Sheila Johnson addresses the seventh annual HRIM Hospitality Entrepreneurship Summit.

Hospitality entrepreneurship summit

HRIM holds seventh annual Hospitality Entrepreneurship Summit at UD

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9:47 a.m., April 29, 2013--The University of Delaware’s Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management (HRIM) hosted its seventh annual Hospitality Entrepreneurship Summit earlier this month to a record crowd of students.

Designed to educate and encourage promising underrepresented business and hospitality students to consider establishing businesses and/or franchises in the hospitality and tourism industry, the summit brought together university and high school students from UD, the Mid-Atlantic’s historically black colleges and universities, and high schools from Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

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The summit was co-chaired by Lozelle DeLuz, president and CEO of DeLuz Management Consulting Inc. and former owner of the Wilmington-area McDonald’s franchises, and Francis Kwansa, associate chair, HRIM.

“Twelve universities were represented along with 13 high schools from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York, making this our best attended conference yet,” said Kwansa. 

Added DeLuz, “As one of the coordinators of the first HRIM Hospitality Entrepreneurship Summit, I am inspired with its expansion and growth. The summit has grown in ways over the past seven years of its existence that I would never have imagined." 

This year’s agenda focused on entrepreneurship, small business planning and franchising. Participants included business and hospitality students.

Kwansa said he continues to be impressed by the demeanor of the high school students, noting their presence is “one of the highlights of the conference.”

“The quality of these students’ preparation and presentation, the coaching they receive, the poise of these students discussing concepts like cash flow, capital expenditures and return on investment, were all very impressive,” said Kwansa. “I am pleased that the conference provides an avenue for the younger generation to be introduced to finance and entrepreneurship at an early age.” 

Keith Bethel, regional vice president of ARAMARK, greeted the students as the first keynote speaker of the summit.

He described consumer engagement in value creation and talked to students about the power of social media and the demand for big and fast innovation.

Later in the evening, Michele Rollins, chair of the HRIM Advisory Board, introduced Shelia C. Johnson, president and CEO of Salamander Hospitality as the dinner keynote speaker. A sport team owner, resort developer, hotelier and billionaire, Johnson brought a unique perspective to the summit.

From relaying the hardships and discrimination she faced growing up in the U.S. in the 1950s, to her stories of perseverance and overcoming the barriers faced by African American women in business today, Johnson acted as living proof that a commitment and dedication to your goals can result in success.

She advised students that as members of the service industry it is important for them to remember, “we cannot check-out because if we do our guests will not check-in.”

Johnson also shared two film clips from movies she has produced, one of a moving documentary about three women who have overcome poverty, HIV and lack of education and have built communities that inspire and remind us of the value of giving back and that it is possible to make a difference. 

Ann E. Moses, an attendee at the summit, said she was impressed by the quality and content of the conference as well as the opportunities being on UD’s campus afforded students.

She was particularly grateful for the commitment of the keynote speakers.

“I was stunned that Sheila Johnson flew in from the Masters Golf Tournament to speak to the students,” said Moses. “We got an insider's view of one of the most prestigious national sporting events, including the Tiger Woods controversy, while the event was still in progress. Plus her willingness to share the challenges of her new luxury resort businesses demonstrated that successful entrepreneurs are always open to new opportunities. Yet the ability to overcome challenges and put projects on temporary hold, when warranted, is key to having a successful launch and ongoing operation.”

As part of the two-day conference, a business plan competition was also conducted, in which students in college and high school divisions gave oral presentations to a panel of judges.  Memphis University took home first place in the college competition while Cedarmore Corp., New York, finished first in the high school competition. 

Judges at the college level included Richard Mahee of Delaware State University and Srikanth Beldona, Breck Robinson and Ron Cole of UD.

Judges at the high school level included Nicole Wormley, director of college relations for ARAMARK-Global Talent Management; Julie Coker, senior vice president of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau; and Mark White, a school representative.

Photos by Evan Krape and Duane Perry

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