Entrepreneurs like to be free and creative on their own time and their own dime. But, according to research by Shikhar Ghosh, a Harvard Business School lecturer, about three out of four new firms that take venture capital fail to deliver projected returns. And, according to research by the University of Tennessee, by year three, 44 percent of start-ups have outright failed.
It was armed with this knowledge and a desire to help entrepreneurs accomplish their goals that Zevy Wolman and Daniel Ely launched Jewish Entrepreneurial Trust (JET) in 2010, a multifaceted, nonprofit organization providing local businesses with a variety of assistance and services.
Wolman explained that while in Jewish Baltimore there are many professionals — lawyers, accountants, people working for the government — there has not been a dearth of entrepreneurialism, people who have started businesses and employed multiple people within the community. Successful entrepreneurs, he said, have the capacity to bring excess money into the Jewish community, to help fund Jewish day schools and chesed organizations.
“We wanted to be a resource to aid those with ideas, and to help generate ideas, that can be turned into entrepreneurship,” Wolman said.
With that in mind, JET opened a one-of-a-kind business development center for the Baltimore Jewish community — an incubator, so to speak. Business incubators are programs designed to support the successful development of entrepreneurial companies. Successful completion of a business incubation program increases the likelihood that a start-up company will stay in business for the long term; studies have found that 87 percent of incubator graduates stayed in business.
In the incubator, start-ups have access to office space and amenities such as wireless Internet, a business phone line and copy center. JET provides a secretary to answer calls, legal and accounting services, marketing support and funding up to $25,000 in interest-free loans.
One company, All Pest K9, has completed the incubation process, said Wolman. All Pest K9 is a privately owned and independent canine bed bug detection and prevention company. Wolman said the business has grown substantially since it started working with Ely.
This year, the nonprofit expanded its services to include mentorship, seasoned entrepreneurs helping new business owners.
“Jewish people helping Jewish people get a leg up,” said Wolman.
Ely said the mentorship program is open to anyone interested — and JET is also looking for mentors. He said mentees have access to consultants they may not be able to reach out to on their own. He said the relationship could be ongoing, or it could be a one-time meeting at the incubator or even a local coffee shop.
JET is nondenominational.
“It is very exciting to see someone with passion and excitement about the product he is offering,” said Ely. “When a guy has a goal or a vision and you give him new horizons, and he embraces that, gets more passionate, that is very exciting.”
Contact JET at [email protected].
See related Business Comment, Track Changes.