As co-owner of two award-winning establishments, Nordic hotel and Nordic Villa, Jonas Schwarz Lausten, is not only passionate about business, he’s also committed to the “New Africa”—efforts to spotlight talent, innovation, and opportunity in industries across the continent.
From rave guest reviews about the “well-maintained property” to “personalized service,” the hotel’s brand promise is clear: sell an unforgettable experience, not just products and services.
Below, Jonas Schwarz Lausten shares his greatest accomplishments, challenges, and best pieces of advice for someone looking to establish strong business partnerships.
Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in Herning right in the middle of Denmark. It’s very known for its entrepreneurialism and its textile industry.
I have a master’s degree in a mix of Social Sciences and Business from Copenhagen Business School, Denmark and University of Stirling, Scotland.
I was 5 years old when I started selling juice outside our house and 10 when I started my neighborhoods’ first basketball club. Before coming to Nigeria I got a job in the Ministry of Science and Technology in Denmark where I worked as an assistant. There wasn’t much work so I started inviting my own projects. I guess it’s been the story of my career that I can’t help it trying to solve problems and make business better.
What problem does your business solve? What makes your hotel unique?
Nordic Hotel And Nordic Villa’s are two boutique hotels in the heart of Abuja. We provide excellent service and value for money. On top of that, we sell more than just accommodation, we sell experiences – a part of what we call #nordicfeeling. We focus on design, functionality and most importantly service.
We solve the issue for business travelers not having a proper place to lodge. We give them the full package. Free breakfast, free fast Wi-Fi, and a clean well-furnished room. Of course, under the headline “Value for Money”.
What are your top 3 accomplishments?
- When we became no. 1 on Trip advisor in Abuja in front of international brand name hotels. The reason why TripAdvisor is so important is because it is travelers who rate the hotels. It is the world’s biggest traveler review site with more than 300m monthly users.
- When we won the prestigious TripAdvisor award; Travelers Choice Award for best service as number 1 in Abuja. And when we did it 4 years in a row!
- We opened two leading boutique hotels in Nigeria.
Tell us about the “AHA” moment that inspired you to open a hotel?
It was actually after we opened the first hotel and became no 1 on Trip advisor after two months then we had the AHA, there’s a huge gap in the market and we pursued it!
What has been your greatest challenge? How did you overcome it?
Setting up business in Nigeria. We have a great Nigerian partner, and without him, Nordic Hotels wouldn’t have been where they are today. As a foreigner, it can be quite challenging to find your way.
What’s your best piece of advice for establishing a strong partnership?
It takes time. It’s all about trust. Anders, my Danish partner, met Collins, our Nigerian [partner] today on Skype 15-17 years ago. Three people were online – first two didn’t “pick”, and the third one was Collins. Turned out they had friends in common. That relationship grew and became a friendship and partnership.
We are certain that we wouldn’t have been able to set up shop without Collins. There are too many cultural layers to understand and fix. Plus he’s a very good business man, which is always a plus.
Tell me about a time you failed in business. What did you learn from your mistake?
We once leased a property from a guy that turned out to see the world very differently than us. The building has too many issues and in the end, we closed it. We learned a lot from this and not to rush into something that seems too good.
What’s your best 3 pieces advice for someone trying to launch a startup company?
There is very successful Danish entrepreneur that has this saying: launch crap, but launch! I think its very right – just get going and then work on it as you go.
Like your product and believe in it.
Trial and error – test, test, test and again test! Find out what works in your market and then adjust.
I believe everyone has a “secret sauce” that has defined his or her success. What are the top three ingredients that have enabled you to succeed?
It’s not a secret. It’s hard work and lots of effort. Nothing comes easy. The most important thing though is to make sure you enjoy it while doing it – have fun with it and be interested in it. Otherwise, you can’t keep at it.
You can follow Jonas on Twitter. Nordic Hotels on Instagram: @nordichotelabuja & @Nordicvillaabuja. Facebook: @Nordichotel and @thenordicvilla. Twitter: @nordichotelng and @nordicvilla