So You Want to Be a Jewish Entrepreneur?
By Beth Finger
It’s been almost six years since an idea popped into my head and I felt compelled to turn that vision into reality. It’s been an amazing journey so far, so I thought that I would share some of what I’ve learned:
- Passion – You’ve got to love your idea and believe that it can really transform the community. You’ll want to tell the world about it and share your excitement with anyone who will listen. That passion is contagious and a key ingredient for success.
- Don’t Fly Solo – You need to find a couple of other people to be on your team. This is imperative for four reasons: 1. You need help since it’s too much for one person. 2. You need different perspectives on your core idea. 3. They may have important networks to help you find people with skills (nonprofit lawyers, accountants, web designers, etc) needed to start up. 4. Funders want to know that it’s not just you.
- Fake It ‘Til You Make It – This was the best piece of advice I ever received. Create a logo, a website and an email address. Make it look like there is something happening. You have to put something out there for people to buzz about. I remember hearing the founder of Under Armour tell the story of how, when he started out, he would answer the phone as the secretary, put the caller on hold and pick up the line in his real voice for the conversation.
- Just Because You Build It, Does Not Mean They Will Come – Your idea must fill a real need in the community. Make sure no one else is already doing it. If they are, why isn’t it successful and how is your idea different? People will come only if it is high quality, fills a need and – most importantly: They must know about it.
- It’s A Lot of Work – Once you create something, it requires consistent, daily upkeep. If you are not working on your venture daily, then something is not right.
- You’re the Mom – If you don’t do it or delegate it to someone, the tasks don’t get done.
- You Will Wear Many Hats – Get ready to be challenged! You can’t just call the “I.T.” guy when your printer doesn’t work. You will be the “I.T” guy, the database guru, the number cruncher, the website designer, the grant writer and the secretary – among all of your other responsibilities.
- It’s Emotional – Your venture is your baby. Every grant that you do not receive feels like a personal rejection. When your friends don’t donate during your annual fundraiser, relationships get strained. On the other hand, your successes bring you to your highest highs. The testimonials of the impact that your venture has on people’s lives, leave you feeling profound gratitude that you could make such a difference.
The Jewish innovation sector is booming. This is great for the Jews who now have more options than ever to find meaningful and relevant ways to engage with Jewish life – both individually and in community. If you have an idea circling around in your head and you’re ready to launch your start-up, get ready for a thrilling ride!
Beth Finger is the Founder and Executive Director of Jewish Without Walls (JWOW).