Deepesh Kholwadwala grew up in the hotel business, cleaning rooms on weekends throughout high school at his family’s 23-room motel in the South Valley of Albuquerque, N.M. Before he got stuck making beds and scrubbing toilets for all eternity, he ran the other direction. Kholwadwala graduated from Purdue University in 1994 with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and landed a job with the National Nuclear Security Administration Lab in Albuquerque. He quickly climbed the corporate ladder at the lab and became a principal member at a young age.
“It became a very good way to develop my skills outside of the hotel business and really become a professional in a large company setting and understand modern ways of doing business,” he says.
Despite his success, Kholwadwala felt his past pulling at him. In 2001, he raised capital to build his first hotel, a La Quinta Inns & Suites in Albuquerque. Soon after, he launched a hotel ownership company, Dreamcatcher Hotel Group, and a management and development company, Sun Capital Hotels. His father sold out his old properties, retired, and became a shareholder with his son. Kholwadwala gradually ramped down his engineering career to pursue his new passion.
In June 2011, after practicing for more than 16 years, Kholwadwala quit his lab job to pursue hotels full time. He currently owns four hotels and manages five, with two more under construction.
While there isn’t much direct crossover between his professions, Kholwadwala says his number-crunching skills ensure his companies stay on budget. “When I go meet with banks for finance, my feasibility reports are pretty dead on,” he says.
Like his father, Kholwadwala was born in India, but he sees a distinct difference in how they both approach the hospitality business.
“It’s more modernized compared to the way the first-generation Indian did business, which is why I thought I could add something,” Kholwadwala says. “I hope to have built a much better family business.”
So what will he pursue next? Kholwadwala envisions taking a step back from the hotel industry to help the less fortunate, such as young people in his native India who need access to better education opportunities.
“I could easily see that 15, 20 years from now I’d be really hands off and let somebody run my operations and go focus on something else,” he says. “Somebody once told me a man should always have three careers in his lifetime, so I’m following that dream to keep things interesting.”