Souadou Niang used to work as a maid in a hotel in the United States, but now she owns one in Senegal.
According to Travel Noire, Souadou, a Dakar native, traveled to New York when she was 18 years old. However, she arrived as an immigrant to continue her studies. She needed to work in order to support herself.
She walked past the Ritz Carlton hotel after migrating from New York to Washington, D.C., and stopped in to inquire about work options.
They offered her a job as a housekeeper, and she accepted it while continuing her education.
“My vision was to be part of the management. It was a melting pot with Mexicans, Ghanaians. So as a Senegalese [woman], I thought I also have my place,” she said.
She was promoted to a management position at the hotel a decade later, with her degree in hand. That, however, was not her ultimate goal.
She came home to prove that Senegal could enjoy the same high-end comforts like the hotel to which she had committed more than a decade of her life.
Souadou had to grit her teeth throughout the process of opening Palms Luxury Boutique Hotel. She said that things were really difficult when she was just beginning.
“I only had answers such as ‘You won’t get far, ‘It’s not for women, ‘It is not for African women,’ and I had no guarantees in Dakar. Unfortunately, banks aren’t shaped like in the U.S., where you don’t need guarantees. I knocked on the door of several banks,” she said.
However, the aspirant hotelier soon found an investor who shared her vision, and her dream of owning a hotel in her native country became a reality.
“One day I got lucky. In one of the banks, there was a risk committee, and the director who manages all the bank’s branches in Africa was present at one of the meetings. He said to me: “I see your determination. I see your eyes sparkle when you talk about your project. I believe in you. I’ll take the risk of lending you money,” she shared.
The hotel rivals any American five-star auberge in terms of visual presentation. Furthermore, the hotel employs 80% of women, a testament to Souadou’s faith in African women’s spirit and ability.
“I decided to set up a structure led by women. As a woman, I knew what I was capable of, and I saw it in African women. For me, women are born managers, because they have the capacity to manage a lot of things. You only need to do a short training course to have what you want,” she explained.
For the Senegalese entrepreneur, Palms Luxury is only the beginning.
“My dream is to conquer Africa, and why not the world. As the international hotel franchises in Africa, we should be able to adapt our Afro-chic boutique hotels in Western countries and show African women can run luxury boutique hotels with the same standards as the international hotels,” Souadou concluded.