Two Atlanta-based entrepreneurs and former college roommates have closed an $8.3 million hotel deal with Hilton, making them the youngest Black women to co-own property under a major hotel chain.
Davonne Reaves and Jessica Myers, who were roommates at Georgia State University, closed the multimillion-dollar deal through their hotel ownership group Epiq Collective in partnership with Nassau Investments this week. The duo acquired the Home2 Suites by Hilton in El Reno, Oklahoma, according to Reaves’ interview with business publication Black Enterprise.
“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,” Reaves, who graduated with a degree in sociology in 2010, told Black News. “Making history in the process, well, that’s just icing on the cake!”
Their historic acquisition includes a number of other Black female investors, who make up just a fraction of hotel owners across the country. According to the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers (NABHOOD), less than 1% of all hotels are owned by African American women.
Black travelers are increasingly contributing to national and international travel despite the lack of lodging ownership by Black women and men. According to a Mandala Research study, Black travelers contributed about $63 billion to the U.S. travel and tourism economy in 2018, which is an increase from $48 billion in 2010.
For the Georgia State University alums, making history was not in their plan. The friends had reportedly worked toward their dreams of owning a hotel property for several years. Reaves worked her way up through the industry starting as a front desk agent for the Hyatt Regency Atlanta before moving to Boston to take on a corporate role as an associate with CHMWarnick’s Hospitality.
“I would often see other hotel owners, but they didn’t look like me. So, that’s when I started on a 14-year mission to make a change,” Reaves told Black Enterprise.
In forming Epiq Collective, an Atlanta-based commercial real estate investment firm, Myers and Reaves have acquired more than $14 million in commercial real estate assets. Their company’s primary goal is a collective approach to help people invest in real estate projects that may have seemed impossible for the average, small business owner.
Myers and Reaves worked toward reaching the deal prior to Feb. 6, which is a significant date for both of the women.
“I told our team of investors that I wanted to own this hotel by Feb. 6. That’s my grandmother’s birthday, and coincidentally it’s Jessica’s birthday, too. Knowing that I’ve done that just gives me chills!” Reaves said. “We’re so proud to bring that ‘Black girl magic’ to the commercial real estate industry; this is just the beginning!”
In a video posted on LinkedIn, an investor in their hotel, Acquania Escarne, talked about how life-changing the acquisition is for her and her family. Escarne said she originally thought owning a hotel was out of reach.
“That’s like playing Monopoly in real life,” she said about pursuing the hotel ownership. “Who buys hotels? The more I got to know them and understand the process, I realized hotel ownership is attainable and it’s attainable for anyone willing to save their money and invest.”
Myers and Reaves say they hope the deal continues to broaden the representation and ownership by Black women in the hotel industry. Myers said their story can be duplicated and offered some advice to those with similar aspirations.
“Stay in committed action no matter what it looks like. Don’t allow your current circumstance to dictate the altitude of your success,” Myers told Black Enterprise. “If your dreams aren’t scaring you, then they’re not big enough.”