We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Leger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I spent a few years traveling on the road from hotel to hotel training employees on service standards. I was traveling so much, I didn’t even have an apartment and literally lived out of my suitcase. Hence, I have more travel experience and stayed in more hotels than George Clooney in Up In The Air.
When I was doing all this traveling I made many connections with leaders in various hotels, they would often ask for me to return and assist with other training projects, had an important inspection for an accolade or if there was a change of leadership. With the demand for these extra tasks, I thought I could make a business out of this and start on my own as a consultant for hotels. Also, be in charge of my own travel schedule. So, one day in 2017 I took the plunge and started out on my own. I thought, if it doesn’t work out to keep it going, then I could always go back working directly for a hotel but at least I can say I tried. I’m so glad I did because I have kept it alive for over four years now helping hotels achieve service excellence.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
When I was in high school my parents told me I needed to get a part time job to pay for all the extra school activities I was involved with. They thought I would apply for a hosting job at one of the local restaurants but instead, I went to the Ritz-Carlton, Naples because I knew they paid the most. At the time I wanted to be an elementary school teacher so I was hired as a Ritz Kids Camp Counselor babysitting the kids staying at the hotel. I quickly realized I didn’t want to be a teacher for kids but fell in love with hospitality. I worked in various positions learning all the different roles in a hotel then had the opportunity to transfer to Ritz-Carlton in NYC. Worked my way up the ladder. In NYC two major things I learned was working with a union which was very eye opening and challenging as hospitality is all about taking care of the guest however in a union environment there are a lot of rules to follow. The other was when I applied for a regional position and was told I didn’t get it because I hadn’t finished my college degree. Oh was I so upset but then turned that fire into motivation to finish my degree online while working full time.
Another highlight in my career is being a service evaluator for Forbes Travel Guide. I got to travel to Asia and around the USA evaluating luxury service standards for hotels, spas and restaurants.
I want the world to know the passion I have for hotel service and the employees. I worked from the bottom as a line-level employee and can relate to the employees with the struggles that come working at a hotel but also the rewards that come being part of guests celebrations and vacations or big business deals. We are hospitality family.
Another interesting tidbit of the company I created is the name. The meaning of First Rate Hospitality is to rate FIRST based upon industry standards to know where the hotel stands and elevate service excellence to achieve first-rate service. As first-rate means the best of the best.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I am for sure ms. social butterfly and already give my tidbits of what to do and see.
First off nothing is set in stone or written in pen. It is always penciled in because you never know what else may pop up as a last-minute event and the weather is always changing so you need to be flexible.
Love Brightline! Take it to see Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale. Pay for Premium Class. Get there a little ahead to enjoy the lounge that has complimentary snacks and beverages. Also, on the train, you can order a complimentary alcoholic beverage too.
Poseidon Ferry- Florida residents $5 take it from the Hyatt Downtown to South Beach. 20 minutes on the water. I compare this to NYC Staten Island Ferry <— although that ferry is free
Of course being in the industry I know many of the hotels around here
1 Hotels is my favorite. It is pricey so if not staying there at least go to the Watr rooftop one night.
Brickell and Downtown Miami have many new hotels too
I’m always taking my friends to different hotel lobby bars. Great variety of entertainment
Also, the Guitar Hotel in Seminole Hardrock Casino
Miami has so much to offer when it come to eat, drink and hang out. So I ask them what ambiance and cuisine do they want.
Mister01 for pizza in Brickell
Happy Hour at Four Seasons Brickell ($1 Oysters & first-class service)
Of course, check out Wynwood Walls
Go kayaking in Key Biscayne
Bayside Marketplace to feel like a tourist and take a boat tour
So much culture in Little Havana
Tour Historic Hampton House in Overtown
My friends always need a vacation from their vacation visiting me as I take them all over town!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First off, my father, has always been my biggest supporter when I take large leaps in life from moving to NYC from Naples, FL, to leaving corporate America and starting my own company.
Also, three other gentlemen Peter Curtis who was my very first boss that hired me at the Ritz-Carlton Naples when I was only 17. Darryll Adams who was my first Executive Leader I reported to and Prince Sanders who gave me guidance in the hotel industry in NYC. All of these gentlemen I am still in great contact today and crazy they knew me when I was so young and just beginning my career.
Sonja Bogensperger who has been my business coach since April of 2020. Tourism took a huge hit during the pandemic and there was a lot of uncertainty for my company, however she gave me great encouragement and guidance and without her, I’m sure I would have thrown in the towel and closed up shop.
One more to add DeAnne Connolly Graham. This woman is a local powerhouse. I moved to Miami in the summer of 2019 and knew not many people but I began attending many networking events. She has introduced me to many powerful local leaders.
Professional images by David Rosen with Photo Innovations