In this series of engaging and inspiring interviews with world class artists, creatives and entrepreneurs, Rayna Campbell of Flow Artists asks Entrepreneur and Hotelier, David Bowd a series of questions about art, creativity and Mindset.
1. Hello David, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be an artist/entrepreneur?
I started my ground-up career holding various positions for hospitality giants, Hilton and Marriott in the U.K. before taking my first General Manager position in 2001 for Thistle Hotels. Three years later, I was recruited by then Ian Schrager Hotels as General Manager of St Martins Lane in London. Quickly thereafter in 2004, I was promoted to Regional Vice President for Europe overseeing both Sanderson and St Martins Lane.
I was then promoted to Senior Vice President of Operations at the corporate offices in New York. In this position, I oversaw the day-to-day operations for eleven Morgans Hotel Group properties. In 2009, I left Morgans to work with Ian again as Managing Director of The Ian Schrager Company. Working directly with Ian, David developed the operational structure for two new brand concepts Edition and Public.
From 2011 – 2014 I was the Chief Operating Officer for Andre Balazs Properties, overseeing nine uniquely positioned hotels including the Standard brand and the iconic Mercer in New York, Chateau Marmont in Hollywood and I opened the highly-acclaimed Firehouse in London.
In 2014 I launched Salt Hotels with my partner Kevin and I am currently The Chief Executive overseeing the 4 hotels located in Provincetown - Cape Cod, Shelter Island - New York and Asbury Park – New Jersey. Salt Hotels has a further 3 hotels under development in Asbury Park, New York & London.. Salt’s properties have received worldwide critical acclaim from leading travel experts and publications including; Condé Nast Traveler’s Hot List, The World’s Greatest Hotels, Boston Magazine “Best of Boston” Travel and Leisure IT List, USA Today best new Hotel in America..
In 2016 I entered a Joint Venture with Williams Sonoma Inc. to form west elm Hotels. David is a principal of the company and is responsible for Culture, Employee & Guest Experience and works hand in hand with the west elm design team to create unique hotel experiences in each location. west elm Hotels currently have 5 hotels in development in Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Charlotte and Savannah.
I have been fortunate to work with two of the greatest creators in the Industry with Ian and Andre and my passion has become creating amazing spaces that stir emotions and provide a wonderful guest experience.
I have felt that Boutique or Lifestyle hotels have not focused on the guest experience enough and my passion is to provide beautiful design matched with impeccable service.
2. What projects are you working on at the moment?
We have 3 hotels under development with Salt, one bringing me home to the UK which I love – others are in Manhattan, NY and a second property in Asbury Park NJ.
With west elm Hotels we will open our first hotel next year in Indianapolis very quickly followed by 6 amazing hotels in really interesting US Markets.
3. What do you do to stay at the top of your game as an creative/entrepreneur?
Work really hard – LOL – it is non stop and a juggling game, but I read a lot, watch who is doing interesting things and most importantly surround myself with extremely talented people who are able to execute on our vision.
4. How do you deal with rejection?
Not very well – but I try and learn from each rejection – if you aren’t being rejected or you don’t fail I don’t think you are pushing the boundries and therefore won’t ever be able to create new and interesting things.
Having said all that – It is very hard and sometimes for a very short time I wonder why we are doing what we are doing, then I get inspired again and move on.
5. We do a lot of mindset work in Flow, how important is it to have a healthy mindset as an creative/entrpreneur and how do you keep yours healthy and positive?
So so so important – I was not healthy until about 5 years ago, I was not in the best work environments and my health suffered, I was smoking, not exersizing and not eating healthily. I found Soul Cycle in the US and was able to turn everything around – it is my sanctuary, 45 minutes without being able to be contactable, just me, pumping music and a spin bike. I lost 60 pounds, gave up smoking and focused on my health for the first time. Since then we have achieved so much more in the company and me personally in life.
6. What advice would you give to someone who is wanting to set up a business but is starting out with few resources or contacts?
It really is going to be a very hard road, there will be some time (for me it was a few years) without any income coming in personally, a lot of hard work, rejection and doubt – but it is all worth it – you create the culture – you create a company that you want to - you shape and form everything. I would advise try and do it with someone – it shares the burden and increases the fun. Don’t give up and celebrate your successes – when our first hotel was recognized as one of the best hotels in the world – we celebrated, we had one of the most expensive nights out that we certainly couldn’t afford – but we needed to celebrate all the work that had gone into it.
Also network – make the time to go to as many events as you can that are relevant to your life and business or craft.
I also felt that supporting charities and local organizations helped me understand other businesses and people and made me more competent. Now I sit on the board of Garden State Equality in New Jersey US and love the leaders I can work with and learn from
7. How do you deal with setbacks both personal and professional?
Now I really just brush it off and move on. It is natural to get very excited about new projects and interesting things but sometimes they just don’t work out – I used to worry about it – now I look at it – see if there were things we could have done better or differently, learn from that and move on – life really is too short to spend too long looking back.
8. Knowing what you know now, if you could go back to a time when you were just starting out as an artist/entrepreneur and maybe struggling for work and a healthy income, what advice would you give to yourself?
LOL – I am still struggling – but I would say – be patient – new businesses take a lot of work and patience and time to become successful and it will happen – as the wonderful campaign says – “it gets better”
9. Is it important to have a mentor/business buddy/accountability partner? If yes why?
Yes for sure – someone to bounce the ideas off, tell you when you are off base, help you, guide you, be honest with you and have fun with. Fun is one of the most important things in life and it’s much better with a partner – be that a mentor or business partner.
10. And finally, social media? Yes or no for using it to promote our businesses and why?
Got to be done, it shouldn’t run your business (like it should'nt run your life) but it is an important part and often helps you really explain your brand in a few short stories.
Thank you David!