NetIP Spotlight: Live Your Potential is a monthly show featuring experts on trending topics.
“Entrepreneurship: How He Did It, How You Can Do It, Too”
Jasbina Ahluwalia interviews Aakash Patel
Jasbina interviews Aakash Patel, Founder and President of Elevate, Inc.
Aakash will discuss the following topics:
- Why the connection between education and entrepreneurship is crucial to success
- How the political system can be used to your benefit
- How previous endeavors can enhance your chances of making it
A few of the topics Aakash addresses in this interview are:
- (3:24) Aakash Patel Launches Elevate
- (4:48) Early Learning Coalition: Mission
- (7:01) Education and Entrepreneurship
- (9:02) Washington Leadership Program
- (12:25) Indian Americans in US Government
- (14:12) Humility Brings Success
- (19:10) Get Involved with Congress
- (35:06) Set Up a Business: How To
- (24:25) Business Launch: Ready Yet?
Aakash M. Patel is the Founder and President of Elevate, Inc. In addition to his responsibilities in firm management, he helps clients in the areas of community relations, social media, target networking, public relations and government affairs.
In addition to his formal schooling, Aakash is a graduate of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Tampa (2012), FBI Citizen’s Academy (2013), Tampa Police Citizen’s Academy (2012), Tampa Bay Public Leadership Institute (2012), Leadership Tampa Bay (2011), Tampa Connection (2010) and College Leadership Florida (2005).
As Aakash became involved throughout Florida, he was recognized for numerous contributions. In 2013, the FSU Alumni Association named Patel as one of their top “Thirty Under 30” alumni. He was also a finalist for the 2013 Emerge Tampa Bay Deanne Dewey Roberts “Emerging Leader” award. Aakash was cited as one of Tampa Bay’s Up & Comers by the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2008, and featured as a “Rising Star” by the Tampa Bay Times. Additionally, he was denoted in The Tampa Tribune as one of “Tampa’s Networking Heavyweights”, and in the Tampa Bay Business Journal as “Tampa’s Master Networker.”
(00:48): Hello everyone. Welcome to NetIP Spotlight: Live Your Potential where we invite guest experts to speak on a variety of trending topics that matter to you. I’m Jasbina Ahluwalia, your host. I want to warmly welcome you to our show this evening.
I know everyone is crazy busy these days. I appreciate your investing time and joining us this evening. To give you a lay of the land, our guest speaker and I will be discussing his insights for about 20 to 25 minutes. After the discussion, you’ll have the opportunity to ask him any questions that you might have. With that said, lets’ jump in.
Today’s guest speaker is Aakash Patel. Aakash is the Founder and President of Elevate, Inc., a company which helps clients in the areas of community relations, social media, target networking, PR and government affairs. Aakash was cited as one of Tampa Bay’s Up & Comers by the Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2008 and featured as a “Rising Star” by the Tampa Bay Times. Additionally, he has been noted in the Tampa Tribune as one of “Tampa’s Networking Heavyweights” and in the Tampa Bay Business Journal as “Tampa’s Master Networker.”
Aakash volunteers and serves as Chairman of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, the Indo-US Chamber of Commerce, the University of Tampa Board of Counselors and the Leadership Tampa Bay Board of Directors. Aakash co-founded Leaders’ Friday Luncheon Group, an effort that, each month, connects young professionals with seasoned experts in industry, the community and civil services.
Aakash has participated in separate delegations to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Israel and Dubai through his affiliation with the Friends of MacDill Program, Kappa Jewish Federation and University of Tampa College of Business. Welcome to the show, Aakash.
(2:45): Thank you so much, Jasbina, for having me.
(2:48): It’s a pleasure to have you. What an interesting bio. How did you first get interested in government affairs?
(2:57): I attended Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. I was a part-time assistant at the Capitol Bureau for the Tampa Bay Times. My job was to do scheduling and answer phones for reporters. I became interested in the process or our higher education system and our legislature. I learned from the process itself and then volunteered when I graduated.
Aakash Patel Launches Elevate
(3:24): You’ve also started your own company. Tell me what led you to found your own company and start Elevate?
(3:36): There were a lot of mentors that I met through the political process and the community leaders here in Tampa Bay.
I met a lot of folks who said, “We need young blood involved in the political process. We need a lot of young blood to keep our best and brightest here in the area.”
Elaborating on Aakash Patel Launches Elevate.
Early Learning Coalition: Mission
(4:48): Wow! That is so interesting. I love that market research story. Congratulations on the Florida Governor’s recent appointment of you as Chairman of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough.
Tell our listeners about the Coalition’s mission in terms of early learning.
(5:12): In Florida in particular, with the volunteer pre-kindergarten program and the Head Start Program, school readiness is what they call it here.
It has been a big mission of every Governor, regardless of their party affiliation. The legislature here in the state founded what they call the Early Learning Coalitions of each region.
Elaborating on Early Learning Coalition: Mission.
Education and Entrepreneurship
(7:01): Wow! There are a lot of conceptual connections there. Tell us about the connection between education and entrepreneurship and why you think that connection is crucial to success.
(7:22): We can always learn from people we meet. Every time I sit down with someone, I bring pen and paper. I always follow up with an email and say, “This is what I learned. This is what I can teach.”
I always want to add value. That’s the education system.
I think the problem that we as Indian Americans face in this nation is that we’re focused so much on learning and not teaching others.
Elaborating on Education and Entrepreneurship.
Washington Leadership Program
(9:02): That’s interesting. Now I see the connections. What you’re saying is that it is the key to networking. You are adding value to someone else. You start by showing someone how you can add value and then it’s a sharing of that.
Let’s go back to the government affairs that we mentioned earlier. We ran through your experiences.
What is your opinion as to how one can use the political system to one’s own benefit? What suggestions do you have for our listeners who might be looking at that as something they are interested in doing?
(9:51): I always say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” What you see on the news, you have to experience it for real in your life.
I mentioned that I worked in the state legislature. I applied for an internship with what I think is one of the best kept secrets in the Indian American community. It is the WLP, the Washington Leadership Program. I applied for the Washington Leadership Program.
Elaborating on Washington Leadership Program: Benefits.
Indian Americans in US Government
(12:25): Okay. What are some of the issues that you find Indian Americans have brought up with respect to your experiences with the political process?
What were some of the dominant themes that were articulated?
(12:48): Former Prime Minister Singh was visiting the White House. For that time period, it was his first visit to President Bush. This was in the summer of 2005.
Frankly, the original issue was awareness. At that time, we only had one Congressman Member, Bobby Jindal. Now we have Congressman Bera. We have two Governors, Governor Nikki Haley and Former Congressman, now Governor Jindal.
Elaborating on Indian Americans in US Government.
Humility Brings Success
(14:12): That’s interesting. You have such a diverse professional background in journalism, government affairs, business development and PR.
What is your perspective on how previous endeavors can enhance your chances of success in subsequent seemingly unrelated endeavors? Our listeners are in all different fields and may have similarly been building blocks in different industries.
(14:47): There are two things that I always say here in the media locally. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
When you apply for certain programs, bid on certain projects or ask someone for their business, they probably say, “You’re too young. You’re a minority. You’re not experienced enough. You can’t deliver every one of my goals.” I say, “Give me a chance. Let me deliver.”
One of my coolest experiences was in 2010. I do a lot with our military.
Our military is our third largest employer here in Hillsborough County. We have 11,000 people here today with central command at MacDill Air Force Base. I’m one of the few young professionals who has a base pass. I’m part of the leadership program.
One of the base commanders called me in 2010 and said, “Would you know any business owners who would want to go on our delegation to Guantanamo to experience and be an ambassador for our nation?”
I said, “You need a young professional to go on the trip. I would love for it to be someone in the Indian American community, not just me, but there are doctors, CPAs and lawyers involved.”
They said, “You are the first person we asked, so we’re going to take you.” My advice is, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Always ask when it’s appropriate.
The second piece of advice is humility.
Elaborating on Humility Brings Success.
(17:24): I love that. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. I think we’ve all seen that. There are so many people who don’t ask. They’re waiting on the sidelines. They’re waiting for the invitation. That spans for every industry in every sector.
I really appreciate you sharing your insights with us, Aakash. Do you have any last thoughts or take-home message that you’d like to share with our listeners before we jump into Q&A?
(18:06): I say this a lot. There is nothing wrong with bragging. If you’re doing something great in your community, your religious sector or in your field of study at your university, there is nothing wrong with sharing that.
Social media makes it a lot easier to brag. It’s a way to brag but brag with incentive to let other people know.
If you don’t share what you’re doing then other people don’t know how to get involved and collaborate.
We always use the word “collaboration” in our community. We have to work together to achieve a common goal.
If you’re doing something out there in your community, I want to know about it. There are others who want to know about it. You’re always learning. That’s why I follow people on Twitter every day. I follow people on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Connect with others. That’s my last piece of advice.
Get Involved with Congress
(19:10): Everyone, we will now take your questions for Aakash. Here is our first question.
(19:43): Jasbina, thank you very much. Aakash, that was a great interview. Thank you so much for your insights.
You mentioned the Washington Leadership Program as being a major difference-maker in your time.
I understand that is primarily for those who are in their college years. Many of our listeners are slightly older than that.
Could you please shed some light on opportunities like the Washington Leadership Program that would apply for those who are out of school, maybe in their first or second decade of their career?
(20:18): I think every city or county has a local board of private and business sector folks, even in your field of study.
In Tampa, one of my county commissioners on the local board of advisors has about seven appointment for seven different boards.
They have different ways that you can volunteer, not just in a fundraising capacity. That’s what people assume when you get involved in the public service sector.
They are actual volunteers of the board. They have a variety of board of advisors.
I would say to call your local commissioner. First, sit down with them. Get to know them.
Elaborating on Get Involved with Congress: Beyond College.
Set Up a Business: How To
(35:06): Here is our next caller. Welcome, caller.
(22:07): Hi, thank you. Aakash, thank you for your time today. I was curious about your business. You mentioned when creating it how it really stemmed from friends coming to you for your insights and advice. You created a business out of that.
I was curious about how you learned about the appropriate legal aspects of starting a business and what advice you might have for others who want to start their business, what you learned the easy or hard way that you would like to share.
(22:43): I use Google a lot, to be honest with you. I Googled a business plan and copied and pasted one.
I also had to contact a couple of lawyer friends. I had to contact friends in the State Department to file a corporation.
I didn’t know how to do invoicing. I called my banker. I utilized four or five friends who weren’t experts in the field but who were getting there. I knew they were up-and-comers.
Elaborating on Set Up a Business: How To.
Business Launch: Ready Yet?
(24:25): We have another question. Welcome, caller.
(24:35): Hi, Aakash. Thanks for your perspective. This is Ravi from Minneapolis. A lot of our first-generation Indian American parents came here as entrepreneurs and business men.
Our second-generation bought into this corporate rat race mentality. A lot of us are successful, but a lot of us might not fit that exactly.
For many of us, how much do we need to know? What’s that comfort zone before we make that jump into the entrepreneurial world?
(25:09): I really think you need to know double what you should know. You can use the analogy of when you’re knocking on doors for campaigns.
Let’s say that you’re tired at the end of the day. Just when you think you’re tired, you have to knock on five more doors.
Elaborating on Business Launch: Ready Yet?
(26:50): Thanks for taking our listener’s questions, Aakash. In case our listeners want to contact you in the future, what is the best way for them to do so?
(27:00): I’m pretty active on social media. They can find me on Twitter with my name @pateltimes. It stems from working at the newspaper. Shoot me a tweet or direct message. I’d be happy to help. The hashtag we use is #helpingourcity. We also help our community as well.
I can’t thank you enough, the work that you do Jasbina, as well as what NetIP does around the nation to bring together and collaborate with young professionals of Indian American nature. It is so important for everyone to discuss and dialogue. I’m very honored to be on your program this evening.
(27:43): Thank you so much, Aakash. It was as pleasure to have you on. I really appreciate your insights. In case you joined us late or if you’d like to share this show with people in your life, a recording of this show will be sent out. I appreciate everyone hanging out with us. Make sure to join us for next month’s show. We hope that you’ll be joining us at the 23rd Annual NetIP Conference this Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. Goodnight, everyone.
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