Doctor-turned-entrepreneur finds his niche in lighting
Purav Kapadia was a doctor specializing in pediatrics in New York when some experiences led him to dramatically change his life and career.
He returned to live in Oak Brook, became an entrepreneur and started two companies based in Addison. One is Startex, which provides furniture and lighting fixtures to the hospitality industry. The other is Linea di Liara, an online company that sells lighting to consumers. He thought this may be just a temporary steppingstone on a path to a different career in health care.
It wasn't. And now he couldn't be happier.
"I realized that I had found something that I was passionate about, as if all of my life's experiences and the skills I had picked up along the way led me here," said Kapadia, 40.
Kapadia, who continues to lead the two growing companies, is one of 20 honorees in the Daily Herald Business Ledger's 2017 Annual Awards for Business Excellence. The award honors business achievement, growth and community involvement in the suburbs -- where his roots as an entrepreneur all started.
Kapadia was born on the North side of Chicago, where his parents shared a small apartment with another family. His family also lived in Glen Ellyn and Lisle.
Later, he graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a medical degree and went to New York to do his residency at St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center in Manhattan.
"The first year of residency is very demanding, and I routinely worked over 100 hours per week," Kapadia said. "It was designed to teach you how to make decisions under stressful conditions."
He spent most of that year caring for children.
"Our hospital was a respected center for the treatment of cystic fibrosis, a devastating genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs," he said. "Early in my training, I got to know 'Patient L' when she was hospitalized for a course of antibiotics to treat an infection. She was a prototypical New Yorker; brash, outspoken and unapologetic. I found myself looking forward to seeing her during rounds, for my daily dose of sarcasm served with a smile."
Unfortunately, the patient's health soon declined and was moved to the top of the lung transplant list. She died a few days later. He then learned that donor organs were found for her only hours after she died.
"That was one of the first experiences that made me question if I still wanted to be a physician," he said.
Kapadia decided to leave medicine. He and his wife, Amisha, moved from New York to Oak Brook.
"My parents, my wife's parents and likely a whole lot of other people were shocked that I was quitting without a plan," he said. "Fortunately, my wife had faith in me, and we packed our meager possessions into a rented truck and drove back to Chicago."
His father, Dipak Kapadia, had been an entrepreneur for more than 25 years. Since Purav had no other plans, he decided to work with his father, who also lives in Oak Brook.
His father, now retired, originally trained as an electrical engineer, and then moved into hotel management. While managing hotels, Dipak Kapadia started a company out of his garage, selling towels to local hotels and delivering them in the family station wagon that he had to reinforce with cargo springs. That company soon became Snowhite Textiles, a nationwide distributor of hotel furnishings and operations equipment.
Purav joined his father in the business. That first summer, he worked in marketing, supply chain, product development, photography, graphic design and "learned about all the small moving parts of a business that lead to a greater whole." That's when Purav decided to start his first company, Startex.
"We started Startex because we saw an opportunity to make the supply chain for hotel furnishings dramatically more efficient," Purav Kapadia said. "When we founded Startex, receiving handwritten purchase orders on the fax was routine. Lead times were long, and prices were high. We started with a few niche products and rapidly expanded the product line."
At one point, Startex was selling everything from sheets and towels to lamps and recliners -- even refrigerators and microwaves.
Then Purav focused only on product lines that were better and had a greater value than his competitors. That year, the company dropped two-thirds of its products. It also became one of its strongest year for growth, he said.
Later, Linea di Liara was born out of a powerful motivator: Frustration.
In the midst of a kitchen renovation, the contractor asked Purav to select pendant lights to go above their kitchen island. He went to a dozen lighting stores and looked through websites, but couldn't find anything that was contemporary, well built and reasonably priced, he said.
"I sketched out a few ideas and sent them over to our production team (at Startex) to get a quote," Purav said. "When I realized how great our pricing was, I ordered a minimum production run of 200 pieces. I installed two above my kitchen island, where they sit today, and we sold the remaining 198 pieces on Amazon. Once they sold in less than a week, I knew we were on to something."
That first light he designed is now part of the Effimero collection, which offers six finishes. He has since sold about 40,000 of those lights, he said.
Linea di Liara, which also has new offices in the West Loop in Chicago, now offers about 300 home lighting products, such as pendants, ceiling lights, sconces, vanity lights and chandeliers.
They are sold on Amazon, Wayfair, Allmodern, Houzz, eBay and the company's website at lineadiliara.com.
Linea di Liara's revenues are expected to be about $8 million for 2017 and he plans to expand his workforce.
During all of these changes, Purav said he hasn't forgotten to help children.
Proceeds from products sold by Linea di Liara are donated to the children's charities, Boston-based Cradle to Crayons and Los Angeles-based Shoes That Fit. Also, any returned products from Linea di Liara are donated to Habitat for Humanity.
"I finally found what I was meant to do," Kapadia said.
Purav KapadiaBusiness: Startex, which provides furniture and lighting fixtures to the hospitality industry; Linea di Liara, an online company that sells lighting to consumers.
Headquarters: Both companies based in Addison
Owner/Founder: Purav Kapadia
Annual revenues: About $20 million for Startex; about $8 million of Linea di Liara
Employees: Startex has 27, Linea di Liara has 3
Website: www.lineadiliara.com and startexind.com