‘There Is Still Hope’: Checking In With U.S. Diversity Group CEO Velma Trayham

Last week, the newly formed U.S. Diversity Group LLC launched the first Black-owned SEC-registered hotel investment fund. Led by Chief Executive Officer Dr. Velma Trayham, Chief Operating Officer Toshia Posey, and Chief Financial Officer Jacques Posey, the new real estate ownership, development, and management firm is currently offering investment opportunities starting at $500 per share. With a flagship property in Orlando, Fla., the group plans to acquire 10 hotels in the short-term and eventually grow to own more than 50 properties. Trayham spoke with LODGING about the launch of U.S. Diversity Group, the intention behind the group, and what this move means for the industry.

What drove you to create U.S. Diversity Group? 

My whole purpose and mission in life is to help end poverty. I know that the only way we’re going to be able to end poverty is by creating vehicles that will allow African Americans and minorities to [build] generational wealth. The only real way out of poverty is through entrepreneurship and ownership.

“Even during the pandemic, we want people to know and understand that there is still hope and there is victory on the other side if you just continue to persevere through what’s happening right now.”

How did you come together as a group to launch the firm?

I have a consulting company called Thinkzilla Consulting Group that specializes in business development. Toshia and Jacques started off as clients of mine—I helped Toshia transition out of her corporate job into entrepreneurship. We started to build a good relationship. I said, ‘You know, we would make perfect partners.’ They started researching and we all came together and brought all of our expertise: Toshia’s expertise is in hospitality, Jacques’ expertise is in accounting and finance, and my expertise is in entrepreneurship, consulting, and diversity.

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U.S. Diversity Group has three ways to partner: investor partner, sponsor/diversity partner, and social impact partner. What was behind that decision?

Firstly, we wanted to give African Americans an opportunity to have ownership in hotels. Less than 2 percent of hotel owners are Black. Secondly, we wanted to give organizations and businesses with the same mission and purpose as us an opportunity to partner. Diversity is love for all mankind. There’s so much division right now, and we believe that we are all so much better together. Thirdly, we wanted to give organizations an opportunity to sponsor what we’re doing; we want to educate people on the importance of investing.

What would you say the launch of U.S. Diversity Group means for the hotel industry, particularly in this current moment?

We know that this is groundbreaking and revolutionary for the hospitality industry in terms of diversity and in terms of age; there are a lot of baby boomers in the hospitality industry, and I’m Gen Z. This is an opportunity for millennials and our next generation of leaders to say, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ I think it’s much bigger than me and I think it’s a great opportunity to make history in the industry.

What do you want aspiring and current hoteliers to know about U.S. Diversity Group?

U.S. Diversity Group is here to stay. U.S. Diversity Group is here to educate our next generation of leaders. We’re here to be a vehicle to end poverty. We want the world to know and understand that poverty is a state of mind. We want partners, we want people to get involved, we want investors to contact us, we want people to contact us because it takes a village. I believe that we can do this. Even during the pandemic, we want people to know and understand that there is still hope and there is victory on the other side if you just continue to persevere through what’s happening right now.

 


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Christine Killion is the editor of LODGING.