"It's a little strange -- I'm going from hip hop to kosher food," says Ruby Azrak, the sole investor behind Hot Nosh 24/6 , a new line of kosher vending machines that sell onion rings, pizza, potato knishes, vegetable cutlets and mozzarella sticks. Within two years, Azrak hopes to have 2,000 machines installed in airports, hospitals, colleges and yeshivas nationwide.
Azrak has a talent for starting and investing in all sorts of businesses, which was quite apparent as I recently waited for him in his Manhattan office, surrounded by piles of rhinestone-studded sweatshirts from House of Dereon , singer Beyonce and her mom's clothing line, which he also runs. While Azrak certainly wears the role of entrepreneur well, it's clear that his passion is for starting a business itself, not necessarily a specific type of business. Does this distinction play any role in a small-business owner's success?
For the Love of the Game
Since the early '90s, Azrak has been involved in a number of other ventures, from jewelry to men's underwear to partnering with Russell Simmons in the clothing line Phat Farm, which they built into a $700 million retail business then sold to Kellwood Company ( KWD). Azrak has also created an apparel brand for rapper Nelly, which he sold last June. In addition to House of Dereon, he's now focusing on Hot Nosh 24/6. As for how Azrak embarked into the food realm, he explains that about five months ago he was approached by a mutual friend who knew Alan Cohnen and Doron Fetman, New York-based creators of the novel kosher-vending-machine concept, who were seeking a business partner. No matter what type of business it is, "I'm into the marketing," Azrak says matter-of-factly. He spends a significant amount of every workday meeting with people to not only increase awareness of his brands, but also to keep in touch with potential new ventures from real estate to retail and from "young kids who are trying to create a line that need a financial backer," he says.