Noah Alper’s career started earlier than most — though he founded Noah’s New York Bagels in 1989 and is now the principal consultant at his consulting firm for small businesses and entrepreneurs, he found his passion for business first in lemonade stands.
“I just followed that passion,” he said. “After I got through with college, I started selling salad bowls from Vermont … and then that led to a housewares business, and then my former wife got very interested in natural foods and we opened up a natural food store.”
Alper has a long list of businesses he’s been involved with in addition to these, many of which have been sold to or acquired by larger companies — Noah’s New York Bagels to Einstein Bros. Bagels and his natural food store to Whole Foods Markets.
Despite his knack for starting such businesses, Alper said he tends to lose interest in a business after its beginning stages, which is why he turned to helping others with their startups — much of which he does pro-bono.
“That’s what really turned me on, was turning an idea into a practical living, breathing entity,” Alper said. “Operating the business was not my forte; in my work now, I really enjoy working with young entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs in general, who have an idea and want to actualize it.”
When asked about advice for other entrepreneurs, Alper had a simple answer — dream big, but stay practical.
Alper estimated that within three years from their start, 80-90% of startups do not exist any more, something that makes pro bono assistance all the more valuable.
“Keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground,” Alper said. “It’s important to drill down on the fundamentals of business, as well as keeping the vision of where you are, where you want to go.”
But Alper’s work hasn’t simply stayed in the realm of the business sector. In 2001, he co-founded a school, the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, which today is a thriving place for Jewish students in San Francisco.
Now, at 76, he spends much of his time in New York City, traveling to see his sons and grandchildren. His work in consulting, he describes, is his final “retirement project.”
Alper also stays focused on advocating for the Jewish community and fighting against antisemitism.
“I don’t know that Jewish business owners need help, per se; the Jewish community needs help,” Alper said. “I think there’s this sort of misunderstanding that because a lot of Jews have been successful, that they’re not discriminated against and picked on and beaten up.”
Alper recalled a federal statistic that noted only 0.2% of the world’s population is Jewish, but hate crimes targeting Jewish people make up more than half of religion-based hate crimes in the United States. The same report on incident statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation also assumes that a much higher number of hate incidents in general occur, because such crimes are underreported or lack reliable reporting at all.
People can start supporting Jewish people individually in their community to combat this, Alper said.
“(I want to focus on) who we are as a people, what we’ve offered the world,” he said. “We can be supported on a one-on-one basis.”