Moshie was distraught. He sat in his office, head in hands, willing the numbers to go away. They just didn’t add up. Months of work, thousands of dollars invested, and a brilliant idea lay shattered before him.
There are many men and women like Moshie. Smart, capable, driven and bursting with ideas and the energy to carry them out. Many are newly married and have transitioned to the idea that they are not going on Shlichus and need a way to support their growing family. Some have always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and now after graduating from Yeshivah or seminary are ready to implement their ideas. But ideas and enthusiasm can’t replace the need for real world business experience.
The Crown Heights Young Entrepreneurs (CHYE) mentoring program fills that need. It is a mentoring program that matches successful businessmen with young entrepreneurs. The volunteer mentors have one goal; to make a difference in the lives of people in their community. It’s about paying it forward; giving to people who will one day pay it forward to others in a continuous cycle.
Rabbi Yehoshua Werde, founder of CHYE, started the organization with a desire to create events that would impact the neighborhood in a creative and helpful manner. “We have many creative and original thinkers graduating from Yeshivah,” he said. “They are very talented but don’t have any economic programs to help them or give them direction. The mentoring program takes the successful people in our community and gives them a framework to help. They now have a channel to espouse their wisdom to others.”
Mr. Joe Apflebaum, owner of Ajax Union marketing company, wishes he had access to such a mentoring program when he was just starting out. “There were simple things, fundamentals that I just didn’t take into account. For example, I had a web design business. I didn’t think about goals, revenue, who I wanted to reach, how much I needed to earn and why I was doing what I was doing. I didn’t know you could buy a list of businesses and call them. I was in Yeshivah–how was I supposed to know these things!
I went through a lot of trial and error and opening and closing of businesses. I could have changed the way I did things and become successful so much faster if I’d only had someone to consult with.”
Nechamie Margolis took advantage of the mentoring program to meet with Mr. Apfelbaum. She had recently launched her memoir writing website, writingthesoul.net, and was looking for more direction. “I had many years of writing experience and had written personal history memoirs for my clients but wanted to take the business to the next level,” she said. “I met with the mentor for forty-five minutes. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was life changing. He asked me questions that opened my imagination with ideas that could take my writing to a level I wouldn’t think of on my own. He also gave me a range of practical and creative ideas.”
For Zalmy Raskin, the mentoring program helped him gain clarity and solid business advice. His innovative business, www.flyingconnected.com, rents iPads to corporations or charities putting on events and trade shows as well as to those attending business meetings, or travelers wanting to stay internet connected. “I appreciate that my mentor, a very busy man, met with me and my future partner on more than one occasion. In a new business everything is fresh, new and daunting, and ideas are often theoretical before they’re put into action. It was great to hear his perspective and insight from a real world view, and he was able to give helpful guidelines and advice about my business in general, and particularly about an investment/partnership I was considering at the time . I would really recommend taking advantage of the mentoring system. It is so helpful to know that there is someone to help me when I need it and I plan on using it more in the future.”
The mentoring program director, Mr. Bentzy Plotkin is pleased with the pilot program. “We started the first mentorship about five months ago. As of now we have twenty mentors signed up and hope to increase the number. Many successful mentoring meetings have occurred. Our criteria for mentors are community members who are not only successful in business, but have communication skills in giving over their experience and can communicate with a younger generation.”
The time commitment to serve as a mentor is several hours a month. However, these limited hours can have a tremendous impact on the mentee’s career that can shape them for the rest of their life.
The reasons for joining are varied but they are all about giving to the community. Mr. Avi Kamman joined because he believed that his years of experience as a software consultant and in pitching to investors, could help others and make a difference. Mrs. Rishe Deitch became a mentor because as she says, “There’s nothing like seeing the name in print of a young man or women whom you helped to reach that goal. Despite the amount of time it takes to help someone perfect his or her writing, and also to get it submitted and published, the joy upon reaching the goal is worth it — and of course, the beauty of it is that this amount of time from me is only necessary for a short while. Before long, the young talented writer takes off and no longer needs my help… but the friendship is forever.”
One mentor quipped that it helped him meet awesome, brilliant people. “This is the kind of tzedaka that you can’t give with money,” he said. “There is a special thing about sharing knowledge and experience, and there is no other avenue to have such a zechus.”
The mentorship program is for everyone. It can help people from any walk of life, whether teacher, baker, shliach, designer, or entertainer. In Lubavitch we have the concept of aseh lecha rav, but many people don’t have someone who can help push them in the right direction.
The mentoring program is not only about business. It’s about goals. And it’s about life.
For more information about the mentoring program or to sign up as a mentor, visit http://www.chye.info/services/mentor-directory