Ely Sakhai

Success is built on a reliable network of individuals who share your passion and can help you develop your business venture.


Ely Sakhai is a successful restaurateur, real estate investor and philanthropist based in New York City. Born in Iran in 1952, Ely emigrated to the United States with his family when he was ten years old. He worked hard in school and participated in the synagogue and other religious activities before attending Columbia University. Later, Ely Sakhai studied Computer Science at New York City Community College, and received a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Columbia. Ely Sakhai has a wide range of experience, from serving as Director of the multi-billion-dollar Chelsea Oil and Gas Ltd, to being part owner of the popular Pasta Presto restaurants, which had five locations throughout the NYC area, with its central location on 2nd Avenue, between 34th and 33rd streets.

Currently, Ely Sakhai is dedicating his time to his various philanthropy projects.Inspired by his Jewish faith, Sakhai founded the Chabab de Roslyn, a synagogue, primary school, and youth center located in Roslyn Heights, New York. Additionally, Sakhai assists those in need, covering their medical expenses through ongoing contributions to Ezer Mizion, one of the largest supporters for healthcare in Israel. In addition to Ely Sakhai`s philanthropy, he has a passion for art, loves to travel, and loves spending time with his wife and two children.

Where did the idea for to become a real estate investor come from?

I am passionate about helping people find the right housing that suits their needs at an affordable price. As you already know, New York City is one of the most expensive places in the country to live, and housing can be scarce. So after I bought the property to my family home, I thought you know, I could be helping others achieve the same thing. So that is why I decided to get into real estate.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I wake up and check my planner to see what meetings I have scheduled with other investors, developers, and business partners. Typically, I make sure to plan customers in the afternoons, so I can spend more time going over any potential properties that I am interested in buying. Business-related with Real Estate Developers, investors and construction companies I keep for the morning hours because most of us work 9-5, so you want to make sure to get them squared away first thing. Once I finish my meetings, or if I do not have anything scheduled, then I work on different projects that I need to complete. These include what may need to be repaired at any of my properties, making sure tenants are up-to-date on their payments, filing paperwork for those who aren’t and contacting individuals of various specialties to make repairs, which I write down on a list and after each task is completed, I check off. Those are just a few of the things I do on a day-to-day basis that keeps me productive.

How do you bring ideas to life?

There are tons of things that I do which brings my new ideas to the front and center of things. Usually I will talk to my colleagues or customers to get a feel for what I can do to make things more appealing to drive new business to my investments. Then I take those ideas and brainstorm them into something awesome and then we’ll talk about those ideas in considerable detail with my colleagues and business partners to see what they think. From there if most of us are on board, then I will talk to the ones who may be hesitant and see what they could add to make the idea even better than the original. Once everyone comes into agreement about the concept, then we go to work and implement it.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One of the trends I am seeing which have excited me is Co-living and Community-Driven Spaces. That is because the impact it is making for those who invest in multifamily dwellings and making them more community-based. Today’s tenants are looking for ways to inspire others and make friends without paying some of the high costs of rent. Did you know that Mark Zuckerberg rented a house in San Francisco, and invited his team to move in and collaborate on the creation of Facebook? Millennials, digital nomads, and younger professionals are not just looking for a place to lay their heads at night. They want something where you can create lasting friendships, business partnerships, or the next big industry. Co-living spaces are the answer these individuals are looking for and are the market in the real estate industry which is booming, and it makes me excited to be a part of that.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I focus on the number of tasks I have completed for the day, rather than the hours I worked. If I concentrate on the clock, then it will make things seem like they’re going much slower than what they are. I make this habit because I could work 24 hours a day and not get a job completed, but if I focus on the tasks I need to complete and finish them one-by-one, then my day becomes more productive rather than focusing on the clock. It also helps me focus on what needs to be done and to do it correctly, rather than just buzzing through everything.

What advice would you give your younger self?

There are two critical pieces of advice that I wish someone had told my younger self. The first one is to be careful of who you trust. I say this because sometimes you think you know a person through and through; you worked closely with them for years, know their friends, family and more. But this does not mean they will be a good business partner. Sometimes people get lazy, or even worse, they get greedy.

Secondly, I told my younger self to be more confident. The risk of investing and starting businesses used to scare me, but I wish that I was confident with my knowledge and skills. You have to be confident in what you are doing and passionate to succeed.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

I owned a chain of Italian restaurants in the NYC metro area, and when I first talked about partnering up with the other owner, I was told that the restaurant business was oversaturated, and that it was not going to be successful. But I did it anyway, knowing that the idea we came up with was different from the competition and that I had the passion to make it succeed no matter what. In the end, it was very successful. We had grown to five locations and were in business for several years. We were so busy that people would line up around the block, waiting over an hour to get a seat. To keep these customers happy, we would serve free wine while they waited! It was a very fun place to work, and seeing our customers happy made us happy. We built some great relationships with the locals that I will cherish forever.

Not only was that my introduction to the restaurant business, but it was the beginning of my real estate investment career. Just because someone else says that your idea is not going to work, does not mean you should listen to them.I say be more confident in your skills and passions. Do it anyway and prove them wrong.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

You must make sure that you are leveraging your networking relationships, especially in person. Success is built on a reliable network of individuals who share your passion and can help you develop your business venture. Whether it is from word of mouth or coming up with a marketing plan that is unbeatable, these are the individuals who can take any investment to new and exciting heights. I do that by trying to help others and by creating long-lasting relationships with both individuals and business owners alike. As the saying goes, a person must give before they can receive.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

There are a few things I do that has helped my business grow and become successful. The first one is be unique. There are so many entrepreneurs who try to copy one another, and perhaps that method works for one business owner, but it doesn’t give you the same results. That is why being unique and doing what works for you is so important, because you want to be different from the competition. You don’t have to be elaborate on presentation, as long as the product or service stands out from the rest.

You also need to have a clear idea of who your core customers are and build your business to cater to these individuals, before branching out. Because they want a specific product or service and if you can reach out to these individuals with what you have to offer, then your business will grow. Make sure though you give them excellent customer service, because every customer or partner you have, will spread the word to their friends and so on. It doesn’t happen overnight, but those who are patient will make it to the top.

The best business strategy is to give back to your community. Nothing feels better. Pick a cause that’s close to home and it will encourage you to work harder. You can be the most successful businessman in the world, but if you have noone to share it with, who cares?

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I was involved in a different business venture several years ago and trusted some individuals that I shouldn’t have. I regretted this partnership to say the least, but it was also a learning moment. I overcame this failure by focusing my business efforts elsewhere, and from then on I have been a lot more careful about who I involve in my ventures.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

There are so many business ideas out there, but any new entrepreneur should find one that they’re passionate about. If you are good with technology and have a background in it, you can create a new business venture doing consulting in that field. It’s not only affordable, but your skill set is used with helping other businesses and customers find the right technologies to suit their specific needs. With all the new technology coming out, this business venture will only increase in demand. That is just one example of a business idea, the possibilities are truly endless. With enough drive and passion, you will be successful.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

That is a tough one. I donate a lot of money to causes close to my heart, so I could never determine which one is more “worth it”. For example, my donations to Chabab de Roslyn and Ezer Mizion help people in need with their faith, education, and healthcare. Any amount helps!

I also love going out to dinner with my family. My children are now creating families of their own, and coming together, for even a few hours each week, makes me so happy. To see them thriving, in their professional and personal lives, is why I have worked so hard my whole life.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

My favorite software to use is called RealData, which creates an excel file and can be used for both commercial and residential properties. I add any real estate properties that I am interested in buying for it to find out if they are worth purchasing. You can create reports to present to many professionals, including other investors, customers, clients, and lenders. It’s pretty simple to use, and they have tutorials to help you become a pro. You add the data you want to be included and click on the boxes you need to create your report. Each report comes in a PDF file.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The best book, if you are looking at getting into real estate investing and are entirely new to it, is “The Book on Investing in Real Estate With No (and Low) Money Down” By Brandon Turner. He covers everything from financing your first purchase and deal analysis, to all the legal jargon that new investors need to know. This book is created for the absolute beginner, who may not have a ton of capital to purchase a home with cash. Brandon Turner teaches new investors different tools that are not traditional to buy real estate. Why it’s helpful is because he has used these himself and they’ve shown a proven track record of working.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote has to be “those who dare to fail miserably, can achieve greatly.” I do not remember who this quote is by, but this is one that I live by. As an immigrant, I risked a lot to make a name for myself and it paid off greatly. Some risks set me back, but ultimately I persisted and was able to create a great life for myself and later for my family. Without failure, we will never succeed. Do not get discouraged when you feel like you have failed. Failure is a learning experience that only leads to more greatness.

Key learnings:

● You have to be willing to fail to become successful.
● Make sure that you are continually networking. This will create some great friendships and partnerships.
● Pay it forward and help someone else who needs it. At some point we all need help, and there is strength in asking for help. To be able to give without looking for something in return is the ultimate reward.