Real Estate investor Ely Sakhai has been helping people find affordable homes for several years in and around New York City. He was born in 1952 in Iran and at the age of ten, immigrated to the United States with his family. He worked hard and achieved terrific grades throughout his schooling and was accepted into New York City Community College, and later Columbia University where he studied Computer Science. Ely Sakhai worked his way through college and helped support his family in Iran, and after graduation, Sakhai received a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering.
From a young age, Ely Sakhai had an entrepreneurial spirit, which lead him to team up with the father of his son’s friend to open a restaurant called Pasta Presto. After its first opening thirty years ago, Pasta Presto grew into five locations throughout New York. This restaurant was so popular, attracting locals and tourists from all over, that people would line up around the block to get a table. Although Ely Sakhai sold Pasta Presto, he has continued his entrepreneur activities. In addition to investing in real estate, Sakhai was the director of Chelsea Oil and Gas Ltd, a successful corporation in the oil industry.
Donating to charities surrounding faith has always been important to Ely Sakhai and his family, as they are all respected members of New York’s Jewish community. Sakhai continues to fund the Chabab de Roslyn, a synagogue, primary school, and youth center in New York, as well as Ezer Mizion, Israel’s largest healthcare supporters, to name a few. Sakhai believes that everyone should pay it forward to help others.
In his downtime, Ely Sakhai enjoys traveling, art, socializing and spending time with his family. The Sakhai family are active members of his synagogue and attend many New York charity events.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
My first taste of real estate investing was when I co-founded Pasta Presto 30 years ago. My primary location was a hit, so my partner and I purchased four more places. From there, I realized that I liked investing in real estate and wanted to help people find homes that were affordable and it went on from there.
How do you make money?
I am involved in various ventures that span a variety of industries, from food services to real estate.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
It took a little while for me to become profitable because you want to find the right properties and right business opportunities. When I started my restaurants, it took a lot of hard work to become profitable. What set us apart and helped tremendously was our impeccable customer service with every person we came in contact with. Sometimes I wonder if we would have been so successful with Pasta Presto now since so many food businesses focus on social media marketing, instead of face-to-face communication. Our customers really enjoyed the personal side of our business; we knew the names of all of our regulars and their families. A big part of how our restaurants became so popular was through customers spreading the word to their friends and family.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Of course, I had some doubts, and I think that is a natural part of things because real estate is a tough business to get into, especially when you may not have all the capital to start. I seemed to handle things pretty well because I was determined to make my venture work. With a lot of hard work and the help from the right people, my business began to flourish.
How did you get your first customer?
Well, my first customer came from a friend of an acquaintance, who was looking for a place to live and I had finished renovating a house and was getting it ready to rent when she was referred to me. I gave her a tour of the property, and she fell in love with the interior and the price, because it was within her budget. After I did all of the appropriate checks that every landlord does, she was able to move in by the following week.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
There are a few strategies that I use to generate business and new customers to my properties. I work on my network, meeting new people and helping them out with different things in their personal or professional lives. I am a big believer in if you help someone else, you will be rewarded. Additionally, social media has proved to be a very effective way to gain exposure and gain new business. I wish social media was around when I first started ventures, such as Pasta Presto.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
As you might know, I work many hours to keep my business prosperous. I don’t work a 9-5 job; my hours are all over the place. As a result, it can be challenging to juggle all of my projects and to spend time with family, but after working like this for so long, I have mastered time organization and multitasking. As I get older, I have started to prioritize family over work, especially as my children’s careers and families start to grow. However, I truly love to work and giving back to my community, so I do not see myself ever fully being out of the workforce.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
For one, I am goal-orientated, and I am determined to succeed in everything I do. I’m not one of these individuals who gives up at the first no, because success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of hard-work and communication to make anything we do work. Whether it is your personal life or your business, if you do not put in the effort into what needs to be done, then everything will crumble from beneath. But because I don’t give up, it has helped me and my businesses thrive.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
There are many moments since I began the business that has been satisfying for me. One of the most significant moments has nothing really to do with real estate, other than it allows me to help those who are in need, whether it’s for medical purposes, to help pay for education or anything else that I can do to make society a better place. I feel great when I help others in need. Many people helped me out when I was starting to make a name for myself, and it is only right to continue this support.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about watching my businesses grow and to help others get access to affordable, safe, quality places to call home. I have been paying attention to co-living housing because there are tons of young professionals and entrepreneurs who are in need of affordable housing, which brings a sense of community. These professionals can collaborate to come up with some great ideas. For example, that is how Facebook was built, was when Zuckerberg rented a house in San Francisco and rented rooms to his Facebook co-founders, and they used it to create one of the most significant companies on the planet. This would be great to see in New York since there are a lot of business opportunities for young professionals, yet many cannot afford safe places to live due to the high expenses. As for knowing what the future holds, when you focus on helping others, your future will always be successful.
What business books have inspired you?
There are a few books that I think are great for the budding entrepreneur who wants to hit the ground running. Not only will these books help someone who is new to starting their own business learn the ins and outs of being successful, but some tips are so valuable and are easy to achieve. The first book that comes to mind is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Think and Grow Rich is a go-to book because not only has it been one of the most popular books since the 30’s but Hill teaches his readers about setting a state of mind to become financially set, and the blueprint to achieve it in six steps.
The next book that inspires me that I want to share with your readers is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. Stephen teaches readers that the latest trends and pop psychology are not the way to achieve success, but to use timeless principles such as honesty, integrity, fairness and human dignity to become effective in whatever they do. These are the foundations of building success in all areas of a person’s life, including business.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
My monthly donations are the best uses of my money, but it is about much more than just benefiting my own businesses. For example, seeing all the good my contributions to Chabab de Roslyn has done for families, children, and the greater community motivates me to keep working hard.