Davonne Reaves could have stopped at making history. After all, becoming one of the youngest African American women hotel owners in America is no small feat. But the 34-year-old tourism industry veteran just isn’t built like that. It’s in her blood to “give back” and “pay it forward.” And she’s doing just that now with more hotel properties added to her steadily growing portfolio.
The millennial mom of a young son who grew up in a working-class family just outside of Atlanta has done it again; last month she acquired two more hotel properties with Nassau Investments; a Staybridge Suites in Fishers, Indiana, which is part of the renowned Intercontinental Hotel Group, one of the largest hotel brands in the world. At the same time, Nassau Investments and Reaves also purchased a Hampton Inn & Suites in Scottsburg, Indiana.
The new purchases mean that Reaves now co-owns an impressive three hotel properties in just under a year; with the new acquisitions totaling an astounding $18 million. “It’s an awesome feeling doing this as an African American woman, especially as a young African American woman,” says Reaves, founder and chief hospitality strategist behind Atlanta-based hospitality firm, The Vonne Group. “For many years I never imagined that I could own a hotel and now I own three! It’s an indescribable feeling knowing that I am living my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”
And she’s far from resting on her laurels. She says her professional success has only further ignited a deeper passion within her to help others join her in the hotel ownership and investment ranks, especially those who like her, hail from sorely underrepresented groups in the lucrative hospitality industry, such as young people, people of color and women.
The 15-year industry vet who worked her way up from hotel front desk clerk, to mid-level manager and now owner, says she’s still plugging away at the big picture goal she set last year; helping create 221 new Black hotel owners and investors. So far she has helped 50 hotel investors get started and two of her protégé’s are on their way to co-owning hotel properties in 2022. And Reaves says she’s ready, willing, and able to help more: “I’m so attracted to this industry because the hotel ownership and investment space, help create generational wealth,” says Reaves who sits on the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Administration Industry Advisory Board at the Robinson College of Business at her alma mater, Georgia State University. “It really is a tool to create wealth for yourself and your family; wealth lasts for generations, riches are just for today.”
To further her point, Reaves is kicking off 2022 with big plans; leading her signature #FutureHotelOwner trainings in Houston, Atlanta, Tampa, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago in conjunction with the release of her debut book How to Buy a Hotel: A Roadmap to Hotel Ownership. Set to be released in March 2022. The step-by-step guide is aimed at walking aspiring hotel owners and investors through the entire process from beginning to end. “I will literally walk you through the entire hotel acquisition process — from putting together the right acquisition team, to helping you find a broker and the lender that will help you raise the capital,” says Reaves, who was honored with the Sixth Annual Lori Raleigh Award for Emerging Excellence in Hospitality Consulting award from the International Society of Hospitality Consultants, an exclusive invite-only trade industry organization. “During the training, I’ll also help the participants learn how to raise capital as well.”
Her plans seem fitting, following her many related accomplishments in 2021, which also included creating and launching the #StayBlackExperience campaign, encouraging American travelers to stay at Black-owned lodging accommodations during the busy summer travel season. The initiative was launched after she also notably helped form several hotel investment groups, comprised mostly of fellow millennials.
With fellow Nassau Investments group members, Reaves and her former Georgia State University classmate purchased the Home2 Suites by Hilton El Reno, Oklahoma, located about 30 miles from Oklahoma City. The historic and groundbreaking $8.3 million deal is believed to have made the two longtime friends the youngest African American women to ever co-own a property in a major hotel chain in the country at the time. “We enjoy bringing all of that fun ‘Black Girl Magic’ to the hotel ownership space,” she says. “And nothing excites me more than helping show others that with the right tools and knowledge they can too!”
Reaves is available to share her inspirational story and more on her passionate advocacy work focused on education and economic empowerment in the hospitality industry across all media platforms.