Name: Grace Muchiri
Campus: Les Roches Bluche, Diploma in Hotel Operations, 2000
Current job: Operations Manager, Karen Country Club (Nairobi, Kenya)
Founder & CEO, Club Managers Association of East Africa
When Grace Muchiri began her hospitality studies at Les Roches, she was not particularly familiar with the club management industry. However, several internships in the US and the UK plus extensive work experience at exclusive clubs (including those owned by Donald Trump) changed all that. Today, Grace is the Operations Manager at the prestigious Karen Country Club in Nairobi, Kenya. Moreover, Grace is committed to sharing her experience with others and providing industry professionals with development opportunities. She is now also the Founder and CEO of the Club Managers Association of East Africa, the first association of its kind in the region and the second in Africa.
Grace discovered the world of country clubs by chance when she was recruited by Greenwich Country Club (Connecticut, USA) for an internship. Since then, she has accumulated more than 15 years of global experience working in the club industry. Her past roles include Director of Sales and Catering at Greenwich Country Club, Clubhouse Manager at Beacon Hill Country Club (New Jersey, USA) and Director of Food and Beverage at Trump National Golf Club (New Jersey, USA). Of this last role, Grace says, “That was my first time working in a privately-owned club. It was a great experience — Trump brings a lot of passion to his business.”
In addition to gaining valuable experience managing elite clubs, Grace has seriously invested in her own professional education. In 2006, she joined the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) and began the lengthy process required to become a Certified Club Manager (CCM). To qualify as a CCM, Grace spent around six years gaining management experience while completing professional training, which included taking Business Management Institute (BMI) Club Management courses. Though time-consuming and intense, the process brought Grace lots of networking opportunities; in her words, “That education and preparation has been the cornerstone of my career.”
This is why Grace has launched the Club Managers Association of East Africa (CMAEA); for her, the establishment in 2015 of this association, which has a partnership with its American counterpart, was “a full-circle moment.” She explains, “I’m passionate about giving back to this industry what it has given me.” The CMAEA aims to empower leaders by offering development opportunities to professionals working in the general management of clubs. Meanwhile, opportunities are ripe for establishments like golf clubs and country clubs in Kenya, where multinationals have brought a global clientele.
And why become a Club Manager? For Grace, the answer is easy:
I love it — you’re constantly challenged. Clubs are very different from hotels. Your clientele — around 5,000 members in my case — are your bosses. They pay a lot to belong to a club. It’s that sense of expectation; they want a lot of bang for their buck
When it comes to food and beverage, for example, Grace says, “You’re trying to satisfy 5,000 members who want 20 different cuisines. You’re constantly thinking outside the box as to how to keep them satisfied.”
Reflecting on her start in hospitality education at Les Roches, Grace says, “I truly loved that school — it gave me a fantastic foundation to what I’m doing today and what my career has become.” To young Les Rochians, she has this advice to give: “It’s very important that you get to know what you’re passionate about, because first, you’ll be successful, and second, you won’t feel like you’re working; you’ll wake up every morning to do something you love. Once you find where your passion lies, that’s the greatest gift you can receive.”