If you've ever wondered what it takes to become a millionaire, You might consider the path of Meridian businessman Abdul Lala.
The hotel owner was prominently in the news during Meridian's downtown hotel project debate.
Lala, 59, says he has a desire to help others pursue their American dreams. But he says his success didn't happen overnight.
"I came here with $8.50 in my pocket, in search of the American dream," he said.
With pocket change, Lala traveled thousands of miles from his native India to the U.S. in search of a better life.
"This is an amazing, amazing country," said Lala, the fifth of six children.
He said he always dreamed of coming to America and wanting to do something with his life.
Lala first went to Chicago, where he attended college and earned two degrees, only to find a dead-end job as a lab tech in a manufacturing company.
"But I knew that job would put me on top one one day," said Lala.
And it did. Lala said he was eventually promoted to manufacturing manager at the age of 24. And then, an opportunity came that brought him to Meridian to E.F. Young Manufacturing, under the leadership of the late state representative Charles Young.
Meridian being a smaller city, he didn't start off with a big salary, but he finally had a chance to gain experience in his field as a chemist, a decision that would change his life forever.
"When I came from Meridian to Chicago, I didn't have much money," he said.
Living in a small one-bedroom apartment with a newborn, Lala and his wife had to use the closet as his son's bedroom.
"Where we came from and where we are right now is just blessings from God," Lala said.
But Lala and his wife had a desire to make something out of themselves and they were willing to take a risk to pursue their dreams.
"We got into the hotel business. She purchased a small 10-room hotel. One day she surprised me with the purchase and told me I was purchasing a hotel and said, 'My God, that's the craziest thing you are doing'," said Lala.
Spending half of their savings and no guarantee the business would prosper, this investment produced millions down the line.
"It took me 26 years from a small investment to come to this level," he said.
The Lala estate is the largest property in Lauderdale County, covering 235 acres of land and 210 cubic square feet. This mansion is designed for royalty, with furniture imported from Italy, an indoor garden and movie theater, and an $80,000 crystal chandelier.
But Lala says it took years of hard work, taking chances, and sacrifice.
Lala has some tips on how to obtain success. Plus, he's working on a project
that he says is an investment opportunity for people who don't have a lot of money.
He reveals that in Part 2 of this special series.
Lala owns twelve hotels in three states. Six are in Meridian, with a seventh under construction. Three others are under construction elsewhere.