Most entrepreneurs will tell you that the road to success is paved with failures. Markets change, unpredictable events occur, growth may be too quick, your staff may be poorly chosen or unqualified, and a myriad of other setbacks can challenge your resolve.
Maybe the timing just isn’t right for your concept. But with determination and drive, you can achieve anything you set out to accomplish; at least, that’s what South Texas Hotelier Sunil Wadhwani believes.
Sunil Wadhwani, who now has more than 20 years of hospitality experience under his belt, was not an overnight success.
Now nearing 60, hospitality was not even his first career – or his second. But armed with years of experience in retail and a strong desire to own his own business, Wadhwani has found incredible success by putting in good old-fashioned elbow grease.
The son of immigrants, Sunil Wadhwani moved from Asia to Dallas, Texas when he was 6 years old. His parents had almost no money but believed in the American Dream and their ability to build a life for their family if they worked hard enough. They were right.
The Wadhwanis moved again, to Brownsville, where Sunil grew up playing soccer and football. Sports were of much more interest to him than schoolwork, and after high school, he opted to forego a college education.
Instead, he went to work alongside his parents in their retail/wholesale store in Brownsville. As entrepreneurs, the Wadhwanis had found economic success, and Sunil learned from their example.
By age 25, Sunil decided to start a business of his own and opened a retail shop in nearby McAllen, Texas. Selling electronics and name brand watches, he adapted and moved into online retail, including selling watches on Amazon.
Sunil’s online watch store grew tremendously, but selling on Amazon proved to be the end of the company, as their own watch sales eclipsed those of Sunil’s company. He cites this as one of his biggest career failures.
Having decided to move on from retail, Sunil took his watch store earnings and invested in a 20-acre housing development project. His timing was terrible, as the housing bubble was about to burst, and he failed to get his fledgling real estate career off the ground.
A Fresh Start
Although Sunil had excelled in retail, he did not return down the same path. Instead, he began learning about and training in the hospitality industry. In 2000, the opportunity to become a new franchisee for La Quinta presented itself, and Sunil bought his first 65-room inn.
La Quinta had recently been acquired by Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, becoming their 20th brand and contributing over 900 franchised hotels to their portfolio. La Quinta Inns & Suites were getting an upgrade, in order to meet Wyndham’s standards on product quality, technology solutions, and a loyalty program widely regarded as the most generous in the industry.
From that first small inn, Sunil began to grow his portfolio. He now owns eight properties across South Texas, with the ninth hotel in development. He is a franchisee of La Quinta/Wyndham, Motel 6, and Marriott, with almost 1,000 rooms across the brands.
Sunil takes his roles as CEO and Franchisee very seriously. He maintains high standards for his staff and his properties and has received professional recognition throughout his hospitality career.
He has been voted Franchise of the Year multiple times for both La Quinta and Motel 6, along with various other achievements.
For Sunil, being accepted into the Marriott family of brands in 2020 was another career goal that come to fruition, as he entered into a more prestigious brand partnership.
Despite having a competent and well-trained staff in place, Sunil visits each of his properties every day, meeting with his General Managers and staying abreast of all issues and problems.
His daily rounds end at his corporate headquarters, where he ensures that all financial obligations are being met.
Bumps in the Road for Sunil Wadhwani
Sunil’s portfolio is strong and still growing, but his 20 years in business have not been without bumps in the road.
The South Texas market has gone through several transformations in the past 2 decades, including changes in the flow of Mexican travelers across the border, overbuilding and oversaturation in the area, and the COVID pandemic and its detrimental effects on hospitality.
Rather than settle comfortably into the success that he has built, Sunil still has plans for growth; his ultimate goal is to own 1,000 hotel rooms across each of his brands.
He continues to work with his management team every day with the intention of one day stepping back from daily operations to enjoy retirement.
When Sunil Wadhwani does finally slow down, he’s looking forward to more time with his family.
His wife of 35 years, their four children, and three grandchildren are his motivation to keep working and set an example of hard work like his parents did before him.
Despite his setbacks, Sunil has succeeded as an entrepreneur by working hard, rolling with the punches, and changing gears when he faced opposition.
His experience has led him through multiple industries, but he has never given up. His belief that hard work brings tremendous rewards has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.