By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – Bruce Patel was named the Mississippi Small Business Person of the Year earlier this year, and was officially recognized Thursday at an awards ceremony at the BancorpSouth Conference Center.
“This is very humbling and greatly appreciated,” he said.
The owner of Fusion Hospitality in Tupelo, Patel has helped build a company with hotels across the state. The company also has properties in several other states.
Some say Patel developed his entrepreneurial spirit at an early age when his family moved from England to Alabama in 1990. His father owned a hotel, where Bruce and his brother Barry Patel learned the operations.
But, Patel said, that spark actually began earlier when he and Barry were kids.
“We used to charge kids to enter our backyard,” he said with a laugh. The Patel brothers converted an old cart to swing their friends around the yard.
Thus bloomed the seeds of entrepreneurship.
David Rumbarger, president and CEO of the Community Development Foundation, said business leaders like Patel stand out.
“Nothing ever is given to them. … every entrepreneur takes a little risk – he’s taken his share – and with risks often come great rewards. He’s put together a great team.”
Indeed, Patel said the key to building any successful business is customer satisfaction and having a “solid team” to lead the company.
“I’ve surrounded myself with an empowered team,” he said.
Patel’s first hotel was the former Quality Inn – also known as the Executive Inn – on McCullough Boulevard in 2003. He bought it with family help, renovated it, then sold it four years later.
“That was my first shot at owning a hotel, my first shot at the American dream,” he said.
Since then, Fusion Hospitality has built or acquired seven hotels in Mississippi and four more are in various stages of construction.
“Only in America, only in Tupelo, Mississippi,” Patel said after accepting his award.
A dream that was sparked in a backyard in England so many years ago has become reality. But there’s more to come, Patel promised.
“That dream has been realized,” he said. “I now what the difference is between dreams and goals . … and the best is yet to come.”
The other 2014 Mississippi SBA Small Business Awards winners who were recognized Thursday:
• Young Entrepreneur: Marissa C. Simms, owner of Royal Bleau Boutique, Jackson.
• Women in Business Champion: Tania C. Bayne, owner of Shanti Yoga and Counseling, Gulfport
• Veteran Small Business Champion: Fred Boykin, chairman of Military Veterans Association, Gulfport
• Financial Services: Regina Austin, FDIC Community Affairs Specialist, Jackson.