This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org. Over the years, Noah Alper, 75, has started and run five businesses and a nonprofit school. Four of his ventures — including Noah’s Bagels and the natural food and housewares chain Bread & Circus, now owned by Whole Foods Market — were huge hits. Two, by Alper’s admission, were flops.
‘I like to say I had a .666 batting average, which is good in baseball,’ says Alper. ‘But if you strike out, it’s real money!’ These days, Alper — author of “Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneur”—spends much of his time in Berkeley, California, running Noah Alper Consulting, assisting entrepreneurs eager to get their businesses off the ground. “I think one of the things that I’ve been able to do in my career successfully is see emerging trends and jump on them,” he says. Given Alper’s impressive track record as well as the lessons he learned from his business failures, Next Avenue wanted to find out what he wishes he had known before starting his companies.
“Know your customer. Really know your customer. Don’t sort of know your customer.”
— Noah Alper
Speaking by Zoom
during a recent visit to Israel, Alper shared lessons that can help people over 50 become more successful launching their businesses. Here are highlights of that conversation: Next Avenue: Do you remember when you first realized you wanted to be an entrepreneur and why? Noah Alper: I had a lemonade stand from the time I was eight years old in Boston. Even when it was almost March, I’d put a sign in the snow and start out. I just always loved the back and forth of commerce.Start small, think big Was your first business Alper International, when you were in your 20s? Yeah, it was. But it started out as something else.
My first business was wooden salad bowls from Vermont. I was at a friend’s house and saw these wooden bowls she was serving salad in. Back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, everything was natural and going back to the land. So, repurposing these wood …