in a bad mood because you’re worried about your finances, but here, no matter how bad a day you’ve had in the office, people come out, have a few drinks with their friends and they’re happy.

‘We get 5,000 people coming here a week who are happy and want to be here. It’s so positive and a fun job putting smiles on people’s faces.’