Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Fine, Fabulous and Fearless Women of Hospitality

Dining With Grace Presents…

The Fine, Fabulous and Fearless Women of Hospitality



It was a very personalized and selfish mission, but I knew it had to be done and after searching high and low, I found my 3 women.


In an industry where many do not dream big enough for true wealth (being successful enough to give back plentifully) these women continue to take great strides in building their national Hospitality empires.  One coined the "black Martha Stewart", and another's name is synonymous with Soul Food but the last find was the most challenging- the only African-American female hotelier I've heard of! These 3 women are reshaping the mold of the business-savvy Hospitality Entrepreneur!

With pride, Dining With Grace introduces:  Barbara Smith, Sylvia Woods, and Sheila C. Johnson- our Fearless Women of Hospitality!


Barbara "B." Smith


A restaurateur and home décor authority, Barbara "B" Smith began her career as fashion model and was the first African- American woman on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine.  She soon became the face of Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Lawry's Seasoning, and Mercedes Benz and went on to develop a brand as lifestyle and entertaining expert.   Currently, Barbara is the owner of 3 "B. Smith" restaurants located in NYC, Washington D.C and Sag Harbor, NY, the first of which opened in 1986.   She has also created a lifestyle line of home furniture, serve-ware and décor for Bed, Bath and Beyond and several luxury home furniture stores.  Additionally she is the author of two tabletop books on entertaining, several cookbooks and DVDs.  She will soon have her own show to appear on PBS this Fall, "The Very Best of B. Smith, With Style".   While speaking to the Congressional Black Caucus B. Smith was honored with a partnership with Missa Bay Frozen Foods to create a B. Smith Line of prepared foods- Just Like Home Series, to be served to troops abroad starting Fall 2010.



Sylvia Woods

The Queen of Soul Food, Sylvia Woods, is founder and owner of world-renown Sylvia's Restaurant located in Harlem since 1962.   Upon earning her beautician's license while attending school at night during her Junior HS years. she opened her first beauty salon in Hemingway, South Carolina.  After getting married in 1944, she and her husband moved to New York City's Harlem where she became a waitress at a local luncheonette.  In 1962, after several years of dedicated service,  the Owner witnessed Sylvia's entrepreneurial spirit and sold the restaurant to her.  Sylvia's mother, a farmer and midwife,  mortgaged her farm to help her daughter with the payment.  The small luncheonette since then has flourished into a family owned enterprise that includes:  Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem, Sylvia's Also, a full-service catering hall, Sylvia's Catering Corp., a nation-wide line of Sylvia's Food Products, two cookbooks, and ATOC, Inc., a real estate firm.  The Woods family created the Sylvia and Herbert Woods Scholarship Endowment Foundation. The SHWF disburses 4-year partial scholarships to children of and around the Harlem community.   As a local NYC "celebrity"  Sylvia, has rung the bell at the NYSE, received several merit award from the city, made several appearances on national lifestyle shows as well as in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Ebony Magazine.



Sheila C. Johnson


The first African-American female billionaire.  The first woman to build a luxury hotel.  Co-founder of Black Enterprises Television.  First African- American woman to own a sports team.  CEO of Salamander Hospitality.  Sheila C. Johnson is a force to be reckoned with.  Salamander Hospitality, founded in 2005 currently manages several hotel properties and is currently building a five star resort and spa hotel in Middleburg, VA.    As CEO of Salamander Hospitality Ms. Johnson oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties.  Woodlands Inn, in Summerville, SC, is one of only a handful of properties in North America to receive the prestigious Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond ratings for both lodging and dining.  In 2008, Travel + Leisure selected Woodlands as the #1 hotel for service in North America and #3 in the world (it was the only US hotel ranked in the Top 10).   Most importantly, Ms. Johnson is a generous philanthropist to various humanitarian causes.  In 2006 Ms. Johnson was named global ambassador for CARE, whose mission is to fight global poverty.   Her focus is building solidarity and empowering women and girls to become catalysts for change in communities around the world. 



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