Paresh Patel, BS ‘96, needed a way to pay for his college education. What he found became the building blocks for a career that transformed his time in school and is the foundation for two other startups in the same industry – VendScreen and VendNext. VendScreen is revolutionizing the vending industry nationally and changing how Oregonians eat. VendNext is modernizing the vending customer experience by integrating mobile and social elements.
Paresh grew up in Portland, attended Parkrose High, and knew that he wanted to attend Portland State University fairly early on. His family instilled him the value of a good education, encouraged him to learn accounting for their family-run motel, and when he first came to them with the idea to start his own vending machines company, were fully on his side. Paresh was only a senior in high school at the time, but he took to the opportunity with a determination and thoughtfulness that has become the bedrock for his future endeavors.
At the start of Paresh’s freshman year, he was already running two coin-operated vending machines in Northeast Portland on his own. Paresh knew that he needed to learn a great deal about business if he was going to expand his fledgling business beyond a means to help pay for college tuition. Fortunately, in the School of Business Administration, he had chosen the perfect place to experiment.
Paresh starting putting his course lessons right to work on his business, often implementing what he had learned during the day to task the very same night. By October he had a total of six vending machines, and was spending about ten hours a week dealing with the intricacies of keeping them stocked and fully active. The burgeoning vending machine business soon filled his class papers and presentations, as he studied branding, market awareness, and differentiation. “ At PSU I was learning more than just theory and practice; I was learning how to learn, and that would serve me long into the future.” says Paresh.
By the completion of his first year of school, Paresh had received the full backing of his professors. The integration of his education and entrepreneurship was now seamless, as professors’ suggestions and advice were regularly utilized both in and out of the classroom. One finance professor, Dr. Claire Latham, even declared, “This is one of the best projects that I have ever seen. Good luck with your business.”
Such encouragement helped Paresh have the continued confidence to act on his increasingly sophisticated vision. He purchased additional vending machines, and hired his first employee by the end of his sophomore year. Paresh was becoming an entrepreneur, just has he had dreamt in High School. “I knew that I wanted to build an idea, and be part of the community. That’s why I went to the School of Business Administration, because I needed to understand good management, what it meant to hire employees and treat them well, and how to develop an organization. I studied everything I could at PSU so I would know all aspects of creating a successful company.”
Two decades later, Paresh has turned a means of paying for college into a thriving business. His vending machine company, Courtesy Vending, runs throughout the state, offering customers with a strong understanding of their wants and needs. VendScreen, his second invention, launched a completely new method of providing drinks and snacks to consumers. It provides nutrition information and accepts cashless payments, and relays inventory to operators through the same technology. Most recently, he founded VendNext to take the vending machine user experience to the next level by integrating mobile and social elements with the physical bricks-and-mortar purchase transaction at a traditional vending machine.
Paresh says “PSU has a distinct advantage as a urban university. Students can easily talk to the local community, integrate into the business world, and access information from every facet of the marketplace.” Through his continued involvement with the School of Business Administration, Paresh gives back to the place where it all began for him, proving that it is still about being an integral part of an innovative community.
Paresh Patel was one of Portland Business Journal's 2013 Forty Under 40 honorees.
Read more about Portland State's School of Business Administration