An interview with tourism entrepreneur Hesta Baker
To build a hotel like Elizabeth Village and Resort, which offers a serene, luxurious retreat with superbly uninterrupted views across the Benson River, in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County out of your own pocket is not an easy task.
And with the country in a long recession, this act is to be lauded and a testament to the kind of person Hesta Baker is: resourceful.
That should also say lot about what you stand to get when you visit Elizabeth Village and Resort: a place that is worth your while, and much more.
But don’t let us tell you this, hear it from Hesta’s own mouth.
LIB Life: How do you intend to compete with other leading hotels in the same country since you people are operating for the same consumers?
HB: Though consumers are looking for overnight venues in general, our target markets are those who are looking for tranquility away from the hustle and bustle of the city or guests looking for that authentic Liberian experience.
LIB Life: What are your strategies for success? And how do you intend to achieve success?
HB: Our success is measured by the positive impact we make on our guests. Our goal is to stay true to our brand, which is providing guests the Liberian culture in a luxurious space.
LIB Life: How much does a single night’s stay at the hotel costs, and why?
HB: We offer both individual and group rates with individual rates priced at $110 nightly including a buffet breakfast. Group overnight rates are based on the package.
LIB Life: What are some of the challenges you encountered during the construction process, and how did you handle them?
HB: As a venture that was financed strictly out of pocket, without any bank loans or investors, I had to look at ways to minimize costs. That was a bit tricky, but it has allowed me to open without any major overheads.
LIB Life: What are the three things you have learned as an entrepreneur since building this resort?
HB: I have learned that you must always stay true to your vision and never allow anyone to change it. I have learned that each day you must put your trust in God and move boldly with faith. Lastly, that you must be prepared to work hard and nothing comes easy.
LIB Life: How do you intend to deal with an unhappy customer? What does excellent guest service means to you and where do you see your business in five years?
HB: I firmly believe that the customer is at the core of our business and must be always listened to, treated with respect, and catered to fully while at the resort. The customer is always right; therefore, we have to ensure that we do all we can to appease unhappy customers. Excellent guest service means treating each guest with personalized attention and service.
LIB Life: If you had the chance to start building Elizabeth village over again, what would you do differently? What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
HB: I’m not sure that I would do anything differently. I think the three skills are been a good negotiator, planner, and visionary thinking.
LIB Life: Tell us about some experiences you would consider failures during the course of building Elizabeth Village and Resort? What have you learned from them? How far are you willing to go to succeed? What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear? Talk about 21 questions!
HB: I’m an optimist and do not consider any venture a failure, but rather an experience. I have learned to move on and not dwell on things. Every step along the way provides opportunities to learn and grow. Fear, as I tell my children, is something they, like I, must fight. Fear has a paralyzing force; therefore, my greatest fear is allowing fear to take hold of me. Each day I have a routine of jogging and praying early in the morning. It is during that time that I confront fears, and most times I find answers that are amazing and inspiring. It gives me the boost needed for each day.
LIB Life: Where did your funding /capital for the project come from, and how did you go about getting it?
HB: I financed the projects through my Unchain Africa marketing and communications company to avoid major overheads when I opened. I am still looking at ways to remain credit free, but if necessary I will look into bank lending.