Starting a business with only $1,050 may seem like an impossible feat, but one real estate broker and his three partners found success by taking that risk.
According to Charles Nouhan Sr., a licensed real estate broker for the State of New Jersey, after his partners pulled out of their business, Four Star Agency in the 1960s, he went into business for himself.
Nouhan attributed his work ethic and ability to maintain the business to his family’s financial difficulties when he was young. Growing up, Nouhan was one of eight children and acknowledged the strain that placed on his single-mother.
“My mom widowed at a very young age,” said Nouhan. “We all, as soon as we were able to, started working to help support the family.”
According to Nouhan, he was seven-years-old when he started working as a shoe-shiner. He remarked with amusement that there were times when the job paid off.
“I would go out after school and in the area I lived, there was a main street with taverns,” explained Nouhan. “Back then, you’d charge five cents for a shine.”
“Every now and then I’d have someone who’d have a few too many drinks and I got a quarter for a shine. That was like a home-run,” he laughed.
Additionally, Nouhan also said that he set up pins in a bowling alley, worked for a milkman, worked in a barbershop, worked as a painter and worked for a man who installed ceramic tile in bathrooms.
Working various jobs at a young age was not always easy, according to Nouhan. He admitted that when his family purchased a restaurant, the long hours had a negative effect on his schoolwork.
“My job was to open up the restaurant at 11:30 at night because the neighborhood we were in — they were all farmers coming in from New York with their products,” said Nouhan. “I would work there until 4:30 in the morning, go home, get cleaned up and go off to school.”
“Many times, of course, I fell asleep in class because of getting up so early,” chuckled Nouhan. “Fortunately, we were not very successful in the restaurant business because I was failing in what was then four solids. I sold the restaurant, I got back into my schoolwork and I managed to graduate with my class, which I was very happy about.”
There were frightening times though, according to Nouhan. He said that at one point, he and his siblings feared that they would be separated from their mother and placed in an orphanage.
Nouhan’s father, who emigrated from Syria, requested that Nouhan’s mother be sent to join him in the United States so that they could marry. When she agreed, she entered the United States via Canada, according to Nouhan.
“After my dad passed away, my mom was applying for some services and it was determined that she was in the country illegally,” said Nouhan.
“When they said they were going to deport her, she said, ‘All right, you take the eight kids and I’ll go back to Syria,’” he laughed. “The family priest intervened, got a hold of the congressman and by act of Congress, my mom was allowed to stay in the country.”
Over the years, Nouhan said that he worked approximately 23 jobs before he went into real estate. He said that he got his licensing after listening to the advice of his brother, Joe.
Nonetheless, Nouhan said that he never regretted the jobs that he had prior to his foray into real estate.
“I [started working] at a very young age and I always worked,” he said. “I saw the benefit of doing that, so I’m a firm believer that with hard work and a little luck, you can be successful.”
When asked if he has any plans on slowing down since he is now a semi-retired, Nouhan laughed.
“I’ve worked all my life and I really enjoy what I do. To retire and just stay home, I’d probably drive my wife crazy.”