The famous quote by Hollywood actress and Oscar’s winner Lupita Nyong’o that all dreams are valid cannot be gainsaid if one was to listen to the story of entrepreneur and businesswoman Souadou Niang.
Hers is a classic example of a woman who rose from grass to grace; it is a story of a hardworking woman driven by passion and dedication to making a difference in society.
Born and brought up by less privileged parents who lived in Senegal’s capital of Dakar, Souadou’s only hope was in education and a determination to utilise every available opportunity to climb up the ladder.
Her childhood dream was to become a manager in a big hotel that has the capacity to offer clients the best of services and, above all, create employment for other people, more so women.
She toiled and moiled in school and at her first place of work until she rose through the ranks to become part of the management at a vast restaurant in the US before returning to Dakar and establishing her own five-star hotel.
At the age of 18, the young lady, inspired by the vision of owning a high-end, left her country for the US to study; she settled in New York City and later moved to Washington DC.
While there, she walked around to hunt for a job to raise some money to pay for her studies.
In the course of the loitering, Souadou walked past the famous Ritz Charlton, a classy hotel inside vast a mall in Tyson Corner.
The magnificence and ambience of the high-end premise melted her heart until she gave in to the burning desires of checking in to ask for an opportunity.
The only job available was for a toilet cleaner, and the young Senegalese did not hesitate to take it up. She worked in that capacity for years while at the same time pursuing her studies.
Upon completing the training, Souadou was elevated to join the establishment’s management team, and from here, she learned the ropes.
“I worked as a cleaning lady while studying. I arrived in the country where they tell the sky is the limit. My vision was to be part of the management,” she said during an interview with BBC.
She would later return to Dakar with the urge and idea to start her own hotel with standards similar, or better, to the ones she had seen and worked for in the US.
However, the ambitious lady faced financial hurdles and had to seek banks’ intervention to boost her capital.
This was not easy either, as many financial institutions turned down her requests.
“I didn’t have guarantees, I realised banks in my country were not shaped like the US where you do need guarantees,” she recalled.
Fortunately, one of the banks took the risk of trusting her and offered her a loan which turned around her fortunes.
“It wasn’t easy, I was told you won’t go far, this is not a women’s thing and so forth but I kept the faith,” said the businesswoman.
She opened her boutique hotel, The Psalms, in 2017, and her dream is to conquer Africa and even go beyond the continent.
Her establishment is run by women who form 80% of the employees, while men are 20%. The hotel has 60 employees.
Souadou believes women were born managers and need little training to run big businesses.