Coretta A. Owusu_TSEYour Name: Coretta A. Owusu

Business Name: aSuiteStay, a travel agency focused on inbound and outbound Africa travel

Type of Business: Other — Hospitality Tourism

Business Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States


Reason for starting
I have a passion for entrepreneurship and spent many years in school trying to find what it is that I love to do the most. I discovered that the challenge of running my own business gave me the thrill I need to stay dedicated each day. My reason for starting aSuiteStay is because I ran a small Concierge company in Ghana before graduate school. I saw the need for a solution to corporate housing, and the great increase in business travel to the developing world, particularly Africa. After spending some time at school, taking Wharton classes, and seeing the bigger picture, I decided to return and change the services that I did into a bigger business.

How do you define success?
My perception of success is meeting the goals you have set for yourself and being happy while achieving them. If you go to school to become a doctor or a lawyer and you absolutely hate going to work each day, you may have succeeded in the eyes of everyone else, but not for yourself. Success is loving what you do, setting goals, achieving them, and feeling personal gratification.

Biggest Success
I believe my biggest success was being able to let go of the norm and accept that I want to work on my hospitality start-up and not work at a law firm. I came to law school knowing that I wanted to do something different but it was such a challenge for me being in an environment where everyone is strongly encouraged to work at a firm. I decided this year to apply to the Wharton Venture Initiation Program and start work on my venture. There were over 40 applicants and all of the business ideas were so well planned and presented so well. I was shocked when I gained acceptance but I used that to help me realize that the time was now for me to work on my business, and I haven’t stopped ever since.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Starting a business in Africa is so much different from starting a business here in the states. Trying to find a great team to work with, and staff to hire to make sure everything is done properly has been challenging because there is so much work to be done. From perception changes to dealing with power outages, the tasks involved will not be easy and dedication is key. I started a business in Ghana before as I mentioned earlier, and I have worked with my family hospitality business for years. Business in Ghana is 24/7, when you are in charge of making sure operations are going as planned, it is quite a bumpy ride. Finding a team that will get back up when they are knocked down, is quite the challenge.

Who is your most important role model?
My father is my biggest role model. He has consistently taught me entrepreneurship and how to take on risks. He left his career in finance in NYC to move to Ghana, West Africa to work in politics and start a business. Our small hotel business has grown and changed over the years, and whatever opportunity there is, he is willing to take it on. It is that entrepreneurial spirit that made me who I am today. Working with him after college helped me to see the bigger picture and want to do more with my knowledge and skills.