Noah Alper 2:57
I thank my mom for that. And then the second name was after the founder of the Skippy peanut butter company, Jerome Rosefield. And my mother didn’t like Jerome either. And then it kind of as I understand, it, went back and forth. And I was referred to as the new baby for three months. And then finally they came up with Norman Charles, and how they came up with it, I will never know.
Jeremy Weisz 3:23
Well, I want to get to you know, basically, Noah’s Bagels and how you started that, but first, tell us early on when you were a kid, what was do you always have that entrepreneurial spirit? What was one of those first ventures you started?
Noah Alper 3:36
Yeah, I looking back at it, you know, when you get to a certain point in your life, and you have enough history, you can kind of look back and you can see patterns that that that developed that at the time, you know, don’t don’t appear to be anything significant. But but they, they later reveal themselves and yeah, I mean, I just always like selling to set buying and selling stuff, I guess you would say so at a very early age it gets so my first venture was eliminate stand. And I would have like, you know, I would even start them in like, you know, I grew up in New England and so it was cold in the winter and snow and whatever I could remember specifically putting my sign in, in a snowbank because it was a like a warm, you know, weekend day and I decided it was time to open my lemonade stand regardless, the fact that it was March. And so yeah, I always enjoyed, you know, buying, selling and being in business.
Jeremy Weisz 4:36
Did you get that from your parents or was that your own undertaking?
Noah Alper 4:41
I think it was a little bit of both. I mean, dad was in business, but didn’t take too much of it home. You know, when I grew up in the 50s dads pretty much, you know, work long hours. They didn’t talk too much about what they really know what he did. Exactly, and I was well into high school. And it was something with food. I knew it was had something to do with advertising and sales, but I just really wasn’t sure. But yet, you know, we would talk about various aspects of things over the dinner table, he would be dragging up cans of green beans and asking what size they were in julienne COD or straight out in the size. And so so there was a, you know, a constant sort of a business, climate creative, but I think that my entrepreneurial instincts were kind of self self grown
Jeremy Weisz 5:36
stupider on the food business for a while. So did you decide Did you Were you always in business? Or did you decide to go to college?
Noah Alper 5:45
No, I know, I know, the one Dad, I drew a lot of my inspiration from my father. And he felt very strongly that a that a broad liberal arts education, really set one up for any, you know, any kind of career, be in business or anything else. And so I followed that lead and went and got the liberal arts a bachelor’s degree.
Jeremy Weisz 6:11
So where did you go?
Noah Alper 6:12
So I started out at New York University, and then transferred to the University of Wisconsin and, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1969, with a BA in economics.
Jeremy Weisz 6:25
So tell me what was one of the experiences sticks out to you in Madison?
Noah Alper 6:30
Well, when I, there were a lot but when I went to Madison, it was a, it was a crazy times during the middle of the Vietnam War. And especially towards the end of my tenure there, trying to start the war was as significant a endeavor as going to school. As a matter of fact, it was so many protests and, and so forth, that oftentimes school was closed. I boy, there was so many incidents, but I, you know, I remember very, very clearly seeing friends of mine get into sort of really violent or semi violent type behavior, as a result of the of their anti war efforts, that was really kind of shocking, that they know that that kind of that a situation can, can be so profound, that it can basically change the way fundamentally the way people look at the world, especially one friend in particular was very much of a pacifist kind of oriented guy. And I remember seeing him throw rocks at, you know, police cars. So it got it got pretty rough. got pretty rough during the Vietnam War era. Yeah. And I, and I was part of that, and I’m proud of it. I think that my dad always said, again, you know, referring back to him, that sort of big part of your times, if you will, in certain ways is an important thing. And I also wish all of us was subject to the draft, which is something we don’t have now. And so that was, for sure, an important motivator as well, in terms of getting involved.
Jeremy Weisz 8:15
I remember listening to one of your talks, and you referenced like a psychiatric ward. What happened with that?
Noah Alper 8:20
Well, you know, yeah, the, the times of Madison were crazy. And, and there were a lot of drugs going on, and a lot of tension. We had National Guard on campus when they announced I can remember coming out of a storm tunnel after doing a reconnaissance mission, you know, considering cutting the phone lines of the university, I mean, it was a it was a serious, serious time. And hope the FBI isn’t listening in and decided that you know, I wouldn’t be part of it, but it got to you fundamentally got the whole thing got me crazy, in a certain way. Sort of too much drugs, too much excitement, too much. craziness. And I think also a sort of a sense of, where am I going, am I going to be a revolutionary Am I going to sell to an efficient peanut butter like my father, you know, what am I going to do with my life so it all kind of congealed at the end of my time in Madison, and that sort of sent me off the edge and sent me into a psychiatric Institute. NIH was there for the better part of nine months.
Jeremy Weisz 9:36
I think at that point in realise we could all kind of relate to what are we going to do?
Noah Alper 9:41
Right, right, right. I guess it just that the we do, but I there was a lot of amplification for those those confused feelings of visibly the war and like in the you know, the sort of revolutionary climate that existed in those days and also The the drugs were a catalyst for sure.
Jeremy Weisz 10:04
So what was the next step in your journey? Your entrepreneur journey? What did you kind of start or sell next?
Noah Alper 10:11
Well, basically, you know, I got into the hospital a little shaky and went to work for my brother in law, you know, in a bookstore and saw these, these salad bowls at a friend’s house, it was kind of a rustic wooden salad bowl that that did. I don’t know why, but they just really turned me on as as a means to, you know, to serve a salad and it was at the time, some of your viewers have seen the graduate, right. And everything was with Dustin Hoffman, everything the Cylons plastics, you know, I mean, it was a whole time of naturalness of everything was natural and neat. You know. So I saw these as a just a tremendous address, got excited about the salad bowls, I don’t know how to put it, but the grains of the natural wood, wood, beautiful, you put salad oil in them, and they, they just shine, I think the thing that got me most excited, truth be told, Jeremy was that what was shown to me was a second. Okay, it wasn’t the first quality, it was a second. So there are a little nicks and flaws and whatever. As a result, the prices were extraordinarily cheap. And so what I saw in a certain way was beauty value. And something that I felt would be in high demand. Because of the the kind of the, the climate that were, you know, the kind of the what the style that people were interested in, in those days.
Jeremy Weisz 11:45
How do you test it through? Did you start selling it? Or what, what did you do with
Noah Alper 11:49
that wasn’t very sophisticated. I mean, the basically what I did was, first of all, as a young guy, and secondly, second of all the business was, was so much less sophisticated than it is now the notion of testing it is, obviously now is so totally intuitive. But in those days, I just got I had a VW bus that was signups. Everybody had a VW bus in those days, and I got in the VW bus that drove from Boston to Fremont. And I picked up a truckload of these balls. And on the way back, I had a blinding Blizzard and basically totaled out this VW bus rented a largest Lincoln Continental made because the only thing big enough to put the balls into I had like my life savings of about $1,000 full of salad bowls, brought them back to Cambridge at an Indian bedspread because that was like an accessory item for the VW bus spread the the Indian bedspread over the back of the trunk and Harvard Square at noon time. And in an hour and a half all the salad bowls were gone. Wow. I knew my first business was born.
Jeremy Weisz 13:01
Wow. So an hour and a half. They’re all gone. Ball gone. So what do you do now? Did you did you go get more? It’s not skills you can’t keep with your bus. Sorry. I said it’s hard to keep going back and forth with your with your bus was basically what
Noah Alper 13:16
I did. I got it. I got another truck, because that one was guns out. And and I would I would go up to Vermont and I would buy you know salad bowls and bring and bring them back and and had a sort of a by then it kind of you know, makeshift storage place and sold them out on the sidewalk i
Jeremy Weisz 13:43
thought was a big lesson you learn from from that business? Huh?
Noah Alper 13:51
Well, I think that it was take it take a good house of the of the demand. And then take a risk and And to your point tested. I mean a certain way that is what I did. Yeah. I got the got the balls and cut them out and testable. But I think that maybe the lesson was a lot of people do it in a sort of a theoretical way. Right now a lot of phone intercepts and so forth. And, and you know, and focus groups and stuff like that would follow, which is very important in business in terms of doing a sophisticated, thorough job, but there’s really no substitute for just sort of putting the stuff out there and saying who’s gonna buy it? We’re gonna lay down money for it. Right? That’s, that’s where the rubber meets the road.
Jeremy Weisz 14:47
I mean, it sounds like that’s exactly what you did. It was tested. I mean, you didn’t write a big plan. You didn’t come figure out the market. You just bought them. And you went and tried to sell them. And you you saw there was
Noah Alper 14:58
it is yeah, I mean I didn’t see it as Okay, I’m looking for my next, you know, business to start a career or whatever. I was filling employee of the bookstores, which is kind of a sidebar.
Jeremy Weisz 15:10
Right? Right. So what was the next business that you started?
Noah Alper 15:15
Well, so I continued on with the salad bowls for really was quite a quite a bit of time. And then, but then I started to branch out a bit and did some wholesale activity with him as well, we’d go around the stores and sell them on a wholesale basis. And was doing that. And then my wife at the time said, she wanted to open up a natural food store. And I had sort of not so much interest in natural foods, but a lot of interest in the salad bowls, and also by then access keyboard and what implements and so it was a whole sort of a, when artists and may housewares line by them. And so I said, well, let’s, you know, let’s combine our ideas, we’ll have natural foods on one side of the store, and we’ll have these these rustic wooden things on the other side. It was it was at a time to where they we use a lot, a lot of the sort of crazy hippie stores where there was sort of like everything, you know, everything from the plant to, to the housewares to one of the toys, the you name it, and so it kind of fit in with, you know, with that kind of model. And so that’s what we did, and the name of the store was bread and circus, okay, from the Latin if any of your listeners are familiar with Latin is about the only expression I know in Latin, but I don’t know where I picked it up. But somewhere along lines upon that sir Kansas was Bread & Circus in English. And it had to do with when the when the, during the Roman Empire when they didn’t have enough food to feed the peasants, they would bring them wandering troubadours and to take their minds off of their their their their travails. So that’s basically how we got the name and, and that business got sold. After about three years of operation, because I, I just felt really confined in a in a retail environment. No, it had to grow and, and, and, and get big, but I didn’t want to be the one to do it. And sold that business and then it owner really blew it out to the point where it became the largest natural food store operation in the northeast, and it got sold basically at the same time. That later business of mine, which we’ll talk about, Noah’s Bagels got sold to Whole Foods Market. And so now Bread & Circus is has been incorporated in and as it is, are now Whole Foods Market stores.
Jeremy Weisz 17:54
Yeah, I mean, so you’re really onto something at that time. And you’re never started a store? What were some of the big mistakes that you made or lessons you learned from that experience of opening a natural food store? Oh,
Noah Alper 18:09
good, good point. Well, I learned a lot about you know, dealing with fresh material a cheese and and produce and so forth. I learned how to stretch $1 how to how to build a store for you know, very, very little the sort of what it took to run a retail operation the the kind of a commitment to the psychic commitment, the the, the physical commitment, the the risk. And also again, I think the same lesson, as with the the salad bowls was, it was the right business for that natural foods was about to take off. And we got in just a little bit early. But it was clearly we saw the business growing as it as it even in the two to three years we had the store. But I guess I also learned although not I didn’t learn this one too well that I wasn’t really great operations guy I was more of a startup guy. Because once the three years came man I was bored and ready to move on. And then later in my Later career, you know, we got people that were operations guys to do operations. This is of course a tiny mind pie and there wasn’t a lot of you know, assistance but those are, you know, amongst the few things and and i think dealing with customers and would be maybe the last thing I would mention about that you know when you’re dealing in the retail business, again, tremendous, tremendous way to to learn about him. Nature and buying patterns and what it takes to satisfy people. Because when people come and purchase goods or services, they usually bring a lot of baggage with them, both positive and negative. And whatever it is you it’s going to get thrown at you. You better learn how to deal with it.
Jeremy Weisz 20:19
So what was something that you remember got thrown at you at that time?
Noah Alper 20:23
Well, I remember we had people that would, would have, they sort of hold meetings in the bulk bins of the of the natural food store and feel very free to help themselves to samples as they were having their discussions and meetings. And we had to sort of gently but firmly tell them, you know, in a, in a polite and diplomatic way, that this wasn’t okay. And then the next week, they’d show up again. And so you’d have to, you have to kind of deal with that situation. And obviously, the store full of people, you’ve got to handle it. Well. We were also be difficult customers. in other ways. I remember a guy who wanted an eighth of a pound of like, five or six different cheeses. And he would always seem to come in at the most busy time of the of the of the week. And, and, you know, hey, he was giving us money. You know, this is what he wanted. We had to deal with it. You know, that was our perspective. You know, if someone came, and it was five minutes to seven, and we were closing at seven, and they would we will literally about their shopping. Well, you know what it is? It’s we were there to serve. Right. And that’s, and that’s, and that was that was the lesson that that I think we we took into the business and even despite the challenges of of that philosophy, we stayed, we stayed with it. We were We were servants, if you will. Yeah. So,
Jeremy Weisz 21:47
I mean, it’s it’s not easy to start a store in general, a retail store, then you have goods and services, how was it the dynamic with working with the spouse?
Noah Alper 21:58
Well, it was difficult, which is maybe why we got divorced eventually. But, you know, it’s very difficult. And I and I, and I think that that in retrospect, you know, it creating some sort of mystery, some sort of, you know, alone time, separate time, having different endeavors, you know, is really, really important. I mean, it, you know, we worked well, but it was the confinement, especially in that kind of environment, if it was a larger environment where there could be much more separation of function, and one could be out in the road. And one could be, you know, inside ever, it’s a lot easier, but as a general rule, I don’t recommend it, nor do I remember, and family and friends that have done, I’ve done it all, and some of it’s worked very well, and some of it has been problematic.
Jeremy Weisz 22:49
Yeah, I could see it being it’s tough enough kind of starting it, and then it’s under a stressful environment, and then you’re with either a spouse or a family member, it can get stressful, so to speak, for sure,
Noah Alper 23:01
I mean, the good news is, you know, this, the trust is there, and the and, and, you know, you’re dealing with, you know, and that, you know, and that’s the good side of it, but it’s, it’s highly problematic, and, and I would, you know, strongly advise people considering it, and to think really, through very well, and to try to, you know, construct some sort of contract either verbal or, or written, even that kind of spells out job functions and, and sort of spells out what happens when it gets, you know, starts to get bad, what, what’s the, what are the steps that we take?
Jeremy Weisz 23:42
So, no, after you sold the natural food store, what was the next endeavor?
Noah Alper 23:48
So, you know, this is kind of a good segue, because while while the natural food store was in business, I continued to operate the wholesale end of that wooden housewares business. Smaller, I wasn’t able to get out on the road as much and so what but I continued it on in the basement of the store. And so when the store was sold, the plan was to blow that out, if you will. So and that’s basically what I did, and and develop that that wholesale use. It started out as alpro wooden bowl company, and by the end it became Alper international because we were buying stuff from all over the world and it wasn’t only woodenware it was a lot of other things. But I referencing back to the your previous comments about doing business with family and friends. And so what so that business, I was involved with a friend who helped develop that business with me to really just tremendously at the beginning. In terms of, you know, going out and doing a sales function and basically opening up, you know, the whole country in terms of opening up new accounts, it later developed that this person took on a sales management role with a company. Because that was kind of the the the, the understanding that if that worked out the opening lots of lots of new accounts, and that would be the next step, and then that person would be part owner in the company as well. And that’s what we did. However, it didn’t end well, because, in my opinion, his strengths in the sales management area weren’t strong enough to support what we needed. And, and I had to make a change. And that was very, very rough. It was rough. Second, only, I’d say to my divorce in my early in my whole life was having to make that make that break. So I sort of putting an exclamation point around the difficulty of working with family and friends.
Jeremy Weisz 26:10
Yeah. So I mean, how do you even start to approach tech as someone may be listening to me, kind of at that point of the same stage now where they kind of know they need to make that break? But it’s, it’s hard to do? How do you even begin to?
Noah Alper 26:23
Well, I think, I think the way you do it is you really have to separate out the business from your personal relationship, you know, and you have to, you have to, I always kind of felt like, these businesses were my, my children in some fashion. And so it’s sort of like, well, what is this child slash business need right now? Okay, because, you know, they don’t survive on their own. You know, and, and, and it’s, and it’s a dynamic process, that they’re, they’re, you know, they start off with a band, and then you run into a bump in the road, and what do you what do you got to do, you got to pivot, you got to do this, that, you know, so it’s, it’s, it’s a dynamic process. And at any given time, on that process, you have to have the right pieces of the of the of the equation, you know, organize for it to prosper and move forward. And you just sometimes I get a reference back my dad who was so you know, instrumental in his advice, but he sort of referred to it as firepower, in the sense of, you need to be able to fire so hard
Jeremy Weisz 27:34
Noah Alper 27:35
hard to do. Probably the hardest thing I ever had to do in my business career was fire people and I had to fire a lot of, and again, you know, what, every person I fired, or in some fashion term, I didn’t want to make your listeners think I was, you know, a firing them every week. But you know, things happen, right. And every given juncture, when this would happen, I would always have got through with it. Say, you know, what, I did the right thing, always, the only thing that I regretted almost at every juncture was not having it done sooner. Because it wasn’t good for the company. And furthermore, it wasn’t good for the individual because more in more cases than, than not the individual kind of it did not come as much of a surprise when
Jeremy Weisz 28:30
when it when it when it had to happen. Yeah, I mean, does it does it make a difference to like how the person handles it while you’re talking to them? How did your friend handle it when
Noah Alper 28:38
you had to? Oh, well, that was not that was one of the examples where did not go? Well? Yeah, I think partially because we had such a close personal relationship. And that’s something that’s also just sometimes unavoidable when you’re involved with family or friends, but in an ideal world, you want to try to keep it keep it separate. But but in this case, it was it was it was not possible, but I just had to you know, tough it out.
Jeremy Weisz 29:10
So what ended up happening with that business?
Noah Alper 29:13
I’m so that business, that business, got fairly big. For the time, had sort of maybe the better part of eight to 10 people working for me and also had a commission based sales representatives in every region across the country developed it. And about, you know, a guy having kind of a seven year cycle seems like, you know, like a sabbatical. It got to the point where, you know, I’d sort of had enough and so actually sold the business and, and moved on.
Jeremy Weisz 29:57
So after you sold it, then what do you do next?
Noah Alper 30:00
Okay, so after I sold that I, I, I had worked very hard at that business, and especially at the end and all the negotiations and the whole thing. So there’s really a sense of relief that that had been sold and I was very little time off and I decided to go on vacation and I had, was born Jewish, but not from much of a religious home. But had this sort of, just on a whim decided I would go to Israel as a vacation spot, and went and got very excited about it just from a sort of a cultural standpoint ay ay ay ay ay ay, ay, for any of your Jewish listening listeners, from the kiss keys from the Goddess, you know, I just spoke to me, it was as if I had gone home, although I had never lived there. The culture, the land, especially the land, it just, it spoke to me as you awaken, put it. And so I decided that I was going to dedicate the next chapter to developing a business that would have Israel as its centerpiece. And so it was at the time when Ronald Reagan was in power and every Christian ethos was far near and one statistic that I heard, again, referencing back to my sort of ability or perception of what’s the, what’s the current cultural trend that maybe could be capitalized on in a business sense. One out of three Americans had admitted to a born again, Christian conversion was the statistic I heard. So at that point, I decided there was a business of selling Israeli made handicrafts and religious items to fundamentalist Christians in the United States. So that was the business started out foods from the Holy Land, it changed into gifts from the Holy Land to blue, there was some testing going on there. Eventually, it created a mail order catalog. And it was a complete and total failure. Really. There was one day when I had four orders that came in and I was like, Yes, this thing is turning around. And then by the next day, I was like, one every three weeks. And I realized that after having, you know, a string of successes, that this was a failure. And that was very, very difficult to accept both on a personal level and financial level. But it was time, I had to pull the plug. And so that’s, I pulled the plug, and looked for new opportunity. By this time, I had had two kids, and a third on the way and the fun and games were over. And it was time to make a living. And so I looked in those days at newspapers for businesses to buy, I have never really been employed, per se, except for my brother in law way back when. And so I went to a headhunter, and he, he heard my story, and basically told me, I was unemployable. And that spurred me on even more to do something on my own. It’s but I was not really finding anything until my brother came back from Montreal and saw a bagel operation and they sent you out to do this in Berkeley, California, where I moved from Boston up to out to California and, and so I,
I really was not sure about that at all, because I had never, you know, mechanical stuff was not for me, I sort of a fairly good amateur chef, but not baking because you had to measure you know, that was not something I was very strong in, in met in measuring and careful preparation, so forth. But I agreed to take a look at it because sometimes we have older brothers or siblings or whatever that, you know, you’ve had been mentors for you and you, they know you and you know, you what they say is significant. And you know, it’s significant, even if you’re not gonna maybe take the advice. It’s worth, you know, they know you as well. And so there were a lot of reasons why I felt it was probably a good idea to check this out. He had good judgment. He was a business school, grad and so forth. And so I did that and I looked into that business for A year, and at the end of the year decided that not only was it there were not great bagels in Berkeley, which is the sort of the first motivation. But the second was that it was a growing national trend. To the point where I felt like it was becoming pizza, like pizza was in the, in the 50s, when, when I was growing up, and he had to go to Italian neighborhoods to get pizza, and then it became, you know, omnipresent. Well, the same thing was happening with bagels. So you had a national trend, very strong, you had a local demand, I was able to come across a fantastic recipe, and a methodology, which I felt I could handle. And then I went about getting a great location and, and started it up. And as dismal failure as the Holy Land gifts was the Noah’s Bagels was a rocket ship from day one.
Jeremy Weisz 36:00
So how did you know there was a growing local trend? For that national trend? Yeah, national trend, but then local demand?
Noah Alper 36:08
How did you know? Well, the local demand I know firsthand, because, you know, I knew from a bagel and there was no great bagels, and yet, San Francisco was the gourmet capital of the world. And when I was in the housewares business, the first gourmet show was in San Francisco. So people in San Francisco knew from good food, there was great Indian, Chinese, Mexican, you know, seafood, you name it, they were not great bagels, so that I knew firsthand, the national trend piece. One of the I think one of the keys to my success in business has been to try to learn from everybody, and to try to follow it sort of file these little factoids somewhere. Because eventually, they can become very valuable. So what I learned, so the way where I learned this was from a bagel equipment dealer, okay, blue, and the good part of this exploration of whether to do this business or not, was to go and figure out whether I could accomplish the, the, the technological part of it. So I was shown equipment, so and so and I expressed concern and doubt that I could handle this stuff, guys, like, Look, you know, we have people all over the place that you know, that have never been in business. And we have places and, you know, we’re opening up, you know, got place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, missing out the other and started explaining to me how these bagel shops were sprouting up. And I’m like, boy, you know, it can sell bagels and tell us Oklahoma, and those days, when, like the pizza in the 50s, was, previous to that only in the Jewish ethnic pockets of the Northeast, and in some in the Great Lakes area, and all of a sudden, you know, it’s booming. Well, why not? San Francisco, which already had the demand from the gourmet, high, you know, upscale crowd, right? So was kind of the, that’s where it kind of melted.
Jeremy Weisz 38:06
So when you decided to Okay, I’m gonna get this bagel store going? How do you even decide where to put it? There’s like, a certain, like, location that you scan out? Or what do you
Noah Alper 38:16
think that the way to start? You know, any kind of First of all, you know, anyone visits will tell you, you know, well, this is a little dated now the internet, but mean location, location, location? Right? Most people have heard of that. So, you know, that’s, that’s, there are three locations in that statement. So it’s, you know, I mean, it’s not only, you know, for instance, we looked at high traffic areas that didn’t have our customer there, right. Okay. So there’s a lot of different components to it. But what really, what really struck me about this location was not only did it have a large Jewish contingent, because, you know, okay, they were going to be our core customers, they understood bagels in 1989. Number one, number two, we were in a, in a stretch of retailing, that there was tons of other specialty food places. So people that were going out and buying their, you know, organic groceries, were also going to be interested in buying bagels, because it was right there. Thirdly, this place had its own little parking lot, which was kind of unique in the area, this is a quite a quite an urban, quite an urban location. So there were a number of different different, you know, factors that that all sort of lined up, not the least of which was we were close to the university and, and it was great, affordable food that students would glom on to as well and so, these these various at that point,
gases if you will, educated guesses You know, that would be quite accurate.
Jeremy Weisz 40:03
So I mean, it sounds like from the very beginning, it was a big success. But I know there were it wasn’t always like that, what were some of the big mistakes or some of the low points in the journey?
Noah Alper 40:16
Well, the divorce was a low point was a very low point. And that was that was rough. He then I had, I had a kid as well. And then then my oldest son, his mother moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was living in Boston, so that that not only was it sort of lonely being alone, but then my, my son was away from me as well. So that was, that was really quite challenging. You know, in terms of the, in terms of the the business per se, you know, the, the, the Holy Land, gifts thing was, was, was really a quite a low point because it, it tested my confidence. And, and, you know, that was I really, you know, an entrepreneur, or was I just a kind of a flash in the pan? And could I do it again? Because, you know, most businesses fail, Jeremy and I think that your, your listeners know that. I mean, I emphasize that every opportunity, I can, I mean, sometimes they start off, well, they plateau, they fall down, sometimes they rise fast and fall down. Sometimes like us, I mean, even even with with Noah’s bagels, at the end, after developing this one store into 38 stores and having 1000 people working for the company, we got confronted with with very substantive major competition, that the company that wound up buying us, before they bought us told us if you don’t sell it to us, we’re gonna open up across from every one of us stores from from Seattle to Los Angeles. And they were, they had the money to do it. And you know, and we had virtually no competition all the way through. So, you know, that’s what business is, like. It’s, it’s, it’s always attempted to proposition, even when it looks like it’s, you look at General Motors, I mean, that’s kind of the archetypal example. You sit on your heels, and all of a sudden, you get wiped out. So there’s many ways to fail, and it’s very difficult to succeed. So that’s always a very, you’re always caught up, if you’re not a little bit nervous all the time, when you’re in business for yourself this sort of something wrong.
Jeremy Weisz 43:07
So what do you say to them when they confront you with that? That’s sort of intimidating in your face? Thank
Noah Alper 43:12
God together is it by then we had a team and and I would say that one of the lessons I’ve learned is that, you know, these earlier businesses, they were kind of one man bands, if you will, and later on, you know, it was a large business. And we had a quite a substantive team and a lot of different expertise right now, you know, even if you’re a one man band, quote, unquote, you know, you need all that expertise. And so if you bring it in as a consultant on a consultancy basis, or you know, you have friends and family, you can call whatever it is, it’s important to get that expertise in lots of different functional areas. So, by then we had, you know, a great team. And we sat together as a team, and we said, you know, what do we do? Do we sell it to them, don’t we? And at the time, the the offer was for stock, it wasn’t a cash offer. And, number one, we didn’t feel evaluation was sufficient. Number two, we weren’t that we weren’t that. Sure about the solidity of the company. They were growing extremely fast. And although they had a lot of capital, we just felt it was such a different model than the way we had built our business, which was sort of brick by brick. That we were uncomfortable about taking back that paper. And turns out we were right, because a year later, they came back to us with a full cash offer for more money. And we took it but then less than a year later, they they went bankrupt. So if we had actually taken that paper, you know, we wouldn’t have come away with we would have come away with 10 cents on the dollar. Wow. Eventually. So it was, you know, but during that time, we had to sit down as a team and say, Well, if we don’t sell it to them Now, can we take them on? And we looked around the room when we said, you know what we can do it. And we plan we made plans to roll out on a national basis at that point, and sort of do battle, if you will, that was a whole lot different than that. At one store on College Avenue. At that point, it was, you know, it will warm apps up on the, you know, up on the board. And what about this territory, and as our flank covered and you know, it got serious, you know, and a lot of people were involved. I mean, I wanted to say that from the get go, that although we got a very handsome price for that business, it is definitely not just me by any stretch of the imagination, my brother, I didn’t mention, but came back and joined the business a year after it began, and was absolutely instrumental in the success of the business because we had complementary skills is going back to my previous point about, about needing the whole set of skills to, you know, to make a business fly,
Jeremy Weisz 46:19
you know, and you had another interesting partner as well.
Noah Alper 46:25
Right? Well, yes, we had Starbucks, Starbucks, at certain juncture when we needed more capital to to, to fuel our growth. We were opening up sort of organically next to Starbucks stores because sort of bagels and coffee go together. As you you pointed out, why did y’all locate in certain areas? So we find ourselves, you know, our people, we’re kind of getting the novia people just let’s look for this location. That’s, you know, that works for both of us. And so, so we’ve got more and more formalized, and then eventually, it turned into an investment. That was pretty close to the end of the of the, you know, our till the sale of the business. It was a little over a year before the business got sold. Finally, but it was a good partnership.
Jeremy Weisz 47:18
So were there any big mistakes that you think back on in the Noah’s Bagels days that that you remember? Because it seems like from the beginning, it was like, winds were out the door? And it worked out perfectly? Was that the case?
Noah Alper 47:33
Yeah, no, that most most all of it worked out beautifully. During the beginning stages of it, I was running the factory. And that was pretty much of a disaster, because I was, you know, quite proficient and knowing how to sell the bagels, but making the bagels was another story. And and so I really, have you ever been fantastic at personnel, and, you know, sort of made some mistakes that could have been pretty disastrous, but turned out not to be, I think we dodged some bullets, to be quite honest. I think sometimes I would be penny wise and pound foolish, pretty familiar with that old time expression. And, and, you know, being thrifty and economical is a good thing. But sometimes you got to, you know, put it out and get, you know, borrow money, but hire the best people you can, you know, you can find and then that kind of lesson was taught to me by the staff that we brought in. And so, you know, yeah, we have to go into a little bit of depth. But you know, we’re going to get a first class team here, because we’ve got the resources to take it very far. I left it left to my own devices, I wouldn’t, I would have had three or four stores. And that would have been it. I wasn’t, you know, getting that big, was very scary for me. I know. Entrepreneurs are a lot less risk averse than some people would make them out to be. And I for sure was but once comfortable with the team that and was comfortable about going very far.
Jeremy Weisz 49:27
For what was life like after the sale?
Noah Alper 49:30
Well, after the sale, I sort of I sort of fulfilled the dream which was to go back to to Israel specifically to Jerusalem and learn everything I could about Jewish learning and education and in text study that I never had as a kid and so I spent a year in a yeshiva which is a Jewish higher learning institution if you will, and and learn To fair amount, and God, I’ve got a good background that I took back with me and, and it was just wonderful, really wonderful time and I got I got back off the, from our trip and almost immediately was tapped to help found a Jewish High School. So I in San Francisco area. So I mean, I knew a lot about starting businesses, but pretty much nothing about starting schools, but all of my businesses have been kind of learning on the job endeavors. Anyway, and I think that’s part of what I enjoy about it is just kind of going off the deep end and figuring out how to swim, so to speak. So, but this one was way more challenging, really, than any business that I, I took on because, you know, the whole buy in notion and constituencies and endless discussions and processes and so forth was not stuff that I was, you know, either number one good at or number two had the patience for, and diplomacy and all the things that I’m, you know, would say were not my strengths I needed to learn if this thing was going to succeed, I think there was a I am a pragmatic person. So I rose to the occasion, I got as diplomatic as I could. And we put together a, you know, a team and we divide, we opened the school, and that was 10 days before 911. So that first year was definitely challenging to to, to try to sell the Jewish school to, you know, a community that was totally frightened about the physical safety and not dimension who sends a kid to a brand new school, high school, you know, you have to be a little either a little crazy, or, you know, a risk taker or whatever. So it was it was a challenge. And but the school now has 175 students, it’s in its 11th year, and we’re about to build a gymnasium. And, you know, it’s it’s very thrilling endeavor, really, in a certain way more thrilling than the noise endeavor even though of course, it was a nonprofit, and I was a full time volunteer for the better part of four years. Yeah,
Jeremy Weisz 52:21
yeah, you’re affecting a lot of lives a day, you are starting another business in concurrent with that, or after that,
Noah Alper 52:28
after Yeah, it’s sort of somewhat concurrent with that. No is was amongst other things, the largest kosher retailer in the United States. So there was a lot of people from the, from the kosher end of the world that were a very indebted to us for having that resource. And on a local level, there was a lot of demand to open up some other kosher venue. And so my wife and I decided to open up a kosher restaurant in downtown Berkeley, and that was something between that sideways endeavor and a failure. So it was a, that was a, it was a kind of a long, long, four years of running that business. And eventually we, we, we, we were able to sell it and get out. And it taught me a lot of lessons and humility. And it was, it was a it was a fun, exciting endeavor, we we serve, we serve the adoring crowd, we had fabulous food, made some mistakes. I think location was not right. You’re never adverse to making mistakes, even though you’ve had tremendous success. And I think some entrepreneurs don’t get that and they go in and they think whatever they’re going to do is going to replicate previous success as well. Every endeavor is a new endeavor. And, and so I’ve I’ve, we were able to, as I mentioned, sell the restaurant and now I’ve gone into business advising, and that’s what my current endeavor is. And I’m just enjoying it thoroughly working with, with young entrepreneurs, with startups with businesses in transition, and trying to, you know, impart some of the lessons I’ve learned over the course of my 40 years in business to the people on their way up.
Jeremy Weisz 54:31
So what some interesting story from consulting that people have asked you, you know, if the name of the company but what something like an industry interesting problem or story that you have from the consulting side.
Noah Alper 54:44
Well, there was one one incident in particular that I that I recalled, which I think is speaks to the sort of a timeless quality to interaction and specifically this Sales that can sometimes be lost on a monopod a modern sensibility. The example is, I was talking to a company that was, had a high tech application. And they were, you know, to abbreviate the story, they were, they were meeting with a extremely important partner with, with which they were intending to build their business, and to sort of convince that partner that this was, you know, the direction they wanted to take. And so I said, Well, how it was fundamentally, you know, a sales presentation and I, I said, Well, how, you know, what’s the logistics, how’s it going to be set up? So Well, we got a, you know, we got a conference call scheduled for, you know, a week from Tuesday. And I said, that doesn’t sound right, that’s something that’s important. Get your rear ends in a plane, go to where the partner is, wasn’t that far away. First of all, sit down to a nice lunch, get to know them, get to get to feel comfortable with them, and then ease your way into the meeting after lunch. And you’ll be or know, about 1,000% better footing to make this thing work than you will on a cold, you know, not to Jeremy for a minute put down. So we love Skype. You know, Skype is the you know, it’s wonderful, for sure.
Jeremy Weisz 56:31
Oh, well, there’s something about that in person, you can’t you don’t have the same connection. I know what you mean. Yes,
Noah Alper 56:36
it wasn’t only now they were even going to go with a Skype, they were going to do a call a high tech guys, one of the you know, was very efficient, right? When you see people for, you know, we can you give them the spiel and get it, you know, no, come on, you know, so I think that, you know, that kind of thing is, is how I think, you know, I can add value is that I’ve been around and I’ve been in a lot of different, you know, venues buying, selling businesses, product, marketing, you know, scoping people out and situations. And so I, you know, I have some, you know, some some, I think, some valuable expertise to offer to the world. And that’s what I’m doing on a day to day basis and enjoying it very much. Yeah.
Jeremy Weisz 57:24
So I have one last question. But before I ask it, I wanted to have you talk a little bit about what you’re working on now, what you’re most excited about.
Noah Alper 57:37
Um, my day to day life of fielding calls from entrepreneurs across the country and across the world, and being able to, you know, steer them in a direction that is positive for them. In some cases. Quite truthfully, I’m, I’m acting as a sounding board and telling people this is not a great idea. And they’ve had questions about it and in concerns and they sort of need someone they they oftentimes people know what the right answer is, but they sort of need someone else to tell them and, and, you know, that gives me great gratification being able to provide to provide that function.
Jeremy Weisz 58:24
So people have questions for you. They want to find you Where are the best places to contact you or find you.
Noah Alper 58:29
Okay, so Noahalpertconsulting.com. No, a shoot N-O-A-H A-L-P-E-R consulting.com
Jeremy Weisz 58:44
Okay, so definitely check that out. And my last question for you know, is you’ve been your your dad was in the food business, you’ve been in the food business, or your children in the food business
Noah Alper 58:58
was interesting that you mentioned that. Before we get to the food business. There was one other thing I wanted to mention, which is that I actually wrote a book as well called Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneur. I have to find a marketing guy if I don’t plug myself you know, what’s something wrong? So there’s a businessmensc.net and people could check that out only see a question in my oldest boy is actually not a boy anymore. The one who have moved with his mother is now 36 years old and is living in Israel, married an Israeli woman and is actually made Li he’s moved and he’s starting his own natural foods catering business, already prepared meals. Delivery business. My middle son is just started this is all happening exactly at this time. It’s really coincidental. middle son has been in the real estate business for the last couple years, but he’s going into he’s going to be starting business school in the fall and he’s very interested in beef jerky. So he wants to get you know business school training and he’s seriously into curry and every type of description of beef jerky that you ever heard of he’s he’s experimented with and the third one is is working for food company just started that job and is now in New York and it will be East Coast representative of this company so the answer is two out of three and probably the third
Jeremy Weisz 1:00:41
well hopefully they go to no no i l for consulting calm and hire you for business.
Noah Alper 1:00:51
The prices right?
Jeremy Weisz 1:00:53
But no thank you so much. I really appreciate your time and your
Noah Alper 1:00:56
expertise. And I look forward to hearing from from your listeners and I wish you all the best success with with your endeavor which I think is very exciting. Thank you. Okay, bye bye now.
Great interview! like most great salesman Noah tells a great story and really paints a clear picture of his life and career. Very inspiring, my favorite one yet. Keep em coming Jeremy!
Thanks Craig! I appreciate the comments and having you as a listener. Any guest suggestions that you have let me know for future episodes of InspiredInsider!?