By Lindsey Bridwell
When Chaya Appel-Fishman started her own website aimed at providing advice for Jewish women seeking help with entrepreneurial business, she had no idea it would spread into anything more than an online resource.
On Sunday, Oct. 27, the Baltimore chapter of The Jewish Woman Entrepreneur will launch, becoming the organization’s 12th chapter.
“There are a lot of resources out there for women entrepreneurs,” said Appel-Fishman, “but for Jewish women entrepreneurs, and particularly observant women entrepreneurs, there is very little that can offer comprehensive, holistic support.”
The JWE hosted its first conference in May 2013 in New Brunswick, N.J. The event was attended by 300 people from 13 states, said Appel-Fishman, adding that more than 800 women have reached out to the organization since it evolved from a website into a nonprofit organization.
The initial conference was geared mostly toward observant women, but Appel-Fishman stresses that the group is open to anyone who is interested. She has even met a few non-Jews looking to The JWE for guidance.
The JWE seeks to offer Jewish women professional help through a three-pronged approach. These include:
• Substantive business education through opportunities such as regular webinars offered on the organization’s website.
• Mentoring programs that match women with similar lifestyles or industries together to provide support for clients.
• Community-building programs such as conferences and local chapter meet-ups that help professional women by linking them with other professionals in their region.
While men are more apt to talk about business in a social setting, women usually discuss other, non-work related topics when they get together, said Appel-Fishman. As a result, many women don’t realize the potential their friends and neighbors have for helping them in their professional lives. Part of The JWE’s mission, she said, is helping women to realize this potential.
“[Women] don’t realize how many other women there are out there who are equally as sophisticated [as men] in business,” she said. “It just doesn’t come up the same way that men bring it up.”
Miriam Gittel Rosenblatt, co-founder of the Baltimore chapter of The JWE, said the chapter’s inaugural event will provide attendees a chance for “constructive networking.”
“Some people kind of come out of the woodwork who you didn’t even know own a business or they’re outside of the Orthodox community, so people are just not aware of them,” said Rosenblatt.
In addition to Rosenblatt, who owns a graphic design company, is co-founder Devorah Baron, who owns an ultrasound business. Rosenblatt says she expects women involved in fields such as sales, children’s therapy and baking to attend the event as well.
For Baron, who began her business eight years ago, a resource such as The JWE “would have been awesome.” Instead, she found her own way through the process of trial and error. Now, she is excited about the opportunity to mentor other Jewish women looking to start out on their own.
“I’m happy to share that with other women who are going through it,” she said, adding that the night could serve as a tool to help professionals connect and grow their businesses together.
The theme of the night is “Creating a Culture of Excellence in Business.” Dr. Sanford J. Siegel, president and CEO of Chesapeake Urology Associates, will keynote the event. Dr. Siegel helped build Chesapeake Urology into one of the top 25 places to work in the Baltimore area, according to Baltimore Magazine.
Deborah Gallant, who also spoke at the national conference in May, will then lead a workshop with attendees. Gallant is a business coach with an M.B.A. in marketing and management of organizations from the Columbia University Business School.
The event will take place at the Milk and Honey Bistro from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18. For more information, visit thejwe.com.