Wednesday, August 04, 2021

WHS alumna wins national hotel pitch competition

Whitefish Pilot | July 7, 2021 1:00 AM

Emma Claire Spring has always viewed herself as an entrepreneur — from lemonade stands when she was 5 years old to running a couple small businesses during middle and high school in Whitefish and now dreaming up a career in hotel ownership.

Recently Spring had the opportunity to participate in a national program called She Has a Deal, an education and investment platform for aspiring female hotel developers, and won the competition with her hotel pitch. She was awarded $50,000 in equity toward a hotel acquisition.

“I’ve wanted to own my own hotel since I was a little girl,” she told the Pilot recently. “Obviously when I was little I didn’t really understand what that meant… but everyone knew that about me, it’s just always been my dream.”

She found out about She Has a Deal a couple years ago while attending a conference in New York with her college class. SHaD was created by real estate investor and developer Tracy Prigmore to create a pathway to hotel ownership and development for early-career women.

“This was so niche and specific to my dreams and goals,” Spring said of She Has a Deal.

According to Spring a large part of the program was focused on education during which she participated in several master classes taught by industry experts. Throughout this experience the participants also are searching for real hotel acquisitions and forming an investment pitch to present for the competition portion of the program.

Although Spring was unsure of her talent at first, after winning the pitch competition she says her determination to succeed soared to a new level.

“I think the most important thing was I gained so much confidence because I’m very hard on myself…” she said. “I ended up winning literally to my absolute and complete shock, so I gained a lot of confidence that I’m better than I think I am.”

Her particular pitch was to acquire a Holiday Inn in Virginia. She says she originally wanted to pitch a trendy boutique hotel, but actually went with a smarter, more full-proof investment option instead. During her presentation she told the judges about her plans to remodel the hotel, rebrand it as a Delta Hotel instead of Holiday Inn, and begin utilizing a management company that would decrease expenses and drive revenue.

“I even opened up my pitch saying, hey this is not going to be the sexiest hotel project you see today, but it’s a smart, solid investment that’s been conservatively underwritten and structured to mitigate risk,” Spring recalled.

The panel of judges consisting of industry experts saw the potential in her well-thought-out ideas and awarded her with first place. Now the investment company that works with She Has a Deal is in the process of trying to acquire that exact hotel in real life, and if they do Spring’s $50,000 in equity would be invested in that project.

“We’re in the process of potentially trying to acquire the hotel that I pitched which is really exciting — I might actually get to see this vision come to life,” she said.

At Whitefish High School, Spring participated in DECA and Pro Start, among other career preparation programs, which prepared her to attend school at Washington State University in one of the highest ranked hospitality programs in the U.S. Spring just finished up a four-year degree in hospitality business management and, although she’s long aspired to be a hotel owner, the knowledge and connections she gained from She Has a Deal have somewhat altered the vision for her career path.

She says that because of She Has a Deal, she feels empowered to start a career investing in and developing hotels now while she’s young and doesn’t have to wait to do it mid-career. Admittedly Spring says this type of career is somewhat intimidating to get into, which is why she feels grateful to this program.

“A lot of it (hotel investing and developing) is just getting my name out there… and of course just knowing how to do this now because before She Has a Deal I would have never even known where to start; now I feel like I could replicate this process,” Spring expressed.

“I definitely want to stay in this world — I don’t want to fall out of it just through what I’m doing now for work, I really want to stay connected,” She added.

Spring is now working for Inspirato — a company based out of Denver, Colorado, that manages exclusive luxury vacation homes — as a real estate acquisitions manager. She says even a year ago she would have pictured herself working on the floor of a hotel right out of college, but now she wants to stay connected in the realm of hospitality real estate.

Spring also loves traveling, she studied abroad in France during college, skiing and being outdoors. She’s always had an interest to live in New York City and learn more about the hospitality industry in the bustling city, which still might be in the plans for her future. She’d like to attend graduate school as well, but wants a few years of work experience prior to going back to school.

“I think my goal over the next two to three years is just to learn as much as possible, just really take advantage of all the relationships I’ve made through She Has a Deal…” Spring said. “And of course through my job too, just learning as much as I can and developing myself so that I can really go after my goals and succeed at them.”