The Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS) brings prominent industry professionals to speak at SHA most Fridays during the fall semester. For 2015, students worked in groups each week to research, meet, and profile featured speakers, and then guest-blog here about the experience.
This week’s student authors are Brenna Curran ’16 and Macarena Moreno ’16.
Jason Brown ’05, chief development officer of YOTEL, speaks at the 2015 Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DDLS).
On Friday, December 4, the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series hosted Jason Brown ’05, chief development officer at YOTEL, as the final lecturer of the 2015 series and of Dean Michael Johnson’s tenure.
Just ten years out of college, Mr. Brown had transitioned through various professional roles, including consulting for Ernst & Young in their Transaction Real Estate and Hospitality group, contributing to the founding team of start-up luxury destination club, One Key, and joining Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, where he held positions of director of acquisitions and development and director of corporate and real estate finance. Now, heading YOTEL’s global growth and development strategy, Mr. Brown has returned to his passion for entrepreneurship and is building a brand without competitors that has four existing hotels, seven properties under construction, and two more in the pipeline.
Mr. Brown’s passion for hospitality started at an early age when he visited the SOHO Grand Hotel, developed by his cousin. When he stepped out of the car at the foot of the hotel in admiration of its success and beauty, his cousin said, “I built all of this.” From that point forward, Mr. Brown knew that his passion and future lay in the development of hotel properties. In his lecture, he mentioned his motto, “conquer my mind, conquer my world,” meaning that once he figured out who he really was and what he really wanted, he was able to go out and achieve the successes he had always dreamt about. He was able to truly discover himself when he joined Kimpton in San Francisco, where he met his wife Sara and found his true mentors.
During his lecture, Mr. Brown mentioned how YOTEL was an unexpected opportunity. He initially got involved simply by replying to a LinkedIn message from Gerard Greene and agreeing to meet up to discuss the hotel’s expansion. Comfortable with the prospect of taking calculated risks and excited about the opportunity to join a company attracting an untapped market, Mr. Brown jumped on board. The company has now found a niche market where they have achieved a balance between price and luxury. The brand is not associated with the price points of the Marriotts and Westins of the world, yet offers comparable levels of luxury in a compact and convenient package.
Mr. Brown and his wife are inspired every day by their one-year-old son, Logan, and they look forward to building a bright future for him. Keeping this future in mind, Mr. Brown also looks to continue developing YOTEL as a technologically savvy, luxurious, and affordable brand that creates time for customers and higher returns for investors. YOTEL is paving the way, as no hotel has stepped in the direction they are headed. As Mr. Brown said in his presentation, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”
He finished his lecture with some words of advice that resonated with all the students. “Nobody likes what they do until they are good at it. Nobody loves what they do until they are great at it. And that takes time.” Mr. Brown’s journey demonstrates how hard work, passion for the hospitality industry, and determination lead to a successful and happy life as a hotelier.
In conclusion, he challenged students to find autonomy and purpose, to do what they love, and to “strive to be wildly successful without sacrificing who you are.”