WTOP is featuring women who make a difference in the community during Women’s History Month.
She’s an award winning entrepreneur and native Washingtonian, who built her business one bed and breakfast at a time.
Monique Greenwood says she wanted a home that she could love, in a city that she loves each season of the year. And that’s exactly what she built.
Greenwood is the owner and chief enjoyment officer of Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns. She says, “The key to running a successful bed and breakfast is having a love for people and wanting to make sure that they had a great experience.”
The motto of the business is: “The answer is yes. So, we really don’t care what the question is, we’re just going to work to get to the yes.”
Changing career paths
Greenwood was born and raised in the Petworth section of Northwest Washington, D.C. After graduating from Howard University, she began her career as a journalist.
She eventually made her teenage dream a reality by becoming the editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine.
“It was the magazine on the coffee table of my home that proclaimed me beautiful as a Black woman,” she said. Greenwood succeeded the iconic Susan Taylor as editor-in-chief.
Greenwood juggled both jobs for several years. “I would make breakfast then go make a magazine.”
Eventually, she decided that she wanted to really grow her bed and breakfast, and left Essence after six years.
Running her business
Greenwood said she didn’t sleep in a bed of her own until she was 22 years old.
“There was always my sister. We were both queen size sleeping in a full size bed.” Now she has plenty of beds to choose from.
Akwaaba Inns has five location and close to 40 guest rooms.
Greenwood and her husband of 31 years, Glenn Pogue, opened the first Akwaaba Mansion in Brooklyn, New York, in 1995. Akwaaba by the Sea in Cape May, New Jersey, launched in 2002.
She returned home to Washington, D.C. in 2003 to open Akwaaba D.C., located in Dupont Circle. The elegant inn is decorated with a literary theme, highlighting her love of books with guestrooms named after great African American authors like Langston Hughes and Toni Morrison.
In the Spring of 2006, they purchased the first inn they ever visited in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2012, they launched a boutique spa resort in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains called The Mansion at Noble Lane, which is the former estate of F.W. Woolworth. She calls it the jewel in their crown.
Greenwood’s grandmother, who lived to be 101 years old and also a native Washingtonian, said before she died, “I can remember when I couldn’t sit at the counter at Woolworth’s. Now my baby girl is all up in their mansion.”
They were closed for three months last year due to the coronavirus pandemic: “We had to furlough, layoff all of my staff.”
But, they used creative ways to stay alive.
She said they really leveraged their social media presence during the time. They began selling the products online that they use at the inns.
“We sold the bathrobes, the mugs, the pancake mix we use to make the waffles.”
They were able to successfully reopen around Memorial Day 2020.
Greenwood gives credit for the reopening to the Black community. “They said Black business matters too, and we were the beneficiaries of that incredible, incredible support.”