Meet Dori Massey Turay, the hotelier personalising guest experiences in Sierra Leone
Post by Sharon
We had a gym date on her off day and a scrabble date on my last day. Which kind of Business owner does that with their customer?
I had the rare opportunity to meet this fine woman who I felt had a lot to give. My natural inclination was to get to speak to her to get to know her more; but then again, I was hit by this thought, “why don’t I share with the world what she is going to say.” So, in trying not to be selfish I got a gig with OMTs digest to grant my first ever interview with Dori Turay. Yaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!!!!!!
Since my interview, she has received her Sierra Leonean citizenship based on her sharing of her maternal genetic ancestry with Mende people in Sierra Leone. The test was performed by African Ancestry. So her love for Sierra Leone has only deepened.
Sharon: Tell me more about yourself. Who is Dori?
Dori: I am a mother of 3, a wife, a sister, an auntie, and a friend. I am an open-minded person that is willing to share her space but at the same time let you know her boundaries in the warmest ways.
Sharon: I know being a mom is not easy, but I see you have kept at it so well. It is my admiration that has got us doing this interview. What has kept you going all these 25 years.
Dori: When I decided to be a mom, stopping wasn’t an option for me. Despite being a single mother, I wanted the best for my children and knew that I had to work twice as hard. I believe that you are only a kid for not long and the window to mold good citizens is small. They will literally be 25 and 20 in the blink of an eye. Mothers must find their helpers, we can’t do it all alone. I knew I had helpers and I allowed them to help me. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are not super humans. My circle of support is strong, and I am extremely grateful. Secondly, make time for yourself DAILY. I wake up at 4:00am meditate, pray, read, journal and exercise. This is my time because everyone is sleep and I am not disturbed. Wednesdays are my off days and I drop my daughter off at school, I stop by Nina’s Coffee shop and have a pastry and a cup of coffee and people watch until 9:00 am and I volunteer with Uman Tok until it is time to pick up my daughter. I truly enjoy my time alone doing what brings me joy. Thirdly, allow your children to see your flaws and short comings. We are not perfect, and they should know every day isn’t sunny sometimes it rains. Handle it and Get back to business!
Sharon: Your accent tells me you are of American descent. How long have you lived in Sierra Leone? And how is it for you? Do you miss home? And how do you manage it.
Dori: I initially visited Sierra Leone for the first time in January 2019. September 2019 was when we officially moved. Of course, I miss my friends and family especially my older children. But I have fallen in love with Sierra Leone and enjoy working with my husband and the flexibility of being a business owner.
Sharon: I am told you co-own this beautiful place, Stafford Lodge, with your husband. You are so down to earth and so willing to share. I really love lodging here, so welcoming, and so homely. How did it all start?
Dori: Stafford Lodge was an idea created by my husband, Desmond AKA Stafford. He often returned home to Sierra Leone and stayed with family members. During his stay other family members would visit all times of the day and night. When his beloved grandmother passed, he returned to Sierra Leone and stayed at a hotel. The hotel was not in the best condition, but he had privacy and truly appreciated his own space. He thought he could create a guest house and offer the same amenities that he was used to by living in America but at a reasonable price. He broke ground in 2006 and began the long and sometimes overwhelming process. I met him shortly after he broke ground in May of 2009 and we got married in 2010. I became co-owner by marriage. We opened our doors February 14,2016. I will take credit for the homely feeling. I literally want every guest to enter and leave as a friend.
Sharon: Tell me more about your volunteering work
Dori: Every Wednesday, I volunteer for Uman Tok. I have the chance to briefly focus on someone else’s need. I am able to talk with the young seamstress. Uman Tok provides reusable sanitary napkins for young girls. The kit consists of 2 maxi pads, 2 panty liners, panties and soap. The kit will last the girl up to 3 years. I was drawn to the group during their presentation for support at an International Women’s Committee potluck. During the presentation the owner Juliette described the number of young girls who do not attend school because of their period. Because they do not have pads, they resort to tearing pages out of books, using old cloths etc. Hearing this as a woman I knew those methods would lead to embarrassment. I instantly wanted to help. To have a period is a part of being a woman and should be celebrated and not embarrassed. Growing up in America I was never hindered by the time of the month. It is very sad to know many girls are unable to attend school or social events because of their period. Because the napkins are reusable, they are environment safe and made with love by the seamstress of Uman Tok. I have been linked with this group since 2019 when I heard their first presentation. The owner Juliette is very passionate about young girls not missing school and she has employed local seamstresses and her team is truly making a difference.
Sharon: What is your typical day like?
Dori: A typical day, I don’t have those. I deal with all sorts of guests from all over and each day is anything but typical. Being an Innkeeper, you never know what type of present the day will bring you. My one constant is my personal development time. I wake up at 4:44 am I do the power of 10. 10 minutes mediation, 10 minutes yoga, 10 minutes affirmation, 10 minutes journal and the remaining time I read. 6:30 am, I’ll head downstairs to speak with the night receptionist and make sure we are ready for breakfast. About 7:00 I return to our space to make sure Destiny is ready for school and my husband and I drive her to school at 8:15. After that I make sure I meet with the guests and respond to emails. I make sure guest rooms are suitable for new check-ins and update social media. My intention is to have dinner with Destiny and Desmond around 4:00 and help her with homework. I am off by 3:00 unless something major is going on. I want to be fully available to her when she comes home from school. I am normally in bed by 9:00 pm on most nights.
Sharon: What kind of inspiration have you drawn from other women along your journey? You can pick one person and tell us how she inspired you.
Dori: My daughter Taylor J Mitchell is my inspiration. She has shown me how to truly live and dance to my own beat. Many times, in life we are afraid to step outside of our comfort zone and into the unknown. I was that person playing safe. But I have watched my brave daughter set her eyes on something to me that appears to be unattainable and most of the time she succeeds. She has also been knocked down, received more nos than the average person, passed over many times but she is persistent and doesn’t give up. She writes her plan down, she studies and prepares. I quietly watched her bravery; I have watched her in awe and in admiration. I watched her living and breathing freely. So, in 2017 when we were faced with a decision to move to a country that I knew nothing about or stay the course, I thought about Taylor and her adventures, and I jumped!
Sharon: What one thing do you think women should know before starting a business?
Dori: If I had to choose one thing, I would say to be flexible. Flexibility is a must as a business owner. As women we are thorough and have crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s before jumping into anything. We have our funding; we have completed our research and we are ready. This is the point where Murphy’s Law steps in and whatever can go wrong will usually go wrong. We must be flexible, able to bend without breaking and giving up on our dream. I truly believe this is the final test of the fittest. A test to see if you are going to give up or continue on the path. And if you choose to continue on your path and bend into the curves eventually the path will straighten.
Sharon: What advice do you have for younger women?
Dori: It is cliché but not everyday will be a walk in the park. Obstacles will occur but you must know yourself. Before you take another step know what makes you happy, what makes you sad, what are your hard No’s, and what are you willing to compromise and what are you NOT willing to compromise? If you know yourself, you will know how to handle the obstacles and setbacks without giving up on your dreams.
About the Writer
Sharon Deladem Mensah is an IT consultant who specializes in project coordination and technical writing. She loves to write, sing and inspire others. She owns a growing business that sells liquid soaps and detergents.
IG: @medalessoap, @sdelamensah
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