Imagine going from sleeping on carpet in India as a child, to immigrating to America as a teen, and now owning profitable businesses at age 22.
That is the story of Darshuan Patel, 22, born in Gujarat, along the western border of India. His said his family struggled because of the country’s overpopulation and lack of resources.
“There was five of us to share one bed in a one-bedroom, single story home,” Patel said. “Our parents took the bed, while my older siblings shared a couch. I recall many nights sleeping on the floor.”
After being in the United States for 13 years, Patel’s Hindu faith remains the most important part of his life. “To contrary beliefs, Hinduism is not an organized religion without systematic value system,” he said. “It is driven by local practices, although there is a common belief system.”
Patel is not married and in no rush. Staying true to his religious beliefs, he said he would need to marry an Indian Hindu woman, which would require him to travel back home for an extended period of time. He’s not ready just yet, and his business takes up much of his time.
Patel’s family immigrated to the United States when Darshaun was 9. His family applied for his Visa and proper immigration paperwork before leaving India to achieve the American Dream.
The family settled in Kansas, where Patel’s wealthy uncle immigrated and opened a couple motels. They lived in these hotels for the first few years. Between learning English and working at the motel to earn his keep, Patel didn’t have the childhood many American children experience.
He graduated high school in 2014, a year earlier than his classmates. Following graduation, he traveled to Texas to visit his oldest sister and met his business partner, Charlie Patel, who become his brother-in-law.
Darshuan Patel decided to forgo college to learn business hands on. Looking back, he doesn’t regret the decision. He has opened two business and taken care of his family financially, while saving money for college.
“I will go to college at some point,” he said. “Once I have full faith that I have the right people running my stores, I will go. Where I go is the real question.”
His first store was a Spirit Station in Batesville. The store serves as a truckstop and local gas station. As a 22-year-old owning a business, life has been interesting.
“Starting a business is one of the hardest things to do,” he said, “but with my faith and work ethic my father instilled in me, helped me push through.”
A couple of reoccurring issues have been adjusting to long hours and maintaining customers. Patel said he’s also experienced discrimination.
He said some convenience stores are owned by people from Middle Eastern countries, such as India and Pakistan. The two countries and cultures are vastly different, but some Americans are not aware of this.
Since the terrorist attack on 9/11, he said some hold unfavorable views about people from the Middle East. And because many Mississippians do not know the difference between the two nations and cultures, Patel said Indian people are often also viewed unfavorably.
“It is very unfortunate that this kind of bigotry still exist,” said Patel’s partner, Charlie Patel, “and it is something that is hard for us to explain to a customer within the small amount of time we interact, but we do our best.”
Despite challenges, Darshuan Patel has a profitable store. His store sells gas, but he said most gas stations do not make money from gas. They profit from items inside the store, such as snacks, candy, food, tobacco, beer, and phone accessories, etc. that have the highest markup allowing for high profits.
Employee Marcy Laster, who is more than 30 years younger than her boss, said she enjoys working with Patel. “When I interviewed with him, it was hard to take him serious because he looked so young and innocent,” she said, “but he is a great boss. If any of us (his employees) have financial problems, he is here to help.”
Patel said he hasn’t let outside factors or his age prevent him from pursuing the American Dream, and he remains devoted to his faith.