Ever since working at the Front Desk of the iconic Hyatt Regency Atlanta while a student at Georgia State University, Davonne Reaves dreamed of becoming a hotel owner. “At first I thought being a GM was my goal until I realized the GM’s boss was the OWNER,” she tells hertelier over Zoom.
Last year, at age 33, Davonne became the woman of her dreams: the youngest Black woman to own a hotel from a major chain when the real estate fund, Epiq Collective, which she started with her college roommate, purchased the Home2 Suites by Hilton El Reno, Oklahoma, for $8.3 million. By the way, she also runs her own hotel advisory and education firm, The Vonne Group, and #stayblackexperience, a community dedicated to supporting Black hospitality industry leaders, managers, and workers.
“I had to find people doing what I wanted to do and learn from them,” says Davonne. Fourteen years of strategic, relentless effort building contacts and finding mentors took her from front office clerk to hotel asset manager overseeing $1 billion worth of hotels for CHMWarnick, and now, a hotel owner.
Considering that less than 2% of hotel owners in the United States are African-American, and less than 1% are women, she truly had to forge her own path. How did she, the daughter of a firefighter and human resources manager, become a trailblazing real estate entrepreneur? Networking.
“Networking is transactional, people think about themselves more than anyone,” she says. “Always think about what’s in it for them, not just you.”