Millennial on a Mission: Damon Lawrence

Today’s “Millennial on a Mission” is not only a budding entrepreneur, but he’s blazing his own trail in the hospitality industry. Currently, he is working on a project to revive his own culturally rich community, all the while empowering millennials to change the way in which they experience travel. His company, Homage Hotel Group, aims to become the first Black-owned boutique hotel management company in the world.

Meet Damon Lawrence.

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A native of Pasadena, California, Damon is a graduate of Howard University, where he studied legal communications with hopes of becoming a lawyer. “It wasn’t until midway through my senior year that I realized law was not for me,” Damon recalls. “I began working in Hospitality my junior year as away to earn extra money.” Damon had the opportunity to work at the Donovan House Hotel in Washington, D.C. during its grand opening, an experience that truly inspired him to step into the world of Hospitality.  “During President Obama’s first inauguration, The Donovan hosted a party for the Creative Coalition that fostered great networking opportunities. It opened my world up to endless possibilities of where I could go in the field of Hospitality.”

CCWho or what has inspired you to go into the hotel management & hospitality industry?  What have been some challenges in launching your own business, and what have you learned from them?

DL: My biggest inspiration in hospitality came when I decided to leave the Donovan House. I had been given the opportunity to teach a summer school course, and I really wanted to experience what it was like to teach.  When I told my General Manager I was leaving he told me, “You’re not cut out for this [hospitality] business.” He believed I was on the path to a career in social justice, which might had been true just given the political climate at the time. But it did sting to have someone try and ‘predict’ my future. That single conversation has stuck with me throughout my career, keeping me focused on advancing my career in this industry. I ended up going back into hospitality right after that summer school course, and here I am today. I look forward to inviting that GM to stay at my property one day. 🙂

Through each opportunity I’ve ever had, I’ve taken it as a opportunity to learn. Most recently, I started a business called Hausotel in which I managed vacation homes. I started managing a portfolio of vacation homes and now I’m managing hotels. It feels like a natural progression. The biggest challenge has been trying to blaze a new path in a field where I really don’t have any predecessors. Trying to leverage the responsibility I have to a community, versus the commitment I have to a business that must appeal to a larger demographic than just minorities is definitely an interesting challenge. I think slowly I’m learning just how important it is to create the BEST product. When you create an amazing product, it will speak for itself.

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CC: Who is the ideal consumer for Homage Hotel Group? What other cities do you hope to launch your company in?

DL: Interestingly, we want to appeal to the Millennial Traveler.  The reality is that the millennial traveler is the largest growing member of the travel sector. We (millennials) are always looking for a new, unique travel experience, and we consider the cost later.  Recently, there’s been a trend of all these companies shifting to new business models to cater to the growing millennial demographic. New lifestyle brands are popping up as hotel companies scramble to get their foothold on this market. I feel that we have an edge over all of them because the Homage Hotel Group team is comprised of millennials.

I see Homage Hotels heading to historically Black cities like Philly, DC, Brooklyn, Harlem, Detroit and Atlanta. But I really look forward to expanding the vision internationally. I would love to see people experience our resorts in other parts of the world even in Asia. The Ivory Coast, Thailand, Brazil and South Africa are all as places I would love to venture to as well.

To Damon, being a “Millennial on a Mission” means not wasting your youth, but making sure your youth and ambition drive you. “Each day, I’m working to make sure that accomplish something meaningful to the purpose I have set forth for myself,” Damon says. His one piece of advice to his millennial peers? Keep in mind what you want your legacy to be. “What do you want people to say when you expire? Write it out if you need to. When you reflect on the end result, it starts to open up a path for you to get there.”

To learn more about the Homage Hotel Group, you can visit their website, like their Facebook page, and follow them on Twitter.

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