Souadou Niang used to be a housekeeper in a hotel in the United States, and now, she is the owner of one in her native Senegal.
Souadou, a Dakar native, moved to New York when she was an 18-year-old young woman, according to Travel Noire. She came to pursue her studies, however, as an immigrant. She needed to work to finance her life.
After relocating from New York to Washington D.C., she walked past the Ritz Carlton hotel and stopped in to inquire about job opportunities.
They offered her a position as a housekeeper, and she continued to pursue her studies.
But, Souadou was clear that her employment at the time was just a temporary stop on her road to greatness.
“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.
A decade later, with her degree in hand, she was promoted to a management position at the hotel. However, not even that was her end game.
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She wanted to prove that Senegal could have the same high luxury accommodations as the hotel she dedicated over a decade of her life to, and she returned home to make it happen.
Souadou opened Palms Luxury Boutique Hotel, but she had to grit her teeth through the process.
“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.”
But, the ambitious hotelier eventually met an investor who believed in her vision, and her goal of being a hotel owner in her home country came to fruition.
In terms of visual presentation, the hotel rivals that of any American five-star auberge. Further, the hotel’s staff is 80 percent women, an ode to Souadou’s belief in the spirit and capabilities of African women.
Palms Luxury is just the beginning for the Senegalese entrepreneur.
“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 said.