She is not the first person you would notice when you walk into a room, she doesn’t like the spotlight; she’s soft-spoken and very unassuming. But, Denise Gordon-Morrison, Spa Manager at Sandals Negril recently copped the coveted title of MVP (Manager of the Year) at the resort’s annual Prestige Awards. Yes, she is a gentle giant.
“I had no clue that I would’ve become Manager of the Year. In fact, it was the furthest thing from my mind as I was just working the only way that I know how to work and that is giving my all,” Morrison explained.
But hard work never goes unnoticed at Sandals. In fact, Morrison’s Hotel Manager, O’Brian Heron, commends her for being a woman of work and not a woman of mere words.
“Denise epitomizes a great leader. She will not publicize the challenges her department faces because she always has a solution. She doesn’t talk a lot, she just executes,” he said.
She is passionate about training and development and Morrison feels that working at Sandals Negril has given her the opportunity to pour into people.
“It is never about me. When I heard my name being announced as Manager of the Year, all I could think about was my team. My aim is to lead a successful team through empowering those I work with,” she shared.
The mother of three credits her journey over the years for the insatiable zeal she has to invest in others. She spent over 10 years working on cruise ships as a nail technician, beauty therapist and assistant spa manager, making quite a name for herself and acquiring a wealth of knowledge.
Morrison’s voyage did not always see her encountering smooth seas though; she did endure bad weather and shipwrecks like most people but she has never dwelled on fear. She has what she calls relentless faith. She encourages people to keep going and says one should never be deterred by obstacles.
She grew up in Oracabessa, Saint Mary, with her “Nana” who is near and dear to her heart. Being born to teenage parents, it was the best decision at the time for her to be raised by the family matriarch who she said insisted that they attended and were fully active in the church.
While she did well academically, she did not matriculate into college after high school like everyone else. Her order of events was different; still she is a tale of success.
“After high school, I was selling in the craft market. I was making so much money at the time that I put off furthering my studies. After a few years of doing that I started a bar that was doing very well but when I got pregnant, it dawned on me that I needed to go back to school so I gave it up,” she recalled.
Beauty school then followed, which cemented, what she already knew, cosmetology is her passion. Excelling through her own abilities and working alongside others, gave her the confidence and experience to open her own salon, which became the go to salon in Oracabessa.
“I was very professional and showed up for work every day, whether I had appointments or not and when it came to customer service, I went above and beyond,” she shared.
About four years later, Morrison learned of a cosmetology programme in England and after some thought, decided she would take the leap of faith. She closed her business, sold everything and moved to England.
It was for this and other reasons that people describe her as a risk-taker but she maintains that she is a faith walker. “I am a woman filled with faith. My grandmother uses me as an example all the time that once I decide I want to do something, I don’t think about the challenges, I am just going for it,” she said.
By the time she got to England however, she realized she was not equipped to do Caucasian hair.
“I brought all my tools, my fancy curling irons, and my hot pot. I was an amazing hairdresser in Jamaica so I thought it would be easy for me but I just could not do those types of hair. I had to come back home,” she shared.
She was back home for almost two months with no salon but she used the time to perfect her skills as a nail technician. She practised on just about anybody, for free just so she could better herself.
She insisted that she would go back on the programme the following year as a nail technician and after a short stint in Cayman as a therapist; she was back in England as planned. This time, armed with her expertise to do well, Morrison did not have to come back home.
Over the years, Morrison travelled the globe, working and learning but Jamaica called and she finally decided to settle and raise her family here.
With all the knowledge she gained over the years, she is just truly happy to have ended up in Sandals.
“Sandals is big on training and development and I am happy to be a part of such a movement. I get to do the things I absolutely love. I guess that is why I fail to see this as hard work,” the Manager of the Year joked.
“My dream is to one day open a beauty school. It is not even for the sake of making money but I have so much knowledge that I would want to share with others. I’d want to train people and impart what I have learned over the years into them. In the meantime, Sandals is providing me with the opportunity to excel at what I do and convey knowledge at the same time,” she said.