Life after Les Roches: Seizing opportunities and chasing innovation in Africa

24 Jun 2019 | by Les Roches


Omamo-WilliamName: William Omamo
Graduation year: 1991
Nationality: Kenyan
Program name: Hotel Management
Current position: Lead Associate/Managing Partner

William Omamo hasn’t stopped since his graduation from Les Roches in 1991, working across Africa in all sectors of hospitality and starting a number of businesses. Today, he runs his own consultancy firm: Kahawa na Kadhalika Ltd, and holds a Board Directorship position in a tourism and hospitality State Corporation on appointment by the President of Kenya.

William didn’t have to wait long to start putting his Les Roches education into practice. “Even before leaving Les Roches in December of 1992, having worked at Les Roches for one and a half years in the F&B department, I had secured job interviews to engage employers in Kenya”, he said. “Within weeks of my return from Switzerland, I was offered a job as Assistant F&B for a new 100 cottages 5-Star beach resort on the Kenyan Coast of Mombasa.”

Like so many successful hospitality professionals, William embraced challenges and reaped the rewards with a fast-moving career. “Even-though it was a challenging opportunity for me to be given such a big responsibility so early in my career, I met the challenge head-on and within six months I was promoted to Executive Assistant in Charge of Food & Beverage”, he said. “It was during this early appointment I quickly came to realise that I am very much a creative and innovator.”


Seizing opportunities

With a love for bringing new experiences to guests’ lives and his own, William unleashed his entrepreneurial side. “After two years of service as F&B Manager at the resort I grasped an opportunity to start-up my own pub and restaurant within the same locality of Mombasa”, he said. “Unfortunately, external political factors didn’t favour the business and it closed down after a year of operations. Thereafter I relocated to Nairobi where I quickly secured a job as General Manager of a very trendy upmarket lounge and restaurant; part of a South African Hospitality Chain.”

William advanced his entrepreneurial skillset whilst building his professional experience, appreciating that diverse exposure in the early years of one’s career can be beneficial. “Between 1996 and 1998 I worked with various organizations in Nairobi including the Hard Rock Cafe group, eventually setting up a hospitality consultancy firm in partnership with Kevin Dantas, also a Les Roches alumnus”, he said. “Working as consultant helped grow my training skills and created opportunities for the firm to stretch its services across national borders into Kigali Rwanda in order to provide professional assistance to a group of Rwandan returnees keen to start-up a chain of quick service restaurants.”


Finding his calling

Always seeking to work in a disruptive markets, William later moved into the quick service restaurants (QSR) industry in South Africa. “I relocated to South Africa in 1999 where I joined McDonald’s Corporation”, he said. “I was fast-tracked into the position of regional operations manager for the Pretoria region of Gauteng, handling seven outlets. I spent three enjoyable years in South Africa and returned to Kenya in 2003.

Reintegrating back into the Kenyan hospitality marketplace after close to four years proved to be frustrating for William, due to a reluctance of industry players to adopt new technologies and apply new trends in service culture that were sweeping across the industry in other parts of the world. As a result, William decided to take a sabbatical from the industry to apply his competencies in a different field.

“For the next nine years I worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at their regional office in Nairobi as Protocol Officer linking the organization with Kenya Government line ministries and authorities”, he said. “Then in 2012 I decided it was time to re-enter the hospitality industry, but on my own terms. I relocated from Nairobi to Kisumu in Western Kenya. There I opened two trendy coffee shops and a pub and steakhouse in quick succession….perhaps too quick.”

“My passion for hospitality remains as zealous as when I first enrolled at Les Roches”

In 2017 William took a stab at national politics and vied for a seat in the national assembly to represent his home constituents. He was unsuccessful, choosing to hang up the political gloves and get ready for another day perhaps in the next national elections in 2022. With life lessons learned and a wealth of experience gained, William is back to running his hospitality consultancy firm and coffee/cake shop on the outskirts of Nairobi. It can boast being the only cake shop selling sugar-free, naturally sweetened cakes in Nairobi – William is the proprietor of a growing brand: ‘CAKE ZERO’ signifying no-sugar.

Today, my passion for hospitality remains as zealous as it was when I first enrolled at Les Roches.” With his recent I was appointed as Board Director of Bomas of Kenya; William intends to use his position to positively promote Kenya’s diverse cultural tourism and advocate for higher standards of hospitality services in Kenya and beyond.


How important are business objectives?

William uses a specific technique, and goal, to grow his businesses and measure their success. “I try to understand the customer expectations. Once this is clear I work backward with the aim of working out objectives that will exceed the customers’ expectation in areas of quality, service, cleanliness and value (QSC & V)”, he said. “I apply THE 3-1-Q PRINCIPLE as a budgeting, forecasting and performance measurement tool. This means I set three-year mid-term goals, one-year trading period budgetary targets, and a quarter-annual review.


William’s 6 tips for professional success

  • “If you are able, try your hand in a business venture/enterprise – either individually or in partnership. You will grow in great strides and achieve an indescribable degree of personal satisfaction – regardless of the success rate.
  • “Never-Never give up on your dreams and aspirations
  • “Start everything you do with the end in mind.
  • “Treat others the way you would like to be treated
  • “Don’t be too proud to willingly learn something new in whatever season of life you may be currently.
  • “On every occasion try to be a blessing to someone you don’t know – leave an impression

Invaluable advice from an alumnus with a wealth of career, entrepreneurial and life experience. Thank you to William for taking the time to share his journey and professional wisdom.

Why not stick around and read more alumni success stories:

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