CHYE and JJ's Holy Cow

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CHYE’s Served Up the Guidance and Funding JJ’s Holy Cow Needed to Start Cooking

The best ideas for new businesses come when someone notices a problem and seeks to solve it or identifies a need and aims to fill it.  That was the case with JJ’s Holy Cow, a Kosher Artisanal Burger food truck based in Brooklyn, New York.  Established by husband-and-wife-team Eliyahu and Shaindy Raskin -- long-time foodies -- JJ’s Holy Cow is a food truck that offers a simple menu of traditional, handcrafted burgers made with select ingredients focused on enhancing the flavor of beef.  

Birth of an Idea

The idea originated when Rabbi Raskin, who is the head schliach of Chabad of Brooklyn Law School, noticed that there weren’t any restaurants in the area serving delicious burgers (or any other type of food) for students who keep Kosher.   “I wanted great Kosher food without having to leave the area and was frustrated that such an option wasn’t available near Brooklyn Law School,” said Rabbi Raskin.  The idea for a Kosher burger food truck business was born.  However, many good ideas are born but never actualized.  Having the idea for a great business is the first step, but then it takes a lot of planning and follow through to turn a good idea into a great business.  Even the most savvy and industrious entrepreneurs need help to get a startup off the ground.  Without guidance, many ideas die on the vine or crash and burn. 

Turning the Seed of an Idea into a Great Business

In the case of JJ’s Holy Cow, they had the culinary, sales and marketing skills needed for this type of business.  They also understood inherently that a food truck would solve the problem of expensive rents in New York.  But what they lacked was funding.  Like most new businesses, it takes money to get started.  JJ’s Holy Cow was no exception.  They needed the capital to buy their first food truck and the equipment and supplies to get started.  They didn’t have the funds or the know-how for how to get some.

Enter CHYE.  “Through the grapevine, we heard that CHYE could give us the guidance of how to get funding for our business,” explained Rabbi Raskin.  Within the Jewish community, CHYE was known as a business resource center that helped entrepreneurs just starting out on how to get started and how to avoid the most common problems faced by new businesses. 

A Niche Business Plan Snags Startup Funding

The Raskins’ business idea needed an infusion of capital.  CHYE had recently taught a course on how to prepare a business plan and apply for a business loan.  The advisor gave the Raskins two sample Business Plans that were specifically focused on the food industry, which was key.  “One of the samples was a 40-page instructional guide on how to prepare a business plan for the food industry,” Raskin explained.  He also shared samples of some of the best Business Plans that had successfully obtained funding.   The Raskins prepared a very detailed Business Plan based on these guidelines.  Within two months, JJ’s Holy Cow had obtained a business loan from the Hebrew Free Loan Society.  With that, they were able to buy their first truck and opened for business shortly thereafter.

On a Mission to Provide Great Food

Since inception, JJ’s Holy Cow is doing well, and expected to do even better with new semester at Brooklyn Law School about to start.  There are also two stores carrying their products.  Their food truck is also doing event catering for office parties, Bar Mitzvahs and birthdays.  For example, they recently were at the Jewish Festival in Westchester and are looking forward to serving up good food at Sukkot and Chanukah festivities.  The proof that their culinary creations rock are the great ratings on Yelp and positive reviews on Facebook.   

The Raskins feel that what they have is more than a business.  It’s a mission.  “We believe our food is so good people need to be a part of it,” explained Rabbi Raskin passionately.  That is why their 1-year goal is to expand to other universities that don’t have many (or any) options for good Kosher food.  They also want to expand to have a second truck based in Manhattan.   Beyond that, they want stores that don’t have full Kosher options to carry their food.  That said, JJ’s Holy Cow is good even for those who don’t keep Kosher.  In fact, says Rabbi Raskin, “50% of our clients are not Jewish.  This is great food and it is also Kosher.”

Quality Kosher Handcrafted Fast Food… not an Oxymoron

While their plan for the future is ambitious and detailed, JJ’s Holy Cow menu is simple. They serve artisanal, handcrafted burgers, gourmet hot dogs and specialty French fries. That's it, and it’s more than enough.  By giving their burgers divine treatment, each is a gourmet culinary creation worthy of being eaten.

Each of JJ's Holy Cow burgers starts with an all-beef patty, which can be customized with a plethora of ingredients.  JJ's signature burgers include the Brooklyn burger on a vegan pretzel bun and the Green Obsession which has avocado, arugula and fried sweet garlic peppers.  But Rabbi Raskin’s favorite is the Sunrise in Brooklyn burger which features an all-beef patty topped with an over-easy egg, bacon, a seasonal mix of veggie sticks, caramelized onions and aioli sauce.   Now that sounds heavenly.

 

 

CHYE and KDI

Meet the winner of the women's division of the CHYE-COLlive Elevator Pitch Challenge: Sarah Esther Varnai who founded a publishing company to bring the beauty of Israel to children.

Following the inaugural Elevator Pitch Competition, which saw a wide display of local Chabad entrepreneurship and talent, CHYE spoke with women's winner Sarah Esther Varnai of "Kids Discover Israel."

Sarah Esther Varnai is the founder of Kids Discover Israel, a publishing company which helps children learn about and appreciate the land of Israel.

CHYE: Mrs. Varnai, would you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

Mrs. Varnai: My name is Sarah Esther Varnai. I was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. As a young child of seven or eight I discovered that the Jewish people have a land of their own, and I dreamed to one day move to Israel. It took me another 40 years until I fulfilled that dream, but in 2000 I moved together with my 11 children to Israel.

It didn’t take me long to realize—there is no place in the world like Israel!

CHYE: What inspired you to start your business?

Mrs. Varnai: When we moved to Israel I took a tour-guide course at Hebrew University. I wanted to know my new country like only a tour-guide knows it. I travelled to places I never knew existed. Can you imagine? A little bubby like me, climbing up mountains and crawling through tunnels.

It was amazing and it was magical. And I wanted to share that magic with Jewish children all around the world who had never been to Israel.

So that’s how my two characters, Dovid and Estie, were born. Together they make Aliyah and travel through Israel discovering their land. They travel back in time and see what the site looked like back in ancient history, and they learn about the importance the site has to the Jewish people.

CHYE: What exactly is your business?

Mrs. Varnai: I started out with the goal of creating a series of books; each book focusing on a different important archeological site. I call it the “Armchair birthright for the younger generation”. Each book contains a story of two travelers, Dovid and Estie, who journey through Israel’s ancient sites and explore their historical significance. At the end of each book I have archeological pictures and drawings, and interesting historical information regarding each of the sites.

My problem was that I couldn’t find a publisher who believed in my vision as I did. I was faced with a dilemma: Do I give up on my dream, or do I take it all on myself? I chose the latter. I quit my teaching job, and I devoted myself fulltime to writing and publishing my own books. I opened my own publishing company, KDI—Kids Discover Israel. I hired designers, illustrators, printers, marketers and distributors, and I began work on getting the word out about my series.

Something interesting I did to create awareness about the project was to run a contest in Jewish schools around the world. Students were invited to submit a poetry or art piece describing Masada, and the winning entries were published in the introduction to my Masada book. I am now running the same contest for Ir David, and the winners will be published in my next book.

CHYE: What is your advice to other entrepreneurs?

Mrs. Varnai: Don’t give up on your dreams. After 40 years of hoping I made it to Israel. And my characters Dovid and Estie finally made it into print. If you only keep dreaming you can do it too.

CHYE and JMenu

Meet Shmuly Wolff, founder of JMenu, a restaurant app for Kosher food, and winner of the men's division of the CHYE COLlive elevator pitch challenge.

Following the inaugural Elevator Pitch Competition, which saw a wide display of local Chabad entrepreneurship and talent, CHYE spoke with men's winner Shmuly Wolff of JMenu.

Shmuly Wolff is the founder of JMenu, a restaurant app for Kosher food.

Video: Interview with Shmuly Wolff, founder of JMenu


CHYE: Shmuly, would you begin by telling us what inspired you to start your business?

Shmuly: I’m a local New Yorker, born and bred in Crown Heights. Anyone who rides the subway here in NY will have been inundated with the range of food service companies that sprouted over the past few years. Seamless, GrubHub, Delivery.com—they’ve totally changed the way the restaurant industry interacts with consumers. I thought to myself, it’s time we had a Kosher version for the Jewish consumer.

It’s true, these other companies have some Kosher restaurants on their lists. But many Kosher places don’t have a relationship with them, and often they put “Kosher-style” or deli as Kosher even though it’s not actually Kosher. And besides, isn’t it better to have a complete list of only Kosher stores on one app?

CHYE: So how did you go about getting JMenu off the ground?

I began researching the industry a little and found out how it works. I hired a developer to create my app, and I reached out to local restaurants to see if they’d come on board.

The restaurants loved the idea. A lot of Kosher restaurants didn’t have an online presence, and JMenu gave them the opportunity to reach their customers online. As well, we work as a free marketing service for them. Whenever someone opens our app and searches for Kosher food in the area, their restaurant now pops up as one of the options.

In under a year since starting JMenu, we have 44 NYC restaurants signed up. 85% of restaurants on the Upper East and West side are on JMenu. It’s really growing, and we’re looking now to expand to other Jewish areas like LA and Miami.

CHYE: How does JMenu benefit the consumers?

JMenu doesn’t only service the restaurants; it’s great for the customers too. You have a complete list of every Kosher place in your area; your credit card and delivery information is saved on our system; and you don’t have to bother making a phone call to get your food. JMenu is really a win-win for both the restaurants and the consumers.

The essence of my business is taking something you do every day and making it easier and more convenient. Everyone orders lunch to their office. Until now you had to place a phone call or plug your information on the website each time. Now you can just open the app and choose what you want, and it is all taken care of for you. It’s the 21st century—there’s no reason people should be making phone calls to order food. It’s a matter of time until restaurants won’t have phones. And we’re at the forefront of this new technology.

What’s amazing is that the customers on JMenu feel like they’re part of the family. Whenever there’s a mistake on the app I get friendly emails from people notifying me. They’re not angry looking to complain; they see JMenu as their Jewish product, and they want to see it be successful. I really feel like people treat us as if we’re one of them.

CHYE: What advice do you give to other entrepreneurs?

There are some great lessons I learned along the way. Things I’ve had to teach myself in order to create this business.

1) There’s no substitute for hard work. Things don’t happen on their own; you’ve really got to put in the effort. As soon as you accept that reality you’ll see yourself going places.

2) Don’t take rejection personally! It’s a part of the process, and it will only help you grow.

Click here to visit JMenu.

CHYE Events Making a Tremendous Impact

Thanks to the efforts of Rabbi Yehoshua Werde, and  Crown Heights Young Entrepreneurs Council (CHYE), numerous men and women in the Crown Heights Jewish community have been making valuable connections, finding parnasa, and getting the tools they need to succeed in the business world while remaining true to their roots.

In only the past three months, CHYE held three major networking events that were open to the public and received a major turnout. Each event was devoted to a different industry and featured guest speakers as well as round-table Question-and-Answer sessions with experts and leaders in their respective fields.

Real Estate

In December, 2016 CHYE hosted “Finding Success in Real Esate,” a networking event held at Agudath Israel Bais Binyomin in Flatbush designed to help people learn more about the field and connect with local real estate moguls.

A stirring keynote address delivered by Ira Zlotowitz, president and CEO of Eastern Union Commercial Real Estate Funding was followed by round-table Q&As with experienced real estate experts and networking.

Attendee, Laibel G. from Crown Heights, who described himself as a real estate novice curious about transitioning into the field said: "I learned that there are a lot of opportunities in different areas of real estate. Now, I just need to find what speaks to my personality and what I can put my all into."

"You can never meet too many people in your business,” said Melody Zelouf, a real estate agent (Prime NYC), who came all the way from Great Neck, Long Island to attend. “It’s always good be in the public eye when working in real estate. As a sales agent, I like to meet investors so that they'll remember me for future projects. I also came here to learn about different aspects of the real estate game.”

eCommerce

eCommerce has become an increasingly popular occupation in the frum community over the past ten years. To succeed in ecommerce, it’s not necessary to have a college degree or much secular education. Rather, all that is required is hard work, an openness to learning new things, and a keen sense for finding niche market opportunities.

Held in February at The Palace, a spacious and elegant venue on McDonald Avenue in Borough Park, “Finding Success in eCommerce” received an unprecedented 500-person turnout.

At the start of the event, CHYE hosted its first-ever eCommerce seminars, followed by a lavish buffet dinner and a keynote address from Motty Gross, CEO of AJ Madison entitled: “How to Transform Your Business into an eCommerce Powerhouse.”

Shaya Katz from Crown Heights has never worked in eCommerce, but he saw this event as an opportunity to learn more about it. “I came here to educate myself and see what kind of opportunities there are for me in eCommerce,” he said. “Tonight I realized that many of my friends are in [eCommerce] and I learned a lot about the industry.”

“The event was amazing!” declared Yossi K, an Amazon seller from Crown Heights. “Even more than the speeches and the panel, the most valuable part about it was the networking. Meeting other people and seeing how we can help one another was really great.”

There’s no doubt this event was the beginning of many new professional careers and business relationships in the frum community.

Tech

Tech is another increasingly popular field in the frum world. Recent yeshiva and seminary graduates are applying themselves to coding bootcamp courses in record numbers. Many of them go on to land jobs in the tech sector or build their own apps.

Held in the United Lubavitch Yeshiva in Crown Heights, attendees had the opportunity to network with other people in the community and ask questions of experts in the field. Participants not only benefited from the round-table Q&As, but from meeting others in the community and initiating relationships that could lead to job offers, new business, and funding.

Yossi Horowitz of Crown Heights said he came to the event to network and get in touch with the local tech community. “I’m still in boot camp,” he explained. “It was great to network with people right here in my own backyard. I see this event as an opportunity to make partnerships, ingratiate myself into the local tech ecosystem, and possibly get offered a job."

“It’s nice to network within the local tech community as opposed to just the general one in New York City,” explained Mendel Blesofsky from Crown Heights. “It was nice to get together with people in the community to share ideas and connect. Here you don’t feel out of place the way you might feel at other networking events. This was kind of like one big farbrengen! I think it’s inspiring to benefit from the local community as well as contribute to it. Many of us are coming from a place of having a shared experience going through the yeshiva system and then into tech so it’s easy to relate to one another and do business together."

Mendy Margolin fielded questions from participants during the round-table Q&A. Emphasizing that a frum Jew does not have to compromise one iota of Yiddishkeit to succeed in the business world, Margolin said: “After 30 years working for Wall Street banks, I can promise you that you will never have to compromise anything in Yiddishkeit chassidishkeit or even in your Chabad identity.

“None of the things people worry about --- beards, yarmulkes etc. stood in my way. None of these things are obstacles to success. When you’re in the business world, you are on shlichus in a way and people respect you even more when they see that you respect yourself and stay true to who you are.”

There’s probably no way to thoroughly measure the full impact of CHYE’s activities on the Chabad community in Crown Heights and beyond, but there’s not doubt that people in the community now have more resources than ever before to succeed and support their families.

 

CHYE making an impact iKippah

Sara and Dina Seewald are the co-founders of iKippah, a fashion company specializing in designer yarmulkas for boys.   

What inspired you to start your business?

Dressing up boys can be a huge issue for Jewish mothers. We accessorize an entire outfit–with matching shirt, pants, sweater and shoes–and then, when it comes to the yarmulka, we end up dumping some crumpled piece of stitched velvet on their heads.

We decided to create a designer yarmulka line of our own.

Tell us a little bit about your business?

We started out very small: two basic yarmulke designs and a Facebook page. It was literally a matter of days before our Facebook page had over a thousand likes and our original stock was all sold out. It was really amazing! There was a clearly a need for it within the Jewish community, and people were just lapping up our products.

Our company has grown exponentially over the last two years. We have sold tens of thousands of iKippahs in more than ten different countries, and we now release five new designs each month.

How did CHYE help you?

Every successful business has its starting-out stage. You have a fun idea, it seems to be catching on, and you find yourself quickly growing. There comes a point, though, where your original model reaches its peaks and your growth begins to stagnate. If you want to take your business to the next level, you have to restructure the operation and learn to manage things more efficiently.

It was here that CHYE’s help was invaluable.

We first met with Mr Yehuda Berg, CHYE business counselor, who sat with us and got a full understanding of our company. Yehuda then set us up with CHYE business mentor—Shmuli Goldman. Shmuli guided us through every step of restructuring our business—from marketing and customer service, to design, manufacturing and internet sales. He helped us put systems in place to manage continued growth, while keeping operating costs down at the same time.

 I can’t stress enough how helpful and caring Shmuli was. Our initial meeting was supposed to last only an hour, but Shmuli–despite his son getting engaged the day before!–sat with us for over three hours, giving expert insight into every aspect of our business.

My suggestion to any budding entrepreneur: Tap into this phenomenal resource! Anyone in the business world would kill to have such experienced advice at their disposal, and here you have it in your very own backyard. Make the most of it!

To find out more about CHYE programs visit CHYE.info

 

 

 

 

CHYE making an impact meet Yosef and Sarah Rosenblat

BS”D

 

“How Crown Heights Couple Yosef and Farah Rosenblat Rebranded and Rebuilt a Local Children’s Clothing Store”

 

                                                            

When Yosef and Farah Rosenblat heard about an opportunity to purchase Simone’s Place, the venerable children’s clothing boutique on Kingston Avenue, they saw business opportunity that fit their experience and values. Both Farah and Yosef had worked in retail previously, and felt excited at the possibility of designing a store geared for young parents like themselves who wanted a well-organized store with fashion forward children’s clothing for both every day and yom tov at competitive prices.

The only question was how to raise enough capital to purchase the business. Like 75 percent of small business owners in the US, the Rosenblats used their savings, and asked family for financial help. Yet they still did not have quite enough money. That’s when they turned to Crown Heights Young Entrepreneurs for advice on how to move forward.

Rabbi Yehoshua Werde, director of CHYE, encouraged the Rosenblats to consult Yehuda Berg, the organization’s business coach. Yehuda Berg helped the Rosenblats secure a loan from the Jewish Federation for the rest of the funds they needed to launch the new store.

“Yehuda Berg was instrumental in getting us off the ground,” says Yosef. “He walked us through every step of the application process, including how to create a business plan.”

The loan came through and the Rosenblats began clearing out the old merchandise to make way for the new products they wished to carry, including stylish clothing from popular brands like Junee, Mimi’s, and Chi Chi’s. The goal was to update the inventory, reorganize the way the products were displayed and focus on customer service.

“My wife Farah keeps inventory moving,” says Yosef. “She stocks a limited number of each style and carries a variety of products for different tastes and price points.”

The store has so far focused on contemporary girls clothing from infants upward and boys from infant to size 10.

This summer, in honor of their first year in operation, the Rosenblats are re-branding the store—starting with a new name that will be announced before Tishrei. They just added a new department in the store’s basement dedicated to preteen and teenage girls. The full offering for teens will be available at the end of the summer.

“We hope to fill a gap that is often overlooked with our section for teens,” says Rosenblat. The couple put a lot of effort to create a space where the teens can find trendy clothing in a space geared especially for them.

While Farah runs the store, Yosef is involved mostly operations side, and has continued to gain insight and advice from CHYE. At a CHYE event for local retailers, Yosef met New York City officials who discussed rules and regulations, as well as other issues affecting storefronts. Another CHYE program that had a positive impact for the Rosenblats was a meetup where entrepreneurs were able to speak with experts in the field of their choice.

“We gained a lot of information from sitting one-on-one with someone who had been there,” says Yosef. “CHYE has made a tremendous difference in establishing our business, and has nurtured our ongoing success.”

 

 

CHYE making an impact meet Rabbi Yitchak Eilenberg

Chevras hasofrim .jpg

Rabbi Yitchak Eilenberg is an entrepreneur in a unique field who was able to use the resources CHYE provided to improve his business. Rabbi Eilenberg generously gave us a few minutes to talk about his experience with CHYE and how it helped him get to the next level.

What is your business?

I am a trained and certified sofer. I write and check teffilin and mezuzos and give safrus lessons. I am also the owner of Chevras Hasofrim located at 480 Albany Avenue next to the shipping center, where we specialize in lower-cost klafim, batim, retzuos and mezuzos.

What did CHYE do for you?

I was introduced to CHYE by a relative who told me about the classes on business that they offered. I went to a few and I found them really insightful. The different experts who gave the classes were amazing, and getting the chance to speak to them after those classes was very beneficial. Then I found out about the personal mentoring sessions that were being offered and that’s when things really took off.

I met with business counselor Mr. Yehuda Berg 4 or 5 times, and each time, he introduced me to things I had never known before. I learned basic business concepts, and I learned about the different small-business resources that we’re available to me. Without these lessons, my business would not be where it is today.

We still have a long way to go, but I know that my business is on the right path, and that would not have happened without CHYE’s help.

 

 

Celebrating A Milestone: CHYE's 500th business Counselling Session

Celebrating A Milestone: CHYE's 500th business Counselling Session

If you have been planning on starting a business you’ve probably heard this already: Go to Crown Heights Young Entrepreneurs (CHYE). If you take this advice, you will most likely at some point end up sitting down with Mr. Yehuda Berg, business mentor extraordinaire and all around good guy. Yehuda has been doing this for a long time, in many different communities and for many different organizations.