Everglades City is a world away from Canterbury, the elite private school in Fort Myers where Aashish Patel was a standout science student.
Patel once won a science prize for testing different drugs on rat brains. “It gave me confidence that I could take on things beyond my years,” he says.
Today, Patel is the largest private employer in Everglades City, the remote outpost on the edge of the swamp 45 minutes east of Naples. He owns two airboat operations that carry thousands of sightseers and a motel that accommodates recreational fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts.
“We’re selling them an experience,” says Patel, who joined his father, George Patel, in the hotel business.
While he’s expanding the airboat business, Patel has his sights set on the next project: a 114-room hotel with ocean views in Pompano Beach. “We started the planning process 15 months ago,” says Patel.
The eight-story hotel will be branded a Hyatt Place where Atlantic Avenue and A1A intersect. Patel hopes to start construction next summer. “I love the hotel business,” he says.
But Patel is always on the go, even on weekends. “Hobbies cost money,” he laughs.
— Jean Gruss
City of residence: Fort Myers
Years on the Gulf Coast: 21
Martial status/children: not married, no children
Alma mater: Indiana University
Best place to network: Social media and community events
The most important business lesson I’ve learned: Treating others how I would want to be treated.
Best award you ever received: When I won “Best of Fair” at the science fair (pretty nerdy) when I was a freshman in high school.
Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Bungee jumped off an old bridge in Costa Rica.
Coolest business experience: So far, developing an ocean front hotel (in progress) on the other coast has been quite the experience.
One website that makes your job easier: Google
One community group you are most involved with: The Hindu Temple of Fort Myers
Favorite off-hours activity: Relaxing with family and friends.
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Warren Buffett and Louie C.K.
What’s at the top of your bucket list: Visiting Vermont in the fall and eating dinner at Alinea in Chicago.
What new skill would you like to learn: Skills like the two guys on the show Property Brothers.
Who would play you in a movie about your life: Definitely George Clooney or Brad Pitt. Just kidding! Aziz Ansari would be a more realistic fit.
If I had a magic wand I’d: Have the best food truck in the world!