Jonas Schwarz Lausten, a Danish entrepreneur, is a co-Founder of the Nordic Villa, a popular, well-established private boutique hotel in Abuja with a Scandinavian theme.
He recently spoke to me on why he decided to launch a hotel business in Nigeria, the challenges he encounters operating in Nigeria, and his ambitions for his hotel.
Give me a rundown of your personal and professional background.
I’m born and raised in Herning, right in the middle of Denmark. It’s very known for it’s entrepreneurialism and its textile industry. My father was an entrepreneur and owned a few textile businesses and sat on various boards. He actually lived in Nigeria back in the 1970s for 7 years. He ran a pharmaceutical company in Jos. My mother was a pre-school teacher. When she was in her 50s she decided that she wasn’t done learning and took a Masters degree in speech therapy. I was in high school and she started comparing grades with me. Not cool as she was a straight A student. I wasn’t. My parents are fantastic people who’ve inspired me to become who I am today. My brother is one of my partners and a great businessman. My sister is working in the space between digital and analogue helping businesses bridge the gap. She’s super creative and quite the entrepreneurial spirit too.
I was 5 when I started selling juice outside our house and 10 when I started my neighborhoods’ first basketball club. I’ve always been competitive and played table tennis on the national youth team for a couple of years. Sports mean a lot to me. Today I play tennis and work out. After finishing high school I worked to save money to travel the world. It brought me to Nigeria for the first time where I ended up building the first playground in Adamawa State in East Nigeria. It took me to the USA where I bought a car – a 1991 Ford Mercury Grand Marquis) with two friends. We had to sell it for scrap a month after because a drunk-driver crashed into us. I have a Masters degree in a mix of Social Sciences and Business from Copenhagen Business School, Denmark and University of Stirling, Scotland.
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. One of them ended up saving the Ministry a lot of money in internal processes. When I presented to my boss her respond was: “Who told you to do this?” When I said, “nobody – I just had some extra time and thought it was nice to save the taxpayers some money.” She looked at me and said. “I’ve never tried this before… thank you!” I’d like to think of the time as my own personal moon-shine shop project.
When I studied I quickly learned that I needed the degree but I could do a lot of work at the same time. I love working and so I did. Various start-ups and all of a sudden I ended up in Nigeria. Today I’m one of the leading hotel entrepreneurs in Nigeria.