By Steven Blustein
On Friday, April 8th, PrideBites – the company that my co-founders and I started out of our dorm room just a few short years ago – appeared on ABC’s The Shark Tank and received an investment offer from QVC Queen, Lori Greiner & Cyber Security billionaire, Robert Herjavec.
This exciting milestone substantiates our incredible growth from offering a handful of dog toys to becoming the NikeID of pet products with backing from some of the top investors and business minds in the world. But it also signals something equally important: the enormous role that my Jewish upbringing played in giving my team and I the necessary tools to get to this point.
Here are some of the important lessons that the Jewish community has taught me about life and being an entrepreneur:
Pay it Forward
Growing up, it was instilled early on that helping others was just as important, if not more important, than personal successes. Community service was a huge part of our lives. One of my fondest memories is spending an entire summer as a sophomore in high school with BBYO working with underprivileged kids in Baltimore’s lower east side. Our goal was to be positive role models to the kids that we interacted with and to make a difference in their lives anyway we could – even if it was just a small difference. This experience and the philosophy of giving has permeated everything we do at PrideBites.
We work hard to maintain strong relationships with the youth movements and organizations that impacted us along the way and constantly look for chances to pay it forward any way we can. Whether it’s speaking at events, visiting schools, or donating a portion of our proceeds to different organizations, we believe that in order to be a truly successful entrepreneurs we have to embody the same selfless spirit of giving back that was instilled in us a kids.
Relationships Last Forever
One of the most amazing things about being part of the Jewish community is the connections you make with people from all over the world. There are few places that I go where I don’t have some sort of connection to someone I grew up with. These relationships and the networks they’ve formed allow us to make introductions with potential business partners, mentors and talent all over the globe!
Similar to the Jewish community, the entrepreneurial community is built on relationships. You never know when the connections you make with people will open up doors for you. On several occasions, the relationships that my team and I have formed with others in the the Jewish community have been direct contributors to PrideBites success.
Leadership is Learned
Some say that leadership is a skill that you’re either born with or you aren’t. While I agree that certain people are natural-born leaders, my experience with BBYO and Hillel taught me firsthand that these skills can be cultivated. I served as president of BBYO on the local and regional levels, and as vice-president on a worldwide level. Each step of the way, I picked up valuable lessons on how to be an effective leader.
Years later, I was able to translate these learnings into leading the team at PrideBites, from the time when we were just a few guys in dorm room, to today where we’re a team of eleven based across the globe. This is yet another example of how the Jewish youth movements and organizations teaches us valuable life lessons and skills that can be translated into every area of our personal and professional lives.
Do What You Love!
I loved my time in BBYO. It allowed me to mature and grow in so many ways, while also enjoying incredible experiences with my friends. This shaped the foundation for how I look at my professional life. While business achievements are great and important in their own right, if you’re not loving what you’re doing and having fun along the way then you’re not reaching your full potential.
Steven Blustein is CEO & Co-founder of PrideBites.