AmakaAmatokwu-Ndekwu, with 10 years hospitality experience in Nigeria and an outstanding track record in managing hotels, be it start- ups, customer service, operations, sales, hospitality management & career counselling projects her business acumen into Founding, Women in Hospitality Nigeria InitiativeW -WIHN. An initiative created to be the voice of support to all women operating in the hospitality and tourism industry and more…
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
My name is AmakaAmatokwu-Ndekwu. I am an experienced hospitality professional with a demonstrated history of tenacity, strong drive, passion & leadership. Experienced in hotel start- ups, customer service, operations, sales, hospitality management & career counselling. I have 10 years hospitality experience in Nigeria with an outstanding track record in managing hotels.
I am a professional with an Accelerated Management Program certificate focused in Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services from Lagos Business School. I also studied Management at the European School of Economics, London UK. I graduated from Madonna University, Okija with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting. Obtained an e-certificate from the ESSEC Business school on The Fundamentals of Hotel Distribution and a current recipient of The Castell Project Leadership Program, Atlanta, USA.
I worked as a General Manager in indigenously owned hotels and international branded hotels. Known for my ability to fix things and succeed in projects and initiatives against all odds. I founded the Women in Hospitality Nigeria Initiative. WIHN is an initiative created to be the voice of support to all women operating in the hospitality and tourism industry. Its aim is to empower and encourage women attain leadership positions while promoting gender equality.
Having successfully established this initiative and still had the urge to do more for the hospitality and tourism industry in Nigeria, I pioneered The Pyne Project & Awards. The Pyne project features an awards event celebrating excellence and recognizing achievements of all hospitality and tourism industry stakeholders operating in Nigeria. Its vision is to harmonize the Nigerian hospitality and service industry with global standards. I am a true believer in supporting other women become successful, I am currently working with other industry professionals on their initiatives with the sole aim of improving our industry.
What is it like being a female entrepreneur, and why did you choose to be one?
Being a female entrepreneur is an awesome experience because you get to discover who you really are. You discover if you are a champion, a leader, a survivor, a multi-tasker or a dependent. It’s a sweet and sour experience, I say this because nothing good comes easy. My industry is a very challenging one for any female. You juggle between delivering excellent service to both your clients and your family.
I have always had the intention to own a business even though I was making other people’s businesses thrive. I have always been passionate about my industry and want to change a lot of things. I have the intention to leave a strong legacy for the next generation of hospitality and tourism industry professionals. My passion & desire for service improvement, employee service reward and a globally competitive service culture motivated me to start this business.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
The initiatives my company is creating have never been done for the hospitality industry. The Pyne Project identifies the Top 30 Hospitality influencers who have contributed to the growth of the industry in Nigeria in so many ways and are not being recognized for their outstanding work.
Also, The Pyne awards is a different kind of awards that celebrates not only the brands doing well but also the employees that make the brands what they are. This kind of awards has never been commissioned in Nigeria, its maiden event this in 2018 was a huge success and plans are already underway for the 2019 event. We have other innovations coming up which will be announced in due time.
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
Staying ahead of the game is responsible for my success. Being open to collaborations and partnerships has really contributed to the success of our projects. No man is an island. I would also say creating a niche that differentiates us from the rest has made us a success.
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
Oh yes there are unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face. One of the unique challenges we face is balancing business and family life. Other challenges female entrepreneurs face is – being taken seriously especially while bidding for a job or contract; defying social expectations; building a strong and positive support network; fear of failure. A woman that can overcome these challenges is an Icon worth celebrating.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
Motivation, Dependability, Honesty, Efficiency, Consistency, Loyalty, Reliability, Service to others are values I hold dearly. I like to think differently, I like to innovate and be creative, I like to standard out and I am open minded especially to positive suggestions.
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
I will simply say “Service to others”, “Changing the narrative”, “Creating a legacy for my industry”.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
Most important challenge we have faced is from within the industry itself, most of the stakeholders don’t believe it’s a promising career. Most people believe that working in the hospitality industry is not as fulfilling as being a doctor or a lawyer. It’s been a roller-coaster trying to convince them to take it more seriously and change their attitude towards service standards.
Getting support & sponsorship from other industries has also been a challenge. My industry has never really been a recognised one especially when comparing it to other industry giants. We have been at the back seat, but I am glad I am one of those trying to change that narrative.
It’s been difficult getting any form of support for the initiatives we are coming up with, except from very close friends and family. This year we decided to face our challenges and make something beautiful out of it. I am proud to say we accomplished that. We are optimistic that next year will be better and the year after great.
What’s kept me going? My passion and determination to succeed on whatever journey I embark on.
What’s your five-year plan for your business?
To be one of the leading hospitality service companies in Nigeria & Africa. Another 5 years added to that, the United States of America.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
Make a conscious decision to succeed no matter what difficulties you encounter. I always say this to anyone who cares to listen, “Life will surely give you lemons, make sweet lemonade out of it”.
Your determination and drive will lead you torealizing your dreams. At times, progress may seem non-existent, but consistency and commitmentwill eventually yield results. Never doubt your capabilities just find the perfect way to harness it.
You must be a serviceable person to succeed in this line of business. You must be selfless, creative and efficient, without these values your business will not thrive, youevade the attention of your customers and at the end loose the value of your business.
The LLA Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.