Nurturing the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Lander College for Women Alumna Founds Organization for Businesswomen
When Chaya Fishman was 16, she founded a conglomerate of summer arts camps for young girls, continuing it while she was a student at Lander College for Women-The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School (LCW).
The Class of 2009 finance major ran it like a pro, setting it up as limited-liability company. Even then, she knew she wanted to eventually help others find the same confidence and success in business.
It was from that idea that the Jewish Woman Entrepreneur, a non-profit that assists observant Jewish women in starting and steering their own businesses was born. And on Sunday, May 5, JWE hosted its first national business conference at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, N.J. The daylong event featured tracks for those seeking to start a new business, or grow their current one.
“I had a vision to create a network for Jewish women, especially those who are observant, that would address the issues they face in business,” says Fishman, who lives in Baltimore with her husband, Ariel and year-old son Aaron.
Fishman credits her experiences at LCW with nurturing her entrepreneurial spirit. In Michelle Tendler’s marketing class, Fishman used her arts camps, Appel Adventures, as the guinea pig. A class with Meyer Peikes in investment analyses taught her how to invest.
“Chaya Fishman is a creative social entrepreneur. I am impressed with her ability to take what she learned at LCW — both academically and communally — and blend it with her own creative genius to create an organization designed to make a difference in the lives of Jewish women,” according to Dean Marian Stoltz-Loike. “I have every confidence that she will succeed.”
The recent JWE conference offered session on everything from raising capital, social media marketing, hiring and managing employees to work-life balance — all while staying true to Torah values, according to Fishman.
The conference attracted approximately 300 participants from around the country, she said. She is pleased that it is drawing from across the spectrum of Orthodoxy, from Chasidic to Modern Orthodox. “It’s a very cool, underlying benefit,” says Fishman, a Cleveland native. “Business is a neutral topic to get past barriers.”
Fishman graduated from LCW and then went to work as a financial analyst. After two years, however, she decided to attend law school — her end goal to gain the legal skills to meaningfully assist other women with their business aims.
She launched JWE in 2011, with the idea of connecting women to one another and to mentors. She quickly became flooded with mentoring applications. Women wanted support, and observant ones in particular needed it. They had more challenges and less experience interfacing with the secular world than other Jewish women, she says.
JWE has already helped connect women to one another and has the potential of doing more, according to Rachel Faibish,’09, a classmate of Fishman’s who has networked through JWE.
“It’s very lonely out there,” notes Faibish, who served as videographer of the conference. “My business is word of mouth. I relied on my shul community and my school community. But I’m looking to branch out and expand my business and I think JWE will be an opportunity to do that.”