The Rambam states that there is no greater act of charity then to help another in business. The Jewish Entrepreneur (TJE) is a nonprofit that connects Jewish business owners of all affiliations with mentors to guide them toward success. It was founded four years ago in Baltimore and quickly spread all over the country and world. Robert Safren joined as a mentor after retiring in 2017. After eight to 10 months of mentoring, Safren took up the role as executive director.
TJE has helped match over 1,100 businesses over the last four years and currently has over 200 mentors across the U.S. Thirty-five percent of all mentee businesses are based in New Jersey. TJE works with all sorts of businesses, from health care providers to marketing companies. Those who received mentoring in 2018 experienced a 25% revenue increase. The mentor works as a sounding board, not the boss; final decision making is up to the mentee.
There is a serious need for this type of service as there are many in the Jewish community, especially in the charedi and chasidic sector, who are starting businesses due to the high cost of living. The Jewish Entrepreneur is trying to combat the high business-failure rate by helping their mentees overcome start-up challenges.
Those who mentor are doing a tremendous chesed. Safren pointed out, “There is no greater chesed than giving of your time and resources to helping others become self-sufficient. Our mentors have consistently told us that not only do they find the experience incredibly rewarding, but in many cases they have found that it has even benefited their own businesses.
“I have been working in the corporate world my entire career and I have never experienced this much chesed. In just the first three months working as the TJE executive director, I saw more chesed from folks that I worked with as partners versus the 30 years of working in the corporate world.”
The mentees are pleased as well. They have a 90% satisfaction rate and often recommend the service to other fledgling businesses. Some are so successful and appreciative that they become mentors themselves. Safren added, “I have seen companies go from very little in sales revenue to over $1M in revenue in very short timeframes… but I have also seen so many people that felt lost and alone in their business struggles openly thank us, knowing that they are not alone and somebody cares.”
The mentees agree. The owner of a financial services company said, “A few years ago, I was at a turning point in my company. I reached out to TJE for mentoring support. They gave me tremendous guidance that helped me to navigate the challenges of my growing business. When they asked me to mentor someone, I agreed to pay it forward. I love helping someone else get a jump start in their new business.”
By Dassie Okin
Dassie Okin is from West Orange. She is a rising junior at Stern College and a summer intern at The Jewish Link.