Challenging ‘orthodox’ with positivity- a minority female’s journey in business
Forewomen Article for Kajal Bhatt
It might be easy for many to see a minority business owner in the Western world and not reflect on the journey that the owner may have been on to get to where they are. Many may even fail to acknowledge the everyday obstacles that they face at the present. However, that doesn’t keep Kajal Bhatt, President of AmeriFab International Inc. from keeping her chin up and moving forward.
Bhatt’s unwavering positivity and unquestionable strength potentially derives from the devastating loss of her father when she was only twelve years of age. Kajal Bhatt grew up in, Gujarat, a rural area in India and its westernmost state. Her sisters and mother relocated shortly after her father’s untimely death so that her mother could have ample opportunity to provide for Bhatt and her sisters. This mountain in her family’s life placed her on the margins of, what Bhatt calls, the “orthodox thinking” of many in India. This conventional thinking consisted of many women carrying all home responsibilities and less respect in the home and workplace. Kajal Bhatt and her mother worked diligently and kept a strong head through it all. In her high school and early college years she taught English and tutored students. She then went on to become a secretary.
Eventually, Bhatt rose above the circulating notions that she should confine herself to homely duties and achieved her undergraduate degree in Finance. During these pivotal years of her early work experience and education, Bhatt met her husband, Raju Mehta, at the age of sixteen. The two married when she was 24 years old and Mehta moved to the United States in search of business opportunities. Within the first year of their marriage, he had to temporarily part from his wife. At this same time, Kajal decided to go after obtaining her master’s degree in Business Management. While in many areas of India, a woman achieving an education after marriage, was nearly unheard of, the perpetually-focused Kajal Bhatt was firm in her goals of being successful in business with her husband. Soon after finishing her education, she moved to the United States to meet her husband and start a retail store in Detroit- their first business venture together.
In 1996, after a number of beautiful friendships and years working in their beloved city of Detroit, Bhatt and her husband found themselves in High Point, North Carolina, taking over the operations of what was AmeriFab International Inc. Initially grappling to find a potent sense of community, and being a young mother at that, Bhatt continues to assist with the business operations by taking on some government contract work. She found herself feeling helpless in this male-dominated realm of business. Many would dismiss her and turn to her husband or other men in the room to discuss business. She admitted that even today she sees a societal bias like this, although improvement has certainly been made.
Rather than stepping back, she stepped up. She put her money where her mouth was and got involved in numerous programs for the southeast Asian community in her area- eventually becoming somewhat of a trailblazer in unifying that community. Today, this community stands strong and can more comfortably cherish their culture.
In the years since, as her business grew, her wisdom grew exponentially. AmeriFab International provides fabrications to the hospitality industry. The company is now Hilton Worldwide approved, Choice Hotels approved, and Wyndham Hotels approved. This business has a niche that allows for AmeriFab to be sustainable. In recent years, they’ve opened a sister company alongside AmeriFab, called Lead Designs (focusing on furnishings and procurement in the hospitality industry).
Through their success, Bhatt and Mehta donated supplies to temples and churches in their communities. They have also donated to Open Door Ministries in High Point as well as TROSA Rehabilitation in Durham. Not only were they becoming branded community-benefactors and philanthropists, but conservationists as well. AmeriFab was recognized as a Gold Level Exhibitor by GSA through the Green Exhibitor Program. Kajal Bhatt also holds a membership in the Hospitality Industry Network (NEWH), and a certification with Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).
Bhatt made a point to maintain balance within herself and to stay true to her values. She focused her attitude on positivity and discovered something incredible. “Everybody brings something of value to every environment,” she stated in reference to a cross-cultural work atmosphere. Facing her deal of adversity as a minority in the United States, she learned to embrace what others are bringing to the table, even when it may be hard, there is always something positive to pull from them. When days were, and still are, she advocates simply showing up and putting your best foot forward. This infectious and notable attitude has leaked into her community and creates an incredible multi-faith, multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic environment at AmeriFab International.
In 2016, Vice Presidential Candidate, Tim Kaine, paid a visit to AmeriFab to commend and promote their work as a minority owned company. “Businesses [like this] are the backbone of the American economy,” Kaine expressed to Bhatt. To read more on this, click here! It’s is unquestionable that Bhatt and her husband have treated their company and community as such.
So, what are Kajal Bhatt’s hopes for the future of minority women in business? More seminars and networking groups, of course. Because, together, women can do amazing things when we gather as a community.