Florida-based entrepreneur, philanthropist Ramola Motwani to receive prestigious Horatio Alger Award

Ramola Motwani. PHOTO: Linkedin @ramola-motwani

The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization, announced Feb. 6, 2024, that Ramola R. Motwani, chairwoman of Merrimac Ventures, a South Florida-based real estate development and investment firm, has been selected for membership in this prestigious organization.

The Association honors the achievements of outstanding individuals and encourages youth to pursue their dreams through higher education.

Motwani and 10 other exceptional business, civic and cultural leaders from across North America in receiving 2024 honors.

For more than 75 years, the Horatio Alger Award has been annually bestowed upon esteemed individuals who have succeeded despite facing adversities, and who have remained committed to higher education and charitable efforts in their communities, a press release from the organization said.

Born in undivided India as one of seven children, Motwani’s home state became a part of Pakistan. Her parents had to move to the new India leaving everything they had built behind.

Despite challenging times, Motwani’s parents encouraged her to pursue higher education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Jai Hind College in Mumbai, and then a law degree from Government Law College, also in Mumbai.

In 1969, Motwani’s then future husband, Ramesh “Bob” Motwani, immigrated to the United States to complete his MBA. She joined him six years later, and the couple soon married and moved to Missouri where they launched Sona Enterprises, a retail and wholesale import business.

They later relocated to Florida and bought Merrimac Hotel. They went on to purchase and manage several other inns and resorts. Sadly, in 1994, her husband passed away suddenly at the age of 47, leaving Motwani to raise their teenage sons and manage their growing business on her own.

Determined to succeed, she was able to hold onto their portfolio and continued to expand it significantly by acquiring additional properties, the Horatio Alger Association noted.

Motwani led the initiative to rezone Fort Lauderdale Beach for high-rise luxury development, paving the way for the neighborhood’s first luxury hotel – the Conrad Fort Lauderdale.

Today, as chairwoman of Merrimac Ventures, Motwani’s family-owned and operated real estate management, investment and development company, she has successfully completed more than $3 billion in various projects with another $3.7 billion in the works for the near future.

“A generous philanthropist whose giving centers around education, Ramola Motwani embodies the characteristics shared amongst Members of the Association,” Terrence J. Giroux, executive director, Horatio Alger Association is quoted saying in the press release. “Hard working, compassionate and resilient, Ms. Motwani grew the business she started with her late husband into a leading hotel management and development company. She’s a strong female leader and we’re proud to welcome her to the Association and look forward to the impact she will surely make.”

Motwani’s philanthropic giving centers around education. In 2019, she and her two sons launched the R. Motwani Academy of Hospitality and Tourism, which is the first-named academy at Broward College to encourage local young people to pursue a career in the hospitality field, many of whom are first-generation college students.

She is involved in many community organizations including the United Way of Broward County, the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County and the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

She was inducted into the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame, the Nova Southeast University Entrepreneur Hall of Fame and the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame and has received dozens of awards for her inspirational leadership.

Motwani was honored by the US House of Representatives for excellence in developing the City of Fort Lauderdale, received the Founder’s Award from the City of Fort Lauderdale and received a tribute from the Florida House of Representatives for her community involvement and business success.

“I’ve faced challenging times throughout my life, but I’ve always pushed myself to never give up hope,” said Motwani. “It’s when things get tough that it is most important to stay positive and keep going. That is a message I hope to share with Horatio Alger Scholars, and I look forward to working with my fellow Members to ensure the young people who are a part of this Association feel supported as they continue on their own individual paths to college and beyond.”

Motwani and the Member Class of 2024 will be formally inducted into the Association on April 4-6, 2024, during the Association’s annual Horatio Alger Award Induction Ceremonies in Washington, D.C.



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