Bhavini Patel, co-founder of BeamData, an elected official of Edgewater Borough Council, and a member of the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, has even bigger plans now.
Helping her single immigrant mother, who moved to Pittsburgh in the late 1990’s with her small food truck business, helped her define her goals and ambitions.
“I grew up working in those food trucks, from running the counters to catering to making sure we were ready to open for the next business day,” Patel said. “It taught me the value of hard work and ability to earn a dollar with dignity and integrity.”
Working closely with her mother also made Patel acutely aware of the obstructions and frustrations many business owners face.
“When my mom opened her food truck, she had no access to health care. She faced social justice issues and economic challenges that families face,” she said.
Patel relied on an education at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Oxford, and her own experiences, to get into public service, and giving people access to democracy. She went on to be recognized as 30 Under 30 by Pittsburgh Business Times and 40 Under 40 by Pittsburgh Magazine,
Her belief that “if you give people access to policy making it also gives them control,” and the sudden tech-driven shift in the economy of Pittsburgh led her to consider technology as a way to connect people with their elected officials. The result was BeamData.
“I’m very excited with the direction the company is growing, having onboarded 35 state legislators across Pennsylvania,” Patel said, describing BeamData’s growth. She also set up Be the Change, a nonpartisan platform to enable civic dialogue and help people to get a better sense of kitchen-table issues.
“My company is ultimately in service of the same goal of community service,” Patel said. “I had a lot of choices growing up, and these choices gave me various opportunities. [That is] something we are trying to do with my company and with my run for Congress.”
Since officially filing as a candidate in the first week of January, she has had to put company work on hold.
A die-hard Pittsburgher, Patel said she focuses on issues important to the larger population, and herself.
“Pittsburgh’s story is my story,” she said. “My focus is on kitchen-table issues, largely the idea of creating jobs, economic and work force development and redefining the way we look at education.”
Talking about how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (which started out as the “infrastructure bill”) could drive investment, she is enthusiastic about training the next generation to get those new jobs that could drive the innovation economy and fund research and development.
“Ideate, create and innovate” is Bhavini Patel’s model to commercialize products and empower small businesses.
Though well aware of the challenges of running for an elected office as a South Asian woman, she does not seem fazed by them.
“Given the polarization in the country across different classes, and being a woman of color and young has made me reflect on how I choose to respond to some of those questions of where we are as a democracy,” Patel said. “It’s important to be reflective of your own life experience.”
So after connecting with neighbors and her community while on walks and hikes down beautiful Pittsburgh trails with her dog, Patel settles down with a coffee and a book. She said she is confident because she has a strong support system, especially her professor at University of Pittsburgh, and mentors in different organizations.
“I think that support has made me do things I would not have anticipated for myself,” Patel said. “I’m excited to run for Congress so that I can give others the opportunities I have had.”
For more such stories on SEEMA.com like that of Bhavini Patel, check out Vignarajah on Politics, Identity and the American Dream from our magazine!