This month, we’re sharing the story of our new EO member Nipa Patel, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Sath Inc., a cyber security firm with offices in Illinois and Kolkata, India. Nipa shares her inspirational story of immigrating to the U.S. as a child, learning English, and becoming a successful business owner. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago, followed by her MBA in operations management from DePaul University. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her children, reading, and completing difficult puzzles. Learn all about Nipa’s entrepreneurial journey.
EO Member: Nipa Patel
Company: Sath Inc.
Years in Business: 16
How long have you been a member of EO Chicago and why did you join the organization?
I joined EO Chicago in June 2019. Over the years, I have found entrepreneurship to be exciting, invigorating, and thrilling, yet it can also be stressful and lonely. For many years, I felt I was driving a semi-truck on the highway at 100 miles an hour with one hand tied behind my back. I joined EO to be part of a community of like-minded individuals who share a similar, yet different perspectives and to grow myself as an individual—both personally and professionally.
Can you describe your entrepreneurial journey? Where did you start and where do you hope to go in the future?
My entrepreneurial journey started in my sophomore year at UIC, about six years after moving to the U.S. I was eager to contribute to my family’s financial well-being. I had been working since I was 14 and wanted to explore starting a business with my parents on the side while we still had our daily commitments. My parents worked the second shift working in a manufacturing company. I was in constant emotional turmoil seeing my parents work so hard to send my brother and me to college for a better future. I couldn’t stand by and do nothing. While working part-time jobs throughout my high school and college years, I created a business plan to open a specialty restaurant. We explored several locations but weren’t able to afford the monthly rent. Thus I had to put the plan on the back burner till I could save up enough money. This experience taught me the process of starting a business and all that is involved to get started.
What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
We are at the tail end of our business pivot and rolling out a next generation Workforce Identity and Access Management software. Other than that, I am in the brainstorming and incubation phase for a new business venture focused on addressing the vast gap in mental health and financial literacy. My main focus will be servicing our local and global communities with tools and services geared towards financial literacy, financial wellness, and therapy as well as mental health for youth.
What is your favorite part about working in the Chicagoland area?
My favorite part about working in the Chicagoland area is our diversity. Our city culture is so rich in diversity and welcoming of all individuals from all walks of life. It’s one of the few reasons we continue to live and work in Chicago.
What daily challenges do you face at work?
My daily challenge these days is to ensure our team of 35+ people across the U.S. and India remains healthy (mentally and physically) while we continue to take care of our clients. I find myself working on items such as operations and HR more in-depth these days than I previously have and while they are critical, they aren’t my areas of passion.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a politician. I grew up in India in the same area as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. As a young woman growing up in India while Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was leading the country, I was moved by her leadership and commitment to the betterment of all Indian citizens.
What is the best career advice you ever received?
It’s hard to choose one. There have been many from so many wonderful people in my life. The best career advice I received was from Laurie Urbancik, my long-time mentor. She said, “In entrepreneurship or in life, people make or break your success. Success is about teamwork. Hire the best people and pay them generously. Take care of them.” It has been hard to implement this at all times, especially in the tech industry, but I go back to this advice frequently these days, especially in days of our current pandemic and political unrest. As a business owner, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without a strong team at work, at home, and at EO.
What are your goals for the future of your business?
My goal for my current business is to thrive as a cyber security software firm. We are finishing our business pivot from providing cyber security services to being a cyber security solution and software organization. My goal is to implement business succession so that business continues to grow and thrive without my daily engagement.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a grocery store clerk and cashier at the age of 14. Working at Dominick’s, I learned so much—from learning to speak English (I moved to the U.S. six months before and didn’t speak English) to customer service, teamwork, and that hard work, good work ethics are valued by all regardless of age, gender, or race.
What brought you to Chicago?
We have a large number of extended family members living in Chicago. So when it was time for us to move to the U.S., Chicago seemed to be a great city to be in. Since then Chicago has been a home for me.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I truly enjoy being in the front line working with our clients in solving their challenges. I also enjoy working with team members and helping them achieve their career goals. My bucket is filled when I see our clients achieve the goals they wanted to through our services and see our young team members grow in their professional careers. Cyber security can be such a dry subject for everyone, and when my team and I add in the human factor and work side-by-side in a collaborative environment, I feel fulfilled.
How do you find work-life balance?
This is a tough one. The way I find work-life balance is through my kids Arya (12) and Mihir (10). My kids have been great at reminding me and at times forcing me to be grounded in the present moment. They inspire me to be a better person and I get so much energy being around them.
Who or what inspires you?
Lately, I am inspired by Betty White. At the age of 98, she is still active, engaged in the community, and maintains her positive outlook on life. She is my all-time favorite inspirational woman.
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome?
The greatest challenge I have overcome is moving with my mom and my brother from India to the U.S. without speaking English. My upbringing and early education were mainly in Gujarati. My mom, brother, and I had to wrap up our lives in India and move to the U.S. when I was 14. As a 14-year-old who didn’t speak English, navigating immigration and assimilation in the U.S. was extremely hard.
If you could go back in time five years and share advice with your past self, what advice would you share?
I would advise myself the following:
- Stop and smell the roses. Life goes by quickly.
- Do not pour every available moment into one business venture. That level of singular focus leaves so many other important aspects of life under-appreciated.
- Spend time building a support system outside of work.
- Spend time growing yourself personally. There is so much to learn about us as human beings and how we change over time.
What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
These days, it’s taking daily walks with my kids during their lunch break. We are enjoying the weather outside and it gives us a chance to connect, re-energize, and step away from the computers. I also enjoy working on difficult puzzles.
What is your top Chicago activity?
My favorite Chicago Activity is spending the day at the Art Institute of Chicago. My daughter and I like art and we enjoy spending a quiet day in each other’s company there.
If you could recommend one podcast, what would it be?
I would recommend The Knowledge Project Podcast. It has been my go-to podcast for in-depth, evidence-based information that covers many topics.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhgg, and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
Where’s your favorite place in the world to visit?
My favorite places thus far have been U.S. national parks. On my bucket list is to visit national parks in Africa.
What’s one thing still left on your bucket list?
My bucket list is still big. A few things remaining to be done are skydiving with my kids once they are 18, going to Tokyo with my daughter, and playing in a women’s soccer league.
Thank you to Nipa for sharing her story for our November member spotlight. The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a global business network of more than 14,000 entrepreneurs in 195 chapters and 62 countries. EO is the catalyst that enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other, leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.If you’re interested in becoming an EO Chicago member, check our membership requirements and submit an application to join today.