Where are they now: Aspen High School graduate Jack Paley
The Aspen Times
Editor’s note: This is the first edition of “Where Are They Now?”, a monthly series that tracks former Aspen students and their accomplishments.
Aspen High School alum Jack Paley started his own business before was old enough to drive, expanded the brand before he could watch an R-rated movie in theaters and co-authored a book before he could vote or purchase a pack of cigarettes.
Today — three months into the celebrated age of being able to enter a bar or legally order a beer — Jack is in Tel Aviv, Israel, interning at a venture capital firm.
He also is on track to graduate early from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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“It all starts with Aspen Crunch,” Jack said, referring to his accomplishments in recent years.
On one early summer morning six years ago, Jack and his father, Douglas Paley, were eating breakfast on the patio of Main Street Bakery.
The rising junior at Aspen High School was thinking of possible business ideas before heading off to a summer entrepreneurial program at Babson College.
Douglas said the two were brainstorming together when a McDonalds semi-truck whizzed down Main Street and an idea was born.
Jack proposed he start a health food company as an alternative to fast food, Douglas said, and carried his idea with him to Babson.
At Babson — one of the top entrepreneurship colleges in the country — Jack said he learned everything from how to pitch an idea to how to launch it.
He returned to Aspen when the program ended but continued to develop his business model and strategy throughout his junior year.
After a year’s worth of planning, Jack launched Aspen Crunch — a line of all-natural and locally made granola and dehydrated foods — the following summer.
Jack and Douglas sold their goods at the Saturday Market, which Jack said “has been the key” to Aspen Crunch’s success.
“It’s very ingrained in Aspen locals and people who come in for the summer,” Jack said. “They stop by and have a very personable experience.”
Aspen Crunch customers also have the opportunity to sample any product upon purchasing, which Douglas said leaves many people hooked.
“Our customers can’t get enough of it,” he said. “They love the message and the food.”
The business focuses on nutritional education and also promoting youth entrepreneurship in the valley, Jack said.
After an overwhelmingly successful first year with his business, Jack graduated from Aspen High School and published a book about teenage entrepreneurship, titled, “Aspen Crunch: One Bite at a Time.”
Jack and Douglas co-authored the book, which tells the story of a teenage boy and his father starting a business together from both of their perspectives.
“Aspen Crunch: One Bite at a Time” also delves into entrepreneurial concepts, offers lessons for mentors and mentees and thought-provoking stories, according to the book’s review on Amazon.
In the fall of 2013, Jack matriculated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he has continued his entrepreneurial studies and involvement on top of his business major with a concentration in finance.
This summer, Jack is taking his entrepreneurial skills to the next level and stepping out of his comfort zone by sitting on the other side of the table — the investors’ side — at a venture capital firm halfway across the world.
The young entrepreneur said his experience in Tel Aviv so far has been awesome, eye-opening and a “bit of a culture shock.”
“It’s really cool getting to see how venture capitalists view entrepreneurs,” Jack said. “To see some of the things they point to as almost no-go’s in investments.”
The 21-year-old’s sense of maturity and ambition set him apart from most of his peers, as Jack’s friend and fellow Aspen class of 2013 alumnus Eli Alpern pointed out.
“He’s one of my go-to sources for advice on this whole responsible adult thing, which he’s seemed to figure out faster than most of us,” Alpern said.
Alpern, who has been friends with Jack since third grade, said that Jack’s determination amazes him and that he can’t wait to see where it takes him.
“I miss him,” Alpern said. “I wish he’d come home, but I wouldn’t want to stop him from conquering the world.”
When Paley isn’t “conquering the world,” the Aspen native enjoys cooking, camping and backpacking.
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