Not many businessmen can say they were gainfully employed at the tender age of six.
But Luton entrepreneur and philanthropist Kishor Patel’s strong work ethic started when he was a small boy, helping out at his parents’ general purpose store in Kisumu, Kenya.
“My brother Pat and I used to sew buttons for the tailoring and alteration service my mum ran on the side,” he smiled.
That sense of discipline and devotion to duty continue to this day.
The Patels own a string of Nisa comvenience stores stretching from Toddington to Stevenage. In the past few years they’ve won a series of awards and accolades, stretching from Asian Trader of the Year in 1994 to last year’s Retail Industry Awards Highly Commended Community Retailer of the Year.
And although it was recently announced that four of their shops have been sold to a Lithuanian-based company, Kishor, 53, insists they will continue to be involved in the area.
He cites their recent decision to step in and save the Dog and Duck in Parkside Drive, Houghton Regis, as proof of their commitment. And he’s also excited about starting a new online venture that’s still shrouded in secrecy.
The father-of-two has always believed that success comes from hard work – and that it’s very important to give something back to the community that supports you.
And although he’s immensely proud of his two children – 21-year-old daughter Misha and son Kishan, 19 – they have not been spoon-fed and he expects them to work for what they want.
The Patel family moved to India for five years when Kishor was nine and it was there he honed his entrepreneurial skills.
“Kite flying was a huge passion,” he recalled. “We were champions because we made our own thread coated with gum and ground-up glass. You had to wear special gloves or it would cut your hands but it chopped through the opposition.
“We also invented a bag made from cut and folded newspaper, held together with rice glue, for street food.”
The Patel brothers’ business acumen was on the ascendant.
Kishor has a degree in finance and a keen interest in developing staff. Many have been with the company for years and promotion is always from within.
His devotion to the community is also legendary – he enjoys being hands on and taking part in everything from senior citizens’ charity lunches to sponsoring five-a-side football, the Pride of Bedfordshire awards or helping out at a special needs school.
“It’s in our DNA,” he explained.