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Minorities in Hospitality: Celebrating the past, present & future



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It is hard to do something all by yourself. You know what they say: teamwork makes the dream work! Minorities in Hospitality has discovered the true power of unity and the magic that can be made when like-minded individuals work together to climb the ladder of success. 


“If you are in hospitality there is zero reason why you should not join,” said two-year MIH member and owner of Just Ask Kiky travel consulting business, Nickiya Brown. “The connections we make through MIH have exposed us to phenomenal opportunities!”


Jeanna Conner-Bates The 2016 President’s Award/Photo Courtesy of MIH

Minorities in Hospitality was established in 1998 by a group of hospitality professionals, led by Jeanna Conner-Bates, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Although the group has been serving its community for 20 years, they just recently became an identifiable nonprofit organization in June this year. MIH works to develop and support individuals of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds to enhance the pool of qualified candidates in hospitality, tourism, and conference management. Their mission is to inspire excellence in hospitality through industry leadership, business connections, and community partnership. 


Brown was a single mother working dead end job after dead end job. Five years ago she made the decision to leave that life behind and fully dive into her travel consulting business, Just Ask Kiky.


“I was a single parent who loved to travel, but I was always in fear of traveling because I just didn’t have the money,” exclaimed Brown. “I’ve always been a good researcher. So, when I decided to do my business full-time I was doing some research and stumbled upon Minorities in Hospitality.”


The organization has helped Brown grow and develop her business in ways that she could not even imagine.


“The desire to do something you love and something you want to succeed in keeps you going, but it is not for the weak or faint of heart. It is not an easy process, but MIH has helped me move it along. One of the men that I met through the organization was in hospitality but also was into tech. He and his people helped me put together a website which eventually helped me become full-time self-employed.”


Brown continued to express her deep appreciation for the group. She thoroughly enjoys the monthly meetings, social events, networking opportunities, educational classes, and the friends she has made through the organization. Brown appreciates the relaxed environment that helps make everyone feel welcomed and like family.


“I advise people to get into an organization that is a good fit for them so that it can provide them leadership and directs them to the things and people they need in order to succeed. Our senior leaders have connections that are gold mines – they know everybody! It is beneficial to join for those who are trying to move up the ladder strictly based off of access,” explained Brown. 


This is a special year for Minorities in Hospitality as they celebrate 20 years as an organization and their recent triumph of officially becoming a nonprofit organization. This Saturday MIH is having their 3rdAnnual Awards Gala that will honor individuals within the hospitality industry who have had great industry success. The event will service recognition and tribute to the past, present, and future of Minorities in Hospitality and the next progression of the organization’s growth and expansion. 


Past award winner. Photo courtesy of MIH

Mie Young Reed, former President of MIH and member for over 15 years, happens to be this year’s Founders Award Winner. Reed has 32 years of experience in the hospitality industry and is a respected member of MIH. Reed is fully aware of the racial barriers that block minorities from rising in the corporate world and is proud to be a representative of MIH. 


“I am a minority or minorities in hospitality,” says Reed. “Minorities in Hospitality started with most member being African American members. I am probably one of the few that joined that was not African American. I wanted it to truly be a minority organization and not just an African American organization.”


Reed said that her cultural background is was prompted the organization to make her Board President a few years back. They wanted to promote a culture of diversity and encourage other minorities to get involved. Reed specifically wanted to ensure that members of other minority groups had a place they could feel welcomed. 


“We meet every month, whether that is a breakfast meeting or afternoon event. I just truly enjoy being a part of the group. Everyone is interconnected. I love seeing members of the group at meetings and outside of them! They are my friends, colleagues, and great professional supporters.” 


Reed found out just a few days ago that she will be receiving the Founders Award on Saturday at the gala. She openly admitted to us that she does not know exactly why she is receiving the award, but she is extremely honored nonetheless. She did, however, leave us with a bit of advice for individuals who are thinking about or already involved in the hospitality industry:


“Minorities in Hospitality will open up their network maybe more than they think or do have right now. Many of our members have been in the industry for a very long time. If you just come out and put yourself out there to learn you will take something positive away from this organization.”


The Ball Out will be attending the Award Gala this Saturday in Indianapolis, Indiana. We expect this to be a beautiful and empowering event. Make sure to stay up-to-date on our website and Instagram storyline for further coverage! 

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