Reading Time 2 min 56 sec
When Davonne Reaves and Jessica Myers met as college students in the early 2000s, they never imagined they’d one day become business partners. Owning a hotel? Well, that was not even on the radar for the hospitality and journalism majors, then deeply entrenched into their studies.
As two young African American women who’d grown up in working-class families in the South, the mere idea of hotel ownership seemed unfathomable. Some 11 years later, the fellow Georgia State University alum have done just that – and they are believed to have made history in the process.
Atlantans Myers and Reaves, both 33, formed a hotel ownership group of mostly millennials, partnered with Nassau Investments to acquire the Home2 Suites by Hilton El Reno, Oklahoma, located about 30 miles from Oklahoma City.
Their investment into the $8.3 million deal is believed to have earned them the notable distinction of becoming the youngest African American women to ever co-own a property in a major hotel chain.
“I never thought by the time I was 33 that I’d be a hotel owner, but I admit that it feels great to have accomplished that at this point in my life,” says Reaves, mom to a 2-year old son. “Making history in the process, well that’s just icing on the cake!” Myers says the venture overall was a solid investment, but it also ties into some “big picture” goals that she and Reaves share: “Statistically only two percent of hotel owners are African-American, and we want to change that,” she says. “There’s a big void there and we want to help fill it.”
Acquiring ownership of the property is a dream come true for both, especially Reaves, who spent the bulk of her professional career in the hospitality industry, working in restaurants, event planning and multiple rank-and-file and mid-level management hotel positions.
“I have done just about every job possible and worked every shift,” quips Reaves who cut her teeth in the industry serving as a front desk agent at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. “The only thing I haven’t done is unclog a toilet,” quips Reaves. She eventually progressed to bigger roles, including in 2015 when she was tapped to relocate to the Boston area to take on a career-changing role as an associate for CHMWarnick, the largest third-party hotel asset management company in the country. She maintained that position for two years until a hankering for her hometown inspired her to return to Atlanta. Once there, she reconnected with Myers and the rest, as they say, is history.
The International Society of Hospitality Consultants, an exclusive invite-only trade industry organization recently honored Reaves with its Sixth Annual Lori Raleigh Award for Emerging Excellence in Hospitality Consulting award.
Myers, whom after years working as a communications and advertising industry professional for CBS and Outfront Media, first dipped her toe into flipping single-family properties two years ago after “watching one too many episodes of HGTV.”
With the business acumen she’d honed over her years in corporate America, her side hustle quickly evolved into a full-time gig, edging her closer to another major career goal: “owning over 1,000 doors in the commercial real estate space” she says, referring to flipping single-family properties.
“Our goal is to own at least 1,000 ‘doors’ and create 221 hotel owners in 2021,” explains Myers, of their commercial real estate plans and desire to draw those who have not traditionally been represented in the industry – such as young people, people of color and women – into the arena.
“If you have some capital and you’re looking to grow it, we’re open to having those conversations,” explains Reaves, who has dedicated her first major commercial real estate deal, to the memory of her late grandmother, Elizabeth Swans Smith.
“She passed away in January 2020 and I’d told her that I was going to own my hotel one day,” remembers Reaves. “I told our team of investors that I wanted to own this hotel by February 6th. That’s my grandmother’s birthday and coincidentally it’s Jessica’s birthday too. Knowing that I’ve done that, just gives me chills!” Myers says she’s equally excited. “We’re so proud to bring that ‘Black girl magic’ to the commercial real estate industry; this is just the beginning!”
An original version of this article is available at Black News