Thank you for your kind words and for coming. Jewish B2B Networking was formed less than one year ago with the intent of trying to address two basic needs in our community — stimulating small business and creating job opportunities. JBN is the largest Jewish networking organization in the metro-Chicago area with active branches in Detroit and St. Louis. More than 12,000 small businesses and employment opportunity seekers are subscribed online and thousands have already attended the twice-monthly education and networking events held at convenient locations throughout.
The place was packed. It was my first time so I have no idea; is it always that full? You’re obviously answering a need.
Exactly, there is a need for people to connect. I hear time and again about people that were able to network, do business, and share ideas for employment at our programs. Our events have been drawing large numbers of new attendees, and the word has been spreading.
Describe a typical meeting for our readers, please. Do people just stand around and shmooze? That could be very awkward.
Each of our networking meetings has three parts: Open networking/shmoozing, a speaker on a topic of interest to both job seekers and business owners, and structured networking. As I’ve networked, I have seen many people that are quiet and reserved. They seem to have trouble getting up and introducing themselves. Others seem to be running around trying to get their business cards to as many people as possible. Each event has been at different venues and have networked with unique formats – people actually find the events both successful and fun.
I’m one of the more reserved ones you mention and I surprised myself by really enjoying the evening. Tell us something about your background, Shalom. You’re a pretty young fellow. Why did you think that you would be able to put such an ambitious venture together?
I was taught from a young age that the highest form of charity is helping someone earn their own livelihood and be able to support themselves. Being in business and meeting many different entrepreneurs, small business owners, and networkers led me to realize that all it takes to help a jobseeker land an interview is a connection. The same principal applies in business, so I encourage everyone I meet to “Get out there and network, and build relationships”. Today, we are seeing the many encouraging stories that allow me to keep putting in those efforts.
Can you give us an example of one of these encouraging stories?
Actually, just from the event that you joined us at two days ago – I got an email that someone connected with a former high-school classmate. They knew each other and even their families had become friends, but they actually had no clue what the other one does for a living. It is my understanding that they got together for coffee yesterday and actually signed a contract for a large joint project. Many more stories are being told about the 2nd and 3rd degree business and employment connections that are being made thanks to our involvement.
Very cool story! Networking possibilities are truly everywhere. You actually have a full-time job outside of all this networking stuff. What is it that you do when you’re not doing your business matchmaking?
I am the Director of Business Services for our family-owned and operated firm in Skokie, IL. Our business, MK&A, works with small businesses in helping them with bookkeeping, accounting, and taxes at a very low monthly rate. It is obviously a busy time of year now, with tax season well underway. My role is in working with new businesses in helping them get out of operating in crisis mode and coordinating so our bookkeepers and accountants can help business owners get the financial information they need to run their business.
It is actually from my networking for the business that the idea for Jewish B2B was developed. I simply wanted to connect many of the people that I had met and see how they can work together.
What are your plans for JB2BN? How would you like to see it grow? And where do you see it going? Could it become a prototype for other groups seeking to emulate your success?
I would like to continue to address two basic needs in our community – stimulating small business and creating job opportunities. Obviously, even if one person was helped by our efforts, it would have been enough. Today, I look forward to working even harder to reach into other communities and see how we can expand our efforts. We have already started launching Jewish B2B events in Detroit and St. Louis, and my plans are to expand our effort throughout the Midwest region.
What else would you like to tell our readers that we haven’t talked about yet, Shalom?
There is a statistic out there that 90-95% of job openings out there are not posted online. Both business and employment opportunities require real relationship and personal connections. I am excited about our successes but look forward to doing even more and serving as a resource to your readers. The strength is in numbers, if we can come together – we will be able to accomplish huge things for our business community.
What you’ve created is a thing of beauty, Shalom. Thank you for talking with me.