Why now is the time for start-uppers and entrepreneurs to get into hospitality

Marie-France Derderian, Senior Lecturer and Director of our MSc in Hospitality, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, says that a recovering hospitality industry is the perfect place for start-uppers and entrepreneurs to make their mark.

Have you ever dreamed of running your own business? If so, hospitality may be the right field for you.

The world has been through some difficult months, and the hospitality industry likewise. But with borders opening, commercial airliners taking to the skies again, and hotels starting to unlock their doors, a recovering industry is ripe with entrepreneurial potential.

Even before the crisis hit, the hospitality industry was undergoing huge transformations: from the customer shift to virtual and mobile booking, to changing travel habits, to new industry players. This will only accelerate, bringing new challenges and numerous business opportunities to innovative thinkers. But who will benefit most? The entrepreneurs or the start-uppers?


Two different species

Many people tend to confuse start-uppers and entrepreneurs; often thinking they are one and the same. In my opinion – but not only mine – a start-up founder is someone who builds a project with the intention of changing the world.

According to a survey by HSBC Private Banking entitled Essence of Enterprise, start-uppers want to make improvements; for example with regards to climate and our impact on the planet. The key is to eliminate waste, and to minimize resources in order to survive longer and have more chance to be successful. For a start-upper, the main goal is to find his or her product/market fit (PMF), which means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy it.

The start-upper uses specific tools, such as the Lean Start-up, which is a method of testing the assumptions and hypothesis of a business idea in an iterative manner, while validating the product/market fit before finalizing a product.


Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

On the other hand, for me an entrepreneur is interested in building a viable business for financial benefits. He or she needs to be a leader, risk taker, innovator, and a manager. The entrepreneur has to explore the new drivers and emerging market scenarios, instead of being aligned with today’s market.

Hospitality has been a playground for some great entrepreneurs. As part of our Leading Hospitality Through Turbulent Times series, we met an excellent example in Robert Alter, Chairman Emeritus and Founder of Sunstone Hotel Investors, Inc. Our interview followed Mr Alter’s fascinating journey in hotel ownership, which began in a Colorado ski town more than 40 years ago.



It’s all about the business model

One of the entrepreneur’s key tools is the business model, which predicts the ultimate operating scenario of tomorrow. It is a synthetic document where the entrepreneur explains how the company will do business and make money – with whom, for whom and what value will be created. The business model aims to show how to achieve its vision and mission as well.

Most often, start-up founders begin to build an entrepreneur mindset when they start earning benefits through their first clients.

The hospitality industry is a particularly great landscape for entrepreneurship. The industry includes an endless number of hotels, restaurants and resorts operated by individuals, families, and a small group of investors. Each property has its own specific market characteristics – therefore an entrepreneurial mindset is necessary to properly understand the market and succeed.


Master your entrepreneurial mindset

One of the best ways to enter the hospitality industry as an entrepreneur is to attend a formal education which blends theory and practice. This educational model focuses on developing the full professional and personal potential of a student, teaching him or her both hard skills and soft skills.

Though emotional intelligence and soft skills are growing in importance across the business world, their worth cannot be overstated in hospitality: a people-centric industry that is based on the delivery of experiences.

To equip young entrepreneurs with the relevant hard skills, I designed the Master’s in Hospitality, Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Glion. This program helps students shape the future of the hospitality and services industry with a clear focus on smart technology, meaningful experience, innovation process design and sharing economy.

Through this program, students will be equipped with the skills and tools necessary to innovate the customer experience, create new processes, to push for digitalization and business transformation and revolutionize the hospitality industry.

I see entrepreneurship as the catalyst for change and evolution within the hospitality industry, whereby entrepreneurship is more than a wave of new start-ups — it is about fostering an entrepreneurial spirit that challenges the status quo, disrupting traditional ways of doing business with innovative solutions.


About the author

Marie-France Derderian has more than 16 years of graduate level teaching experience in the fields of business, innovation and entrepreneurship. She began her career in the technology industry, first at Decision Systems International (DSI), where she was Business Engineer from 1988 to 1995, and then at SAS Institute, where she worked as Account Manager from 1995 to 2001.

In 2002, Marie-France joined the faculty at Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM), where she went on to serve as Director of several Master’s degree programmes. For the next 16 years, she taught graduate courses on subjects such as business development, entrepreneurship and innovation in Grenoble, Marrakesh and Berlin.

She was appointed Senior Lecturer and Director of the MSc in Hospitality, Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Glion Institute of Higher Education in December 2018. Marie-France holds a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from EM Lyon Business School and a Bachelor in Marketing and Sales from the University of Lyon 1.

View similar stories