So, what is it you do? In many parts of the Jewish world, this typical conversation starter has three-storied answers: doctor, lawyer, accountant. But I got a glimpse of a host of different answers to the question at last week’s TribeWorks Business Accelerator, a one-day conference dedicated to innovation in the Jewish world. TribeWorks, an organizational partner of Mishpacha magazine, is focused on fostering the entrepreneurial revolution already underway in the Jewish community. Its launch event pulsed with ideas, energy, and an exchange of resources, featuring a high-power lineup of presenters and an overflow crowd of attendees. The inspiring day, dedicated to economic empowerment and professional creativity, is expanding the possible answers to the question, “What do you do?” But of course, just a reminder, before leaving your full-time job for entrepreneurial adventures, always best to double-check with your spouse. Here are my top five business ventures embraced by the yeshivah community.
If you’re not sure what you do or what you want to do professionally, just say, “I work in real estate.” It may mean that you are a mogul who owns multi-family units dotted across the country. It may mean that your grandfather exchanged a wheelbarrow full of shmattehs for Midtown Manhattan. Or maybe it just means that you pay your rent or mortgage on time. The important thing is that it sounds important and there’s really no way the nosey person asking you what you do is going to find out what you mean. So, yeah, I work in real estate. What about you?
While Amazon has recently announced that they will be opening HQ2 in both Queens, New York, and Arlington, Virginia, their HQ3 may just be in Lakewood, NJ. There, in car garages transformed into shipping warehouses and bedrooms converted into home offices, young entrepreneurs try to tackle the world of e-commerce. Can I resell this anthropology textbook for $1,200? Only one way to find out. Do you think I’ll be able to sell the 4,000 banana slicers I just had shipped in from China? Amazon, don’t fail me now. Know anyone who needs 40,000 paper plates — maybe for a sheva brachos? Is it a problem that they all have a Japanese cartoon character on them? Hope not.
Seriously, people, help me: How does one start a nursing home? Ever feel like you’re the only Jew in the world who does not own/run/or manage a nursing home? I know I do. Whenever I visit someone in an assisted living center, I always make a point to excuse myself and sneak off to the front desk to inquire whether I can buy the nursing home. I’ll max out my credit card, postdate my checks, enroll on a payment plan. Whatever it takes. Tell me how it’s done. I am ready. Maybe the 22-year-old kid in shul who drives a Range Rover can spare me one of his. It’s time to put the “care” back in healthcare — and sharing is caring. Please give me one — just one — of your nursing homes.
Concerned that your credit card bill shows $4,000 spent buying tickets to a rock concert in Missouri? Wondering why your spouse just bought season tickets to the Golden State Warriors, when you are fairly certain they’re not even sure if it’s a basketball team or a football team? Before you panic and call your communal rabbi asking for advice on what to say to a 40-something-year-old spouse who just started listening to heavy metal, consider that maybe they’ve begun a new business venture. Nowadays, there’s a booming market for secondary ticket sales. It’s part of a larger trend, worth considering, that privileges experiences over information. It used to be that musicians would go on tour in order to promote their music album. Now musicians make music in order to promote their tours. As information becomes more accessible in the Internet age, there is a premium on experience. People don’t want to just listen or watch — they want immersive experiences. And, for those savvy enough to capitalize, there is some money to be made providing the entry tickets to them.
In some yeshivah kindergarten class, children are sharing what they want to be when they grow up. “I want to be a firefighter!” one child exclaims. Another child declares, “I want to be a Hatzolah man!” Finally, one child comes forward. He already has three credit cards in his name. Though the child lives in Queens, an hour drive to the kindergarten in NJ, he prefers to fly every morning from JFK to Newark. The child looks at the class and announces, “When I grow up, I want to be Dan’s Deals.” Aside from our gedolim, few leaders in the Jewish community command as much clout as Dan’s Deals. Mr. Deal (that’s his last name, right?) has turned choosing a credit card into an art form. He is the Mozart of flying, the Beethoven of booking hotels. And without a doubt, for a new generation, when you say the word “points,” they don’t think about sports or a game. No, sir. They think about the Patron Saint of Points: Mr. Dan Deal.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 736)
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