By: Shoshana Raff
What is an Entrepreneur?
To understand the successful entrepreneur, let us examine the entrepreneur. An entrepreneur is someone who starts or creates a new business –whether creating a new website, developing a magazine, inventing a toy, opening a small shop, starting a consulting business, or a therapy agency. Entrepreneurship is not reserved for multi-million dollar successes like Donald Trump, or Bill Gates or Henry Ford. Nor to Anita Roddick (founder of The Body Shop), Martha Stewart (no explanation needed) or Ruth Handler Barbie (against her husband’s advice, she created the first Barbie Doll and featured it the New York Toy Fair in 1959).
Many Jewish women have and continue to be successful entrepreneurs. The famous Schicks bakery in New York was founded by an orthodox women in the 1940’s. She was an immigrant widow with children to support, who was advised by her uncle to bake challah. As she baked and sold her challah, she became well-known for her generosity and talent and built a legacy for her family. It was also a group of wealthy Jewish women who started the entire field of social work by being the first to go door to door checking on the elderly and impoverished, bringing them food and medical aid during the Great Depression of the 1920s. FEGS, one of the largest social service agencies in the United States, is a direct result of these women’s efforts.
Entrepreneurship is largely understood as someone who “shifts resources from lower to greater yield.” Sound familiar? Jewish women are uniquely charged with the responsibility of creating something from very little – churning wheat into challah, creating a mensch from a little boy and so on. In essence, then, we are all successful entrepreneurs: as wives, mothers, and business women.
That being said; however, there are still some common traits that lead to exceptional success in business . Here are the 7 Habits of truly successful Jewish Women Entrepreneurs, derived from my years of studying , teaching, and coaching entrepreneurs--not to mention being one myself.
The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Jewish Woman Entrepreneurs
1- Successful JWE’s are authentic – they are true experts at what they preach and market because, let’s face it, the market is transparent and unauthentic, and copy-catters have very short life-spans. They do what they are passionate about, and it shows. They create expert organizations that are fun and safe places to work.
2- Plan – successful businesses are built on professional marketing and business plans. Anyone who wants to run a successful business should at the very least, sketch together both such plans. There are plenty of free templates that you can find on the internet and this website to help you do so. Writing a business and marketing plan accomplishes three main goals:
- It helps get you, the business owner, focused and thinking about critical details that you may have otherwise overlooked
- It helps you see if your idea is realistic and viable before you waste any more time and money on it
- It allows you to raise capital and resources for your business. The best way to raise capital for your business is by bringing a sound business plan to a bank and/or private investor. When a potential investor sees that you are well organized, thought out and planned-out they will be much more likely to give you the money you need to start and grow your business.
3- “Just do it.” No, this isn’t an old Nike campaign and it doesn’t contradict #2 above. While I’m a big advocate of Marketing and Business Plans - spending too much time on planning and perfecting can take away from the organic and creative nature of entrepreneurship. Too much time ruminating about something can be counter-productive. A healthy balance is required. Most successful entrepreneurs just begin building, creating, selling, etc. They don’t wait for the funding, customers, or even approval. They move and keep things moving. Market timing and instincts are as critical to success as anything else is. Waiting and planning for too long can leave you on the sidelines instead of in front place. It can also de-motivate your employees or partners. Ever wonder why there are always ‘bugs’ in the newest tech gadget you are using? Why it’s released only a few months before the next bug free version is ready? Because time to market is critical. Many people can say about the newest success – ‘I had that idea too’ but only few people actually ‘do it.’ The successful JWE’s marketing and business plans are usually developed while she’s in the midst of doing.
4- Perfection? The successful JWE is not afraid to make mistakes. While she may demand perfection, she is smart enough not to wait for ‘perfection’. Perfection is an elusive target that changes and grows along with us. Waiting for something to be perfect will often mean that you never really do anything or you do it too late.
5- Commitment: Successful JWE’s understand commitment. A big misconception is that if you run your own business you won’t have to work as many hours. In fact, the exact opposite is true. To start and run a business successfully, expect to put in over ten hours a day…for the rest of your life. The benefit is that your schedule can be very flexible and you can choose which of the +10 hours each day you are working. There is a direct positive correlation to the amount you put into your business and the success you get out of it. The same with children. Meaning, the more time and energy you put into it, the more successful you will be. And vice versa – as soon as you slow down, your personal investment of time, your business success will slow as well.
Another big misconception is that once you build a business, you can just sit back and reap the profits, letting it run by itself. This only happens after 20, 30, 40 years, similar to investing smartly in the stock market. Do not start a business if you are not willing to devote yourself to managing it.
6- Good Character traits- If anyone ever watched The Celebrity Apprentice, the highest rated TV series in America over the last few years, collaboration, support, and helping are not traits the celebrities model as they compete to build the most successful projects and businesses. This is simply not a realistic way to succeed. Charismatic leadership and a trusting, open, civilized corporate culture, along with collaboration, support and help have been proven time and again (in academic studies) to be much more successful then what’s modeled on popular TV shows.
Good character traits may also be the only factor that is most unique to women and especially to Jewish women. Such values are core Jewish values and women, by nature, exhibit these character traits. While corporate America may try to stifle such traits, it is the confident woman who is always supportive of others, regardless of what they can get in return. The successful JWE is successful because she has set up for herself a network of support and guidance and is at the forefront of supporting, mentoring and guiding others to success. The successful JWE intuitively understands – her success means my success. Her success is a model that I can learn from. JWE's network, teach, mentor, support, and motivate each other to succeed.
7- Finally, let us not forget the spirituality inherent in all Jewish women. This is the real secret to our success: our intuition, character and understanding that all success comes from the One Above. These traits, intrinsic to a Jewish women and bred in her value system, naturally lead us to success.