Entrepreneur will help others follow dreams

From one entrepreneur to another.

Paresh Bhatt, owner and general manager of Comfort Inn in Fort Dodge, has helped launch the Open For Business Challenge.

Anyone seeking to open a business in north central Iowa is invited to enter the challenge – with winners receiving up $10,000 to invest.

In providing he funds for the award, Bhatt seeks to help area residents follow in his footsteps, so to speak.

After losing his job in a Boston manufacturing plant when the business closed, Bhatt took a position as a front desk clerk at a Comfort Inn in the city. Eventually, he and his wife, Dipa, decided to purchase a hotel of their own, which brought them to Fort Dodge.

Finding success in Iowa, in 2010 Bhatt established the Gift From India Fund with the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way as a means to give back.

“I have always felt blessed,” said Bhatt, who came to the United States from his native Gujarat, India in 1990. “I come from a middle class background. Many times people have great ideas or they want to work hard to achieve their goals but lack funding. I have been there.”

The Gift From India Fund will subsidize the challenge award – the winner of which will be announced May 22.

“It makes me and my entire family very happy when we see someone doing good,” Bhatt said. “Ever since my childhood, I have seen my parents trying to help people in different ways, which did not necessarily involve money but there are so many ways to help.”

Bhatt said he has seen firsthand the effects a hand-up can have for those who wish to prosper in business.

“About 5 to 7 years ago, when I visited India, I found out that one of my friends had financial problems with his business,” he said. “After talking with him, I found out that with some help from me, he could secure additional financing. So, I provided him help. He was able to turn around and revive the business, paid me back and is doing well.”

Having helped friends and family, Bhatt said he is excited for the opportunity to provide assistance based solely on merit.

“My biggest hope behind this project is that it works as a catalyst and inspires many more, or at least one person somewhere, to do a similar or much better project,” he said. “If we can help one person or a family to be successful, I will see it as a success for this project.”