Development Director of Noffs Foundation | Entrepreneur Philanthropist
As The Sydney Morning Herald recently said: "In New York, they call it moxie: the combination of pep, courage, determination and supreme self-confidence. Rupert Noffs, 30, has more moxie than a barrel full of Glee cast members. And the backwards-baseball-cap, high-top-sneaker-wearing fashion blogger, designer, marketer, publicist and event producer has used every bit of it to expand his social enterprise initiative, Gideon Shoes, into the New York market and set up a charity there training young people to enter the fashion business..." and now he's set to open a restaurant with his partner of 11 years, Chef Matty Bee in downtown Manhattan later this year.
Find Rupert on social media @luckybeenyc @rupertnoffs
What inspired your move to New York?
I had the opportunity to move to NYC to expand the work of Noffs Foundation and Gideon Shoes. Matty and I had wanted to move for many years. I had met with many people already living in New York. They seemed to find the perfect combination of living in both Sydney and New York. When we started Gideon Shoes - from the very beginning - the plan was to make a mark in the U.S. The ’sneaker freaker’ culture is huge in the states and obviously New York City being the fashion capital of the world it seemed like the perfect time. Gideon Shoes is the world's first Aussie made sneaker label. Made from cane toad and kangaroo skins.
What is the most exciting project you are working on in NYC right now?
I’m actually working on a couple of exciting projects at the moment. Some people like to focus on one job but I find living in NYC gives me energy to do more and work harder! I’m working on a new shoe label for that will raise money for street kids in both the U.S. and Australia. We also have a new t-shirt label called Street Uni Clothing where you can customize your own t-shirts online and all proceeds go to the Noffs Foundation. I'm also looking to open a new space in New York called 'STUdio' where kids at risk can come in and create and feel empowered. We just need the funding to help open the doors. In Australia, the Ted Noffs Foundation has been working with kids at risk for over 40 years. My grandfather, Ted Noffs, started a place called The Wayside Chapel in Kings Cross. A place where beatniks, bohemians, Prime Ministers and scholars alike would all come together. Today, my family continue Ted's work. Currently, my focus is working with young LGBT people. They have so much potential but are sometimes hindered by the lack of resources for them in the community. I'm hoping the STUdio will open and be a place like The Wayside.
I see my role at Noffs being the Social Enterprise Sprooker and LGBT Crusader!
My husband, who is currently a private chef is opening a restaurant in NYC later this year. So, I have been working with him on getting that off the ground. It's called 'The Lucky Bee'. It's a Southeast Asian street food restaurant that will serve fresh, farm to table food. It will be in the Lower, Lower East Side.
How did the concept originally come to you? And what is the process of getting this idea off the ground?
I love brainstorming ideas with people, whether it be my family or like minded individuals. The thing about New York - and I know this sounds cliché - is that you can literally do whatever your heart desires! People like to support other like minds. The thing is - most people in Manhattan are transplants - so they are there to do something...work on something. So, we all want to be involved in community. Everyone wants to join a community. Whether that be business, entertainment, fashion, technology... whatever. We all have people to connect to and join forces with. So, when getting anything off the ground, it's a matter of just doing it. Simple. Hoping that people will like your idea and then everything follows!
Tell us a bit about yours and Matthew’s professional background and how it has culminated into starting a restaurant together.
I have worked in various areas. These include working at the checkout at K-Mart when I was 10 years old. I really started to love working with people and public relations when I left school, at the same time as studying acting at the National Institute of Dramatic Art. I went for a job at the leading PR company in Sydney, MP Agency, run by Mark Patrick. Mark gave me my first real job. Mark really took me under my wing. After working in PR and cutting my teeth in the industry and learning the ins and outs of PR, I got a job in fashion at Sydney's coolest vintage clothing store. So I used my experience in PR and took that into fashion, then eventually taking it all to Noffs Foundation. At 24 years old, I started there as receptionist and eventually became Development Manager - looking after all branding and fundraising. I then set up the world's first Australian made sneaker label, Gideon Shoes which raises money for Noffs Foundation. I took them to the U.S. Meanwhile, Matty was the Sous Chef at Longrain restaurant in Sydney then took over The Fat Radish in NYC and opened The Leadbelly. Since then, he has worked in the private sector for people like Barbara Walters, Martha Stewart, LL Cool J and Sarah Jessica Parker. We decided last year we should start our own company and put on events as well as open a restaurant.
What should we expect upon a visit to The Lucky Bee, from the food to the fit out?
Expect the very best and freshest Southeast Asian street food served in an eclectic tropical paradise.
The restaurant will have a unique charitable element to it, please tell us more about that.
We will raise money for bee farms and have kids from Noffs Foundation come and learn all aspects of the business from front of house to kitchen.
You have worked on several social enterprise projects, what has influenced your entrepreneurial and philanthropic spirit?
I guess it is in my blood. My grandfather, Ted Noffs, was a pioneer in social enterprise in the 1960's. I also think that any business these days should have some element of charity. We should all give back. In some way. No one likes someone who's just in it for themselves! Something as small as giving 50 cents from a product to charity is worth it... or being green in some way. Green is the new black, after all. I like to sleep at night knowing I am giving back.
What does a typical day for you look like?
I'm up at 5am speaking to Australia. Working on different ideas... then I have breakfast at around 6am. I love my Weetbix and coffee. I then head to the gym. I used to hate waking up early but now I love working out... It releases endorphins and makes the day clear. I run on the treadmill and think of new ideas. Matty and I then meet and go for another walk with our dog Billy. We check out spaces for our business. We're currently looking for a new restaurant space. That's the main objective right now... finding a space.
What’s your favorite part of living in New York?
It's always open for business.
How can people stay up-to-date with The Lucky Bee and your other projects?
Follow Rupert and Matt on social media @luckybeenyc @rupertnoffs @chefmattybee