Working to extend the opportunity of hotel ownership to underrepresented minority entrepreneurs is my job, but it’s so much more than that to me. It is my passion. It is my purpose. I’m honored to lead a team of franchise development professionals at Choice Hotels International that is solely dedicated to that mission.

It’s a cliché to say that one’s job is a dream come true, but for me, it truly is. And believe me when I tell you that if you saw me as a child, you never would’ve dreamt that I’d someday become a hotel company executive. I grew up in Washington, DC, living in a one-bedroom apartment with my mother, grandmother, two aunts, and three cousins. My introduction to the hotel industry came when I was 10 years old, and we all piled into my mother’s car and headed to Virginia Beach for a short summer getaway. The eight of us crammed into one hotel room for the weekend because that’s all we could afford. Now, having risen from those humble beginnings, I’m helping hardworking entrepreneurs from groups that are historically underrepresented in the hospitality industry to become hotel franchisees and put themselves in a position to create generational wealth. That’s a responsibility my team and I take very seriously.

Choice’s now 20-year-old emerging markets franchise development program is focused on bringing African Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans, women, military veterans, and other diverse entrepreneurs into the Choice family of hotel franchisees. It offers incentivized dollars and helps eliminate financial barriers to the 30% down payment on properties in the Choice Hotels portfolio.

HERtels by Choice, an initiative to foster female hotel ownership, is an important part of the program, and I’m proud to have helped launch it. It offers dedicated training, education, mentorship, and financial assistance to advance and empower women entrepreneurs and ensure they thrive as Choice franchisees.

To date, our emerging markets program has awarded and supported more than 350 participants. John Ford, president of the minority-owned and operated development group Pride Opportunity Developers, is one of them. His group is currently developing La’ Creole Inn and Suites, a zydeco-themed hotel in Lafayette, Louisiana, that will be part of the Ascend Hotel Collection, an upscale soft brand featuring historic, boutique and one-of-a-kind upscale properties.

“The Choice Hotels emerging markets team has been a beacon of excellence in the pre-development of La’ Creole Inns and Suites,” says Ford. “Their help and guidance have been invaluable to us, and we feel so fortunate to have made the choice we made regarding our brand partner.”

We are working now to revitalize and relaunch the emerging markets program, and as impressive as the results have been, I know it’s going to achieve even bigger and better things in the years to come.

I’m also proud to have helped stand up the Choice Hotel Owners African American Alliance (CHOAAA), our industry’s first and only franchisee-focused group dedicated to Black and African American hoteliers. It provides representation, support and advocacy for these underrepresented entrepreneurs as well as a platform for them to express their voices and share their unique experiences directly with Choice’s leadership.

I am extremely fortunate to work for a company that is deeply committed to cultivating a culture of diversity among its franchisees and its associates. And don’t just take my word for it! In 2023, Forbes named Choice Hotels one of “America’s Best Employers for Diversity” and one of the “World’s Top Companies for Women.” And our President and CEO, Patrick Pacious, was named by Comparably to its lists of “Best CEOs for Diversity” and “Best CEOs for Women.”

At Choice, we like to say that what unites us and our franchisees is a belief that tomorrow will be even better than today. I’m privileged to play a role in helping to build that better tomorrow for diverse entrepreneurs by enabling them to realize their dream of hotel ownership.

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