Shalomoji Says Shalom To Humans of Judaism CEO Nikki Schreiber

Welcome Shalomoji Friends to another round of our Shalomoji column where we interview Jewish influencers around the world to help inspire and support aspiring newbie entrepreneurs, creatives, and thought leaders.

In this week’s feature interview, we are saying Shalom to the Founder and CEO of Humans of Judaism, Nikki Schreiber. Schreiber discusses the story behind her uplifting and mega-popular brand, the impact Judaism plays in her life, digs deep into what it takes to create a successful business, and much much more!  Check out the full interview below!

 

Q: We here at Shalomoji absolutely adore Humans of Judaism. Tell us about Humans of Judaism for those who may not know.

A: Thanks so much Shalomoji! Humans of Judaism is a Jewish media brand, best known for its presence on social media. The idea was to highlight the positive within the Jewish community, share feel-good stories and encourage public participation with the brand slogan: ‘Everyone has a story, what’s yours?’

Q: How did the idea of Humans of Judaism come about?

A: I was in the year of mourning for the sudden loss of my father and it was important to me to do something meaningful in his memory. At the time, I would see negative Jewish community content online and often positive content was met with anti-Semitic and aggressive engagement. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a page that offered positive posts as well as negative comment management? And so, in June 2014, Humans of Judaism shared its first post.

Q: Tell us about your role at Humans of Judaism and what a day in the life looks like for you?

A: Every day is a new adventure. More often than not I couldn’t tell you what will be posted later that day. It’s pretty much what one would expect; finding/creating content that works, research and editing, posting the media across several channels, monitoring engagement, checking messages and emails, connecting with partners, meeting new people, go to sleep and repeat again in the morning. Obviously, this was the short version but you get the idea.

Q: As the great Albert Einstein once said: “Failure is success in progress.”  What have been some of your “failures,” and how has it helped propel you towards the success of Humans of Judaism?

A: Some of my greatest “failures” have been my best lessons. In media, it’s a mix of creative content and presentation. Very often you have to take risks and try new formats and ideas that could be deemed a failure if it’s not well-received, but ultimately teaches you what works and what doesn’t. It’s a process, failure is a part of that process that must be had in order to succeed.

Q: How has Judaism played a factor in your journey through creating Humans of Judaism?

A: Humans of Judaism is clearly a labor of love. It is the love I have to honor my father and the love of the Jewish community. Judaism is home, it’s family, it’s life. It plays a vital role in this journey and has given me unique opportunities to successfully connect with Jews from all backgrounds, this part to me is the most meaningful.

Q: Out of all the stories you share on Humans of Judaism, is there one in particular that stands out from the rest? 

A: A few years ago, Humans of Judaism started using the hashtag #telfie, which is essentially a tefillin selfie or photo of someone in tefillin. At first, it just was spotting photos of tefillin and sharing it. But then it moved on to followers sending in photos of themselves wearing tefillin from all over the world. The response is always so incredible, the places people go and pride they have to show off to everyone, ‘this is important to me’. It’s really powerful.

 

Humans of Judaism

 

Q: Do you have any habits, tools or business hacks you find useful to share with the Shalomoji readers?

A: I always say the recipe to a successful post is one part good content, one part timing, and one part mazal. Focus on your content and your end game. Ask yourself what you are looking to achieve and produce content that lends itself to that end. Look at your best accomplishments and pay attention to your most successful posts by what has the best engagement and work on more of that style of content for potentially similar results. Always try new things, if an idea doesn’t land, that’s what the delete button is for It’s finding your niche and style. Keep things consistent, make sure to focus on one thing and branch out from there. I tend to operate as a user first and editor second.

Q: Are there any books, blogs, or podcasts you recommend that you believe helped shape your success with Humans of Judaism?

A: I wouldn’t really attribute it to books, blogs or podcasts, it has been more with my personal social media activity and keeping up with current events. Typically, I’ll surf my Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds just to see what everyone is talking about that day. It’s important to follow and connect with people and pages that keep you informed on things you are interested in. Staying current on what’s in the news, milestones/occasions, media trends and things like that.

Q: What tactics did you use to develop your loyal customer base/ create buzz around Humans of Judaism?

A: There’s really no magic wand, it is all about content. Loyalty on social media is usually from users who can look forward to a reliable style they can get when they come to your page. It’s not that the content itself is predictable but the general feeling you get from the page is consistent. A lot has changed on social media since I got started, one of the things the page works harder on today is staying apolitical, maintaining a space on the internet that you won’t be arguing over a controversial post or politician.

Q: We here at Shalomoji would like to leave our readers with a nugget of inspiration. What has been your greatest inspiration? Is there a particular quote, life motto or mentor you look up to that has given you unforgettable advice? 

One of my favorites is from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, “The day you were born is the day G-d decided that the world could not exist without you.” We all mean something, we all have purpose.

Q: Any new and exciting updates for Humans of Judaism that you’d like to share with the Shalomoji readers?

A: Always exciting and new. As for today, I am finishing up details for my trip to Israel at the end of November. The occasion will mark my father’s 5th yartzeit (memorial). This will be the first official Humans of Judaism trip to Israel, complete with exciting partnerships and activities. In 5 years since my father’s passing so much has changed. This project in his memory has given me tools to do so many things that I never could have imagined. As for what’s next, like I said, every day is a new adventure, stay tuned.

Shalomoji Says Shalom To Proud Jews T-Shirts Founders

Welcome Shalomoji Friends to another round of our Shalomoji column where we interview Jewish influencers around the world to help inspire and support aspiring newbie entrepreneurs, creatives, and thought leaders.

In this week’s feature interview, we are saying Shalom to founders Joshua Morrison and Mark Helfman of Proud Jews, a swanky Jewish t-shirt line. The duo discuss the story behind their brand, marketing tactics, the impact Judaism has on their business endeavors and much more! Check out the full interview below!

 

Q: We here at Shalomoji are absolutely OBSESSED with your Jewish T-shirt line. Tell us about Proud Jews T-shirts for those who may not know.

 

Mark: We sell great shirts. We pride ourselves on having fits and styles for Jews of all ages and denominations. We even have a few shirts for non-Jews.

 

Q: How did the idea of Proud Jews T-shirts come about?

 

Josh: A long time ago, I sold some self-designed, Greek-themed t-shirts online. I wanted to do that with Jewish themes and asked Mark whether he wanted to start a t-shirt company with me. He said yes.

 

Q: Tell us about each of your roles at Proud Jews and what a day in the life looks like for both of you?

 

Mark: I have two young children, full-time job, rental property, and a book that’ll be published this fall. That keeps me busy during day hours, and once the kids go to bed and the housework is done, I work on Proud Jews – writing our blogs, updating the website, ideating for new shirts. I also handle the accounting and paperwork. Josh handles a lot of the day-to-day and we consult on strategy.

Josh: I have a decent amount of experience working in digital marketing so most of my focus has been marketing related for Proud Jews. Like Mark, I have plenty of other things going on — a toddler, full-time job, and another business keeping me busy throughout the week.

 

 

 

Q: What makes Proud Jews T-shirts different from other Jewish T-shirt lines?

 

Mark: The quality of our shirts. Our prices are pretty much in line with everybody else’s, but we spend a little more than other companies to make sure we have high-quality fabrics and durable prints. We create a lot of our designs in-house – Josh is a good artist and great with photoshop. For some designs, we rely on our global network of designers. They’re all good and super-responsive.

 

Josh: It’s important to us that you don’t get kitsch that’s going to fade or tear.  Even our “Shabbat Shmata” top – that’s 100% pre-shrunk ring-spun cotton with top-quality print. You can wear that for years.

 

Mark: Our collections are designed to stay in your closet for a long time. A lot of our themes are “Jewy,” meaning, they’re not religious but they’re things that Jews everywhere will always recognize and understand.

 

Josh: I also think it’s tough to find a boutique clothing store with as much variety as we have. We have something for pretty much everybody — hipsters, moms, kids, bubbies, teenagers, whoever. Some shirts are simple text, some shirts are really intricate designs. Some shirts are funny, some are sentimental. And you’re not going to see a side-ad for coffee mugs.

 

 Q: As the great Albert Einstein once said: “Failure is success in progress.”  What have been some of your failures, and how has it helped propel you towards success?

 

Josh: We’ve had some challenges with trying to determine what our proudjews.com website experience should look like. We set out to create a new t-shirt design every month in order to present our visitors with a wide array of choices, but we realized over the course of a few months that we were probably presenting too many designs up front to visitors on our front page.

 

We decided to simplify things and we are now presenting visitors with the most popular shirts up front and then allow them to use the navigation menu to drill down into more specific areas of interest. From a marketing standpoint, we’re learning a lot as well.

 

We spent some money running social ads on Instagram and Facebook early on, but we weren’t seeing much return from those. Part of it could have been the targeting criteria we were using, the amount spent per campaign, so that’s been an ongoing lesson for us. What we’ve discovered works pretty well is using Instagram influencers to promote our band.

 

Find a few influencers in your niche who have a good amount of engaged followers (5,000+), direct message them and offer to send them your product for free and they might decide to promote you for free. No risk, no reward!

Mark: We did struggle a bit with our website. Not struggled in the technical sense – we know what we’re doing. We got a lot of great feedback on the purchasing experience, like, once you find a shirt, the selection and checkout process is easy. Really easy. But, we started with a really slick website with high-quality models and different collections, and we’d put up new stuff all the time like Josh said. It looked good and we could promote new shirts, but it required a lot of connections and some of our best stuff was hidden.

 

We’d see a very low conversion rate. It was tough to see traffic but no sales. Really frustrating, and we didn’t know why. Josh had the idea to switch to a really simple, white layout. We reconfigured some things. We’re doing better now. I think we were too focused on looking really professional, and in the end I think people really just wanted to get a cool shirt and checkout. It took us a little while to get settled on that. Now we’re not worried about the glossy, superficial stuff. It’s more about enjoying the experience and not stressing too much.

 

Q: How has Judaism played a factor in your business journey?

Mark: I love that I get to share a little connection with other Jews. My family is not very religious and my immediate network of friends and family aren’t really interested in synagogue and Judaic types of things, though my 7-year-old has started getting into it. I saw Proud Jews as one way to connect with my faith in a way that other people could really support. They might not like shul, but they like shirts!

Josh: Ditto, as far as what Mark just said.

 

Q: Do you have any habits, tools or business hacks you find useful to share with the Shalomoji readers?

 

Josh: For the business side of things, we use Slack, Google docs, and Trello to communicate and coordinate. And of course email and text. I live in North Carolina and Mark lives in Maryland, so we have to do a lot of stuff virtually and remotely.

Mark: And we screenshare when we work on our website. There are so many great collaboration tools out there. Trello helps us manage our designers. Google offers a shared calendar where we can put deadlines and events — really, the whole Google docs suite takes care of the vast majority of our needs.

Josh: We also automate as much as we can. I actively manage our Instagram but the Twitter, Facebook, and website updates, and order fulfillment is handled by computers.

Mark: The technology helps a lot, especially when it comes to managing time. For example, we schedule blog posts in advance. I can write 2 or 3 at once, then set our system to publish on a certain day. Same with our social media posts. So I can set aside a block of time to work and schedule around that.

 

 Q: Are there any books, blogs, or podcasts you recommend that you believe helped shape your success?

 

Josh: There are a few that come to mind. Check out Smart Passive Income podcast, The Gary Vee Show, The Side Hustle Show, and Online Marketing Made Easy.

 Q: What marketing tactics did you use to develop your loyal customer base/create buzz around Proud Jews t-shirts?

Mark: We spent a lot of time on SEO, trying to get our website to appear at the top of Google listings. Still do.

Josh: We also picked up customers through Instagram. And also our collaboration with you guys.

Mark: It’s funny because we’ve gotten turned down by synagogue gift shops and guys running random dreidel contests, but Jenna Jameson and Loren Brovarnik post themselves on Instagram wearing our shirts.

Josh: Right now we’re just really trying to get out the word that we exist. There are so many other t-shirt companies, even Jewish t-shirt companies, and some of these companies are really big and well-known and they have a lot of money for advertising. We’re not there yet. For us, it’s a marathon.

 

Q: We here at Shalomoji would like to leave our readers with a nugget of inspiration. What has been your greatest inspiration? Is there a particular quote, life motto or mentor you look up to that has given you unforgettable advice that you’d like to share?

 

Mark: I don’t remember where I heard this but I really appreciate it. “You can’t control how you feel, but you can control what you do.” Life’s full of ups and downs, and you’re going to get happy and sad. It’s all about being grateful and appreciative for the things that make you happy, and for the things that make you sad, remember that you can usually do something about it. Life’s good if you want it to be.

 

Josh: Nike…”just do it.” I try to apply this to almost everything I do in life but in terms of entrepreneurship is concerned it’s vital. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people to help grow your business. Whether it’s a CEO of a huge company that you reach out to via Linkedin, or an in-person meeting with a small business owner in your area. Put yourself out there. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to fail.

 

 

Shalomoji Says Shalom To Millennial Business Coach Lena Elkins

Welcome Shalomoji Friends to another round of our Shalomoji column where we interview Jewish influencers around the world to help inspire and support aspiring newbie entrepreneurs, creatives, and thought leaders.

For our fifth feature interview, we are Saying Shalom to 6-figure Millennial Business coach and Marketing Strategist Lena Elkins. The creator of online courses including Reaching Richness (Master Course), Instagram Bootcamp and The Spotlight System, Elkins is an official member of Forbes Coaches Council aka a straight up BA. She also offers several coaching programs including Career Spark (a four-month 1:1 program), Success Accelerator (a two-month 1:1 program) and a two-hour intensive coaching program. She also offers corporate counseling.

Elkins discusses life as a Millennial Business Coach, her mind-blowing superwoman status, and offers a ton of valuable advice to newbie entrepreneurs in the online space. Check out the full interview below.

Q: Tell us about yourself and your online business for those who may not know. 

A: I’m a millennial business and marketing coach. I primarily work with Gen Y entrepreneurs who are looking to raise their level of income and influence online. I coach Gen Y entrepreneurs one on one how to really implement systems and marketing strategies that will help them scale and maximize their reach online and really position themselves as thought leaders and influencers in their industries.

I write for a lot of different publications. I am a columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Thrive Global, and lots of different publications online. I’m also an international speaker.

I had a speaking event in San Francisco a few weeks ago and in New York with Gerard Adams and then I’m headed to Nicaragua with Forbes; so I do lots of speaking stuff.

I’m a digital nomad; I travel a lot. I’m mostly based in Tel Aviv most of the year, but I also travel around the world.

Q: What compelled you to start your own online business?
A: I wanted to work for my own happiness, not for the happiness of someone else. I saw all of these adults around me who were in their fifties and sixties who were literally enslaved to these jobs that they hated. And I just thought to myself that there’s no way in hell that I am going to spend the next 50 years being miserable going to an office 8, 9 hours a day, only to eventually retire. I mean, what’s the fun in that?

I’ve always felt the need to have ownership of what I was doing, to feel like I was in control.

Growing up, I just always had a leader personality. I was the captain of the dance club and I started all these organizations. I was always a self-starter. After I had my one and only ever full-time job, I realized that I just couldn’t do this. I was suffering every single day. Having a boss, having to go to an office every day, having to commute, just all these things that most people go through their entire careers, I couldn’t deal with. It was really really hurting me and it just got to the point where I knew that this was the time that I had to try and make it happen.

What other time in your life do you get to take major risks like this, right? Quit your job, try to build something yourself, screw up, embarrass yourself. You can’t do that necessarily when you are older and when you have a mortgage to pay, when you have a family you are responsible for, it’s just different.

So, I knew at 22 years old that this was the time to do it. This was the time to make mistakes and I just had to get started now or else I would never get started. So, that is what compelled me to start my own online business.

Q: Tell us what a day in the life of Lena Elkins looks like
A:So, unlike most entrepreneurs who are like — I wake up at 5AM and then I eat ten egg yolks and then I go to the gym — I am not one of these intense Gary Vaynerchuk-esque entrepreneurs at all.

I built my business so that I can do what I want with my time and to put myself in the situation where there are no rules and I can make up my own rules. And one of the rules that I’ve made is that I don’t do anything in the mornings because I’m just really not a morning person. It’s something I’ve tried to fight my whole life, but I’ve never been a good sleeper and because of it I’m just not a morning person. So, I don’t allow any meetings or I have nothing ever planned before like 10AM every single day. And after that, the day can really kick in.

So the point is, I probably wake up like 8:30, 9:00, have coffee, check e-mails, listen to a podcast episode or two. I like to take the first hour of the morning to really check in with myself, set my goals for the day. If I’m feeling especially motivated, I like to meditate for just a few minutes just to set my intentions for the day — say some affirmations, things like that, listen to podcasts, and do my makeup.

Then, I get to work. Throughout the day I typically have lots of client calls. Right now I am working with 11 clients, one-on-one. So, I have calls with them throughout the week. I’m checking all of their stuff. I’m helping support them.

I’m doing a lot of writing. So, I typically give myself time every day to write great content, whether it’s for my own blog, for my Facebook group, or an online publication. But, I try to create every day. I read every day.

But you know, it’s always different because I am traveling. I am always in a different state or a different country. So, no two days are exactly the same, which I love. So, there isn’t exactly a strict schedule that I go through throughout the day, but I certainly have some core habits. Most of them revolve around mindset, and then of course just also serving my clients at the highest level every day.

Q: How do you personally manage to accomplish creating courses, doing regular fb lives, publishing articles, coaching, and speaking engagements. How do you do it all? You’re Superwoman #goals!
A:You know what’s so funny? And what most people don’t realize — I think that a lot of thought leaders, and bigger entrepreneurs, get this question — and it’s almost as if one day we just woke up, and we suddenly had all these different aspects of our business, right? We were just like these multi-faceted influencers, who were just doing a million things at once. This is what it really looks like on the outside and I understand this, super-woman or whatever. But, the reality is that for years and years I was slowly integrating these different skills, one after the other, always focusing on one at a time, in order to build up to this point where I have this whole suite of different parts of my business — between Facebook lives, doing the writing, doing the coaching, speaking, traveling, whatever.

It’s not like it all just came out of nowhere at once. I really never wanted to be the type of entrepreneur who was trying to do a million things at once because then I knew I wouldn’t end up being good at a lot of things; it was always really important to me to become very very good at one thing at a time and then move on.

So, for example, I think at first, I started just doing client work when I first got started on my entrepreneurial journey. Then, I went on to writing articles. Then, I went onto creating courses. Then, I went onto speaking.

It’s like one thing at a time, and now it’s just second nature to me to take on all these things at once. So, I really don’t think about it. But, I really love it. I love being busy. I love always doing something different. I’m just one of those people who just can’t do one thing for more than an hour or two at a time.

So it’s great being able to work on so many different things at once at this point without it being stressful or overwhelming. It’s just, again, second nature; it’s just part of my days and my weeks.

Q: What are the top 3 marketing tactics you would suggest newbie entrepreneurs?
A: The first thing I would suggest is getting really clear on who you’re targeting, to begin with. A lot of new entrepreneurs are so eager to sell their products and services and to make a return on whatever investment they made originally to bring their product or services to life. So they’re willing to speak to just about anybody in their marketing, in order to get lots of different kinds of people’s attention to hopefully bring them in and sell to them. But that doesn’t work.

I think that people who buy stuff today are extremely smart. They understand that there are a lot of options to buy one product from. So for example, for one product they could buy from five different brands. What they’re really looking for is the specific brand that’s going to resonate with them the most. They’re going to read that and feel like — Wow, this brand is speaking to me; I understand what they’re saying; I understand what their brand values are; I understand what their goals are and I relate to that on some level.

So your goal I think as a marketer is to really get clear on who you’re serving because if you’re trying to serve everybody, you’re ultimately serving nobody. Which is why you need to get really, really specific with your target audience — Who are you trying to serve? Who are you trying to help? Who are you trying to speak to?

And the way that I really like to narrow in on it, and I’ve said this a lot to my clients, is really thinking of one specific person who you’re trying to sell to. Sometimes it’s even helpful to find a picture of somebody on Google, like a stock photo and then really describe the person. What is this person’s name? Where do they live? How old are they? What does their lifestyle look like? What do they value? Where do they work? What motivates them in life? What are their goals? What do they really struggle with? What are they insecure about?

If you can get really, really deep into who this specific person is, it’s going to make your job as a marketer a million times easier. Because every single time that you’re creating a piece of content, that you’re writing a sales page, that you’re working on your website, whatever — you’re only creating stuff for them. It’s like a love letter to this one person, right? It’s the only thing that matters. So get really, really clear on who you’re speaking to.

They say the riches are in the niches, so get really, really into who that person is on a deeper level, and it’s going to make your job as a marketer a million times easier.

The second marketing tactic that I would suggest is building relationships with influencers from the get-go. Even if they’re not major influencers, even if they’re only a few steps ahead of you, build relationships with them now. I think that a lot of new entrepreneurs tend to isolate themselves when they first get started simply out of insecurity. They basically feel like — I don’t have enough experience. I don’t have enough knowledge, therefore, who would want to be friends with me or who would want to collaborate or partner with me?

And as a result, you actually really end up isolating yourself, and you end up putting all the work on yourself in order to really bring visibility to your business online, and it’s really unnecessary.

So start developing relationships from the get-go with people who are in your same space who have already been through what you’re going through. And this can just help in so many ways. One, they can be mentors to you, right? And you can end up not worrying about a lot of the same stresses that you would normally have or end up making a lot of mistakes that you would normally make if you didn’t have their guidance and insight. So they can be mentors to you.

But another great way that they can help is that if they have a similar audience to what you’re looking for, they could give you a shout-out. Or they could really expose you to their audience, which is going to make your job a million times easier. If you can just have these relationships in place, you can depend on it to promote yourself. With that, just start building relationships and having a friendship with them.

So as a marketer, don’t be afraid to reach out to influencers and other people who you come across. These are real human beings on the other side. They really do want to make friends. They really do want to find mutually beneficial partnerships.

A third marketing tactic that I would share is — don’t just speak about your business. Speak about the values beneath your business. And I think a lot of people think that this is easy advice, but it’s so easy as a marketer to just focus on sales, sales, sales and numbers, numbers, numbers, that you forget that you’re not just looking for customers, you’re looking for loyal brand advocates, and people are only going to feel loyal to your brand if you can connect with them on a deeper level than just the seller-customer transaction relationship.

So really make an effort to identify — beyond what you are selling, what are you really selling? Are you selling happiness? Are you selling comfort? Are you selling being smarter, an increase in knowledge? Are you selling relationships? A way to easily connect people?

You have to figure out — what are you really promoting and what are you valuing beneath what you are selling on the surface? And if you can really touch on all those points throughout your marketing, through your sales copies, your email marketing whatever it is — it’s going to resonate on a much deeper level with your people and it’s going to get them to continue listening, continue buying from you, continue promoting you to their friends and their people.

Q: As the great Albert Einstein once said: “Failure is  success in progress.”  What have been some of your failures, and how has it helped propel you towards success?

A:Wow. I have failed so many times, and I don’t even feel embarrassed saying that because I don’t know a single entrepreneur who has not failed and embarrassed themselves.

There’s a quote “If you aren’t embarrassed by the first product that you ever launched then you launched too late.”

I always liked that quote because it always gave me a lot of confidence to just put myself out there and take risks, even if it wasn’t going to work out because I know that it’s just a requirement; it’s what you have to do to move your business forward. You have to make mistakes; you have to take major risks; you have to embarrass yourself in order to learn and to get to the next step.

If you don’t change any of your habits, then your results aren’t going to change either. So you just have to put yourself out there sometimes and risk these things.

When I quit my full-time job and first started my business, within a month of it, I was 100 percent broke. Didn’t have money to pay my rent; I was actually in debt to the bank; I had to have my roommate cover my rent that month.

And I’ll just never forget this one day where I was sitting with Eliav, my now fiancé, in a really nice breakfast restaurant, in Tel Aviv and was just sobbing in this restaurant in the middle of the day, crying my eyes out, because I was like — what the hell have I done? I quit my job. I thought I could start my own business. I thought that it would be successful, and now I just don’t know what I’m doing, and I feel like I’m going to be homeless, and everyone’s going to hate me, and all these horrible things are going to happen to me.

None of those things actually ended up happening. But, I’ll never forget that day, where I just sat there, and I was like — I am such a failure. How am I possibly going to make this work?

But the thing is, in that moment, what I could have said was — I’m just going to go back to my full-time job — which would have been Plan B — I’m just going to go back, or I’ll find a new full-time job and everything’s going to be OK.

I think that’s what 95% of people would have done. But I didn’t allow myself to have a Plan B. I knew that I had to make Plan A work. Because, again, going back I knew my greater vision for my life was that I wanted to be independent, that I wanted to be my own boss, that I wanted to have this control over my career. I knew that I had to make it work, and I think that that’s what propelled me to move forward and to keep going was that I didn’t allow myself another option. I didn’t give myself a back-up plan. I knew that if I had that fire under my ass, if I really was at my most desperate, lowest point, that the only way I could go was up; I had to make it work no matter what, and that just gave me the motivation and the ambition to hustle and to make it work. And then about three months after that, I had actually tripled my income from what I was making previously at my full-time job. So that was a big failure, but it also had a big turn-around.

Something else that I did — OK this is a failure. Speaking of partnering with different organizations and companies and influencers, I partnered with this company that will remain nameless. But they really wanted to partner with me. They wanted to work with me and my brand, and we ended up going into a partnership. And I was promoting their stuff to my clients and whatever. And then they turned out to be a huge scam — They weren’t a real business. They were selling a fake product that didn’t even exist.

And you know what? It was my fault, because when I was first having these meetings with them and first thinking about partnering with them, I just had a feeling in my gut like this seems really sketchy.

But I had heard from another friend that they were so great, and they had been so amazing and helpful in their business.

So I ended up following through with it and working with them, even though in my gut it didn’t feel right, and then they turned out to be this huge fraudulent company. And then it reflected poorly on my brand because then some of my clients had found out that they weren’t legit but they knew that I was partnered with them and I was helping promote them so it reflected really poorly on my brand and I was humiliated, and of course gave refunds to a bunch of people who had ended up buying something that was kind of a joint venture between me and them. So that was also a mistake. It really taught me to listen to my gut, and to stick with my own stuff.

You don’t have control over what other people do. All you have control over is your own work and your own integrity. So that just really showed me to be more independent with what I was doing and not rely so heavily on partners. It was more important for me to maintain my own brand.

Q: You have created a Facebook group called Millennial Go-Getters with over 3,000 members. Tell us about the inspiration behind the group and what group members gain from joining?

A:I first started Millennial Go-Getters because I was simply looking to connect with fellow newbie entrepreneurs. I was still really new at that point. This was long before it was really trendy to use Facebook groups as a marketing tool. I wasn’t really using it as a marketing tool at all. I just wanted an opportunity to connect with like-minded people because in Tel Aviv, I didn’t have many friends who were also starting a business and I wanted to connect with other creatives who were doing similar work. I also wanted to create a space for people to talk about these things.

I hadn’t found a group at that point that I really felt represented that. Even though I was, at that point, involved in lots of different people’s Facebook groups, I didn’t see anything that was quite what I was imagining which is why I created Millennial Go-Getters. I never thought that it would grow as much as it has. We’re over 3000 members now. It’s just been a really cool thing — really the key way that I’ve been able to connect with other entrepreneurs and thought-leaders. I’ve gotten a lot of my clients through my group now, a lot of speaking opportunities. A lot of amazing stuff has come from Millennial Go-Getters.

The people who join my group now, I would say, are a bit different than maybe who they were a year ago. But most people who join my group now are either still in the nine-to-five and they have some kind of a side project, a passion project, that they are really trying to go all in on and optimize, and they’re looking for support and insights and ideas and inspiration to really take themselves to the next level, or they’re already entrepreneurs. Most of them I would say are within their first year or two of their business and they again are looking for that support, that connection, and inspiration that they need in order to really grow their business.

I think that solo-prenuers, in general, have a very hard time because they’re lonely — they’re building their business on their own; there aren’t necessarily people there to hold them accountable or understand what they’re going through, and having groups like this really gives people a safe space to really talk about what they are going through, to ask questions, and to share.

Q: You have an extensive background in both international public speaking and writing. In particular, you’ve written for a variety of top publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, Thrive Global, Business.com and more. Having strong communication skills (both written and verbal) is obviously essential in leading a successful business. How has your experience as a writer and public speaker contributed to your entrepreneurial success? How would you advise newbie entrepreneurs to strengthen their communication skills in order to reach a level where they feel comfortable with public speaking and reaching out to write for well-known publications?

A:It’s actually really funny because when I was growing up I was the kid who was always friends with everyone, but I’m not just talking about other students; I was friends with the janitors, and with the teachers, and with the front office people. I always just really loved people; I loved communicating with people; I loved understanding them and putting myself in their shoes, and really trying to understand what they were going through in their lives and then how I could bring solutions in that relationship.

People were just always very interesting to me, and I loved just going deeper asking people more questions and just getting a better understanding of who they were so that I could be a good friend to them.

But I think when I was growing up people thought that was really weird, like — why is Lena, an 8-year-old girl, giving relationship advice to the clerk at the gas station or whatever?

I was that kid. So I think it was always in me to communicate. I never cared about school work, but what I did care about was relationships and connecting with other people.

I think I was just born a natural extrovert, and yes, that has absolutely helped me when it comes to my entrepreneurial success.

But with that said, I never felt like I was a good public speaker. In fact, I always hated public speaking growing up. One-on-one communication or chatting with my group of friends was fine. But if I had to get up in front of a class, I could not publicly speak at all; that was something that I really had to step out of my comfort zone and push myself to do.

And it’s something that I still work on. Every time I have to speak now, I’m still very nervous, but I just have to say “1, 2, 3…” and then I just go for it. I think that was the only way I could have done it. I just had to push myself.

But as a writer — writing has hugely helped me in my entrepreneurial journey. I have been able to communicate my message and my story, fairly easily. I know a lot of people really struggle with writing and it took me a long time to realize that writing isn’t a skill that everybody just has. I think in my mind I thought that “well everybody’s a good writer.” It’s not true, and I now see that I’m very lucky to have good writing skills because it makes communicating my work much easier. So it’s definitely helped me in my entrepreneurial success.

With that said I don’t think you have to be extroverted or a natural born great writer in order to be successful. I do think that these are skills that can be learned.

Some of my closest friends — it’s so interesting, in person they are so introverted; they are so quiet; they are so awkward, don’t like meeting new people, but online they still have this huge following of people who still resonate with them.

So I do think that they are both things that can be learned, you just have to be able to step out of your comfort zone and really push yourself. They are things that you can overcome.

I think that a big thing that helped me when I first worked up the courage to start pitching publications and trying to get speaking opportunities and stuff like that, was just telling myself that I had to fake it till I made it.

I think it’s mental more than anything. It doesn’t actually come down to your skills, it comes down to how you perceive yourself and if you think you can do it or not. And the best way to do that is to just go do it. The first time I ever wrote an article – it’s embarrassing to read. But what I would do was — keep putting myself out there, keep getting better, and every single time it would just get a little bit better. So, I think that’s all you can do.

Instead of worrying about it and studying and reading the best strategies for becoming a better speaker, or a better writer — just go out there and do it. Nobody expects you to be perfect, I think the best way to get better at things is to just go do them and not wait for being perfect. So just go do it and you will see that you naturally get better. And of course, also surround yourself with people who have the same goals. So join the Facebook groups of people who are also trying to become better communicators. Read the right books on becoming a better writer. There’s so much you can do on your own by definitely just getting out there and start executing.

Q: Are there any books, blogs, or podcasts you recommend?

A:Sure. In terms of getting in the right mindset and really understanding the basic principles of wealth consciousness and how to manifest wealth and success in real life, I’m a big fan of Jen’s and Cheryl’s work. So to look for books — “You are a Badass” and “You are a Badass at Making Money” — are two of my holy grails that I just read over and over and over again. “Rich 20 Something” by Daniel di Piazza is one of my all-time favorites. Let me think. Anything by Seth Godin. Reading things like “The Purple Cow” and “Tribes” by Seth Godin are great books.

In terms of podcasts that I listen to? I obviously, listen to “Entrepreneur on Fire” — basically every day, and I’ll actually be interviewed on his podcast in the next two months. So that’s fun.

Recently, I’ve been listening to the Hardcore Closer. For those of you guys who are trying to get really good at selling, that’s an interesting podcast. Also, I’ve been listening to The Foundr podcast. So Foundr magazine run by Nathan Chan is a really great podcast.

Online Marketing Made Easy” by Amy Porterfield, I really love. “Marketing in Your Car,” by Dotcom Secrets, is great too.

Q: Do you have any daily habits, tools or business hacks you find useful to share with the Shalomoji readers?

A: Everybody functions with different kinds of habits. I know some people who need to wake-up at 5AM and go to the gym in the morning and do all of these things to be more successful. I know that there are other people who swear by sleeping until noon, and then watching Netflix all day, and only starting work at 10PM. So, habits I don’t really know.

But tools — there are plenty of tools that I use that really, really help me. First of all, Shalomoji, I know that it sounds so cheesy that I’m saying that, but it has actually become so useful in communicating with my friends, family, and my clients — just people who think it’s so fun to get a little Shalomoji every day. It’s actually really been really helpful for me and just has made my days a little brighter using this tool. So, that’s the first thing.

In terms of organization, I use Asana for all of my task management.

Email marketing, I’m obsessed with ConvertKit. If you’re looking for a good email marketing software, ConvertKit is the way to go. I am addicted to it.

SamCart is what I use for all my payment processing; that’s been the latest addiction for me; I’ve really been loving it.

I don’t really have business hacks honestly. In your marketing, I think that everybody’s marketing needs to come down to the same thing, which is — be real, be valuable, bring value, do the things that you would do to be a good friend. If you can do that in your marketing, you’re not going to need any hacks. It just comes down to consistency, and being cool and being real and bringing value, and that’s all that you can do consistently.

Q: We here at Shalomoji would like to leave our readers with a nugget of inspiration. What has been your greatest inspiration? Is there a particular quote, life motto or mentor you look up to that has given you unforgettable advice that you’d like to share?
A:Well, there are two phrases or affirmations, that I really like to keep in mind whenever I feel stuck or I don’t know the next steps.

One of them is: “You cannot achieve anything great alone.”

I just learned that from my entrepreneurial journey, I couldn’t have done anything without the help of coaches, consultants, influencers, just people who helped me along the way. So whenever I feel stuck, I know that I don’t have to solve it by myself. I could always hire a new coach, or I could always outsource something in my business just to take the load off and make things a little bit easier. Just remembering that I’m not alone, that I cannot achieve anything remarkable alone, has a been a big one for me.

And another one is, “Not focusing on studying, but instead focusing on execution.”

Things don’t have to be perfect. All you have to do is get started and go. Too many people get stuck in finding the need to make things perfect. But just go. Go, go, go, go, go. “Move faster” — is something else that I would like to share.

You can find Lena @ lenaelkins.com and check out her Millennial Go-Getters Facebook Group

Shalomoji Says Shalom To AI Digital Suite Founder Elisha Israel

Welcome back Shalomoji friends to our weekly Shalomoji column where we interview Jewish influencers around the world to help inspire and support aspiring newbie entrepreneurs, creatives, and thought leaders.

For this week’s feature interview, we are saying Shalom to writer, musician, serial entrepreneur, and founder of AI Digital Suite, Elisha Israel.

Elisha discusses life as a serial entrepreneur, the inspiration behind his businesses, and offers a ton of great advice to newbie entrepreneurs. Check out the full interview below.

Q: AI Digital Suite “helps establish solo entrepreneurs and small business owners develop strategies and systems for the digital realm.” Tell us more about AI Digital Suite for those who may not know.

A: Sure, thanks for asking & hosting! AI Digital Suite is my most recent project. I assist clients on a remote basis with digital advertising, copywriting & project management.

Q: How did the idea of AI Digital Suite come about?

A: The company was founded as a matter of necessity. As mentioned in the bio above, I’m a musician and was deeply involved in the music world for over a half-decade. I spent years both as a self-managed musician as well as an event coordinator, facilitating the organization and management of events on the local, regional & national levels. The reality is, the income level and earning potential of the music world, especially as an up and coming artist, is not enough to maintain a stable lifestyle. With that in mind, I decided to start a business to support myself while I continue to compose, transitioning away from the event side of the music business at the same time.

When looking at my life and the way that I wanted to design and create it, I realized that flexibility in life design was a key tenet to me. This allows for the ability to travel as a musician, to spend time with those I love on my own timeline and to invest the majority of my time into projects that I’m passionate about.

With this in mind, I decided to launch AI Digital Suite, a location independent business that helps clients with their digital advertising, copywriting & project management. I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity this project has given me & am enthusiastic about helping others in their journeys as well.

Q: Tell us about your role at AI Digital Suite and what a day in the life looks like for you?

A: As the founder & current only team member (soon to change!), I have to play many roles. These roles include continuous learning, maintaining client relationships and fulfilling responsibilities, conceptual planning, content creation, outreach, sales and systems design. An average day starts with waking up, diving into client work for an hour or two, refocusing on networking for a bit, transitioning to a creative space, whether content or music and then finalizing my client work for the day before I can start reading or enjoying personal time. Although being honest, most of my personal time is spent developing projects further. I love what I do!

Q: What do you believe makes your brand stand out from other entrepreneurial consulting brands?

A: There are a few key differentiations. The first is my willingness to learn. Another key is the depth and scope of my network. Over the years, I’ve created and continue to foster strong relationships with creatives of all types and am enthusiastic about supporting those I know, especially considering how prolific some of them are in their varied pursuits. Another key differentiation is my background in the music world as both an event coordinator and onsite manager. I’m used to organizing large-scale projects and responding well in stressful situations & am continually challenging myself to better my responses & communication methods.

Q:You have also created a Facebook group called The Digital Realm- For Millennial Entrepreneurs. Tell us about the inspiration behind the group and what group members gain from joining?

A: Sure! Thanks for asking! The group is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more about the online space and how you can launch or grow your project in the online space. The group is designed to be a learning environment for all of us. I encourage everyone to share their knowledge, to share opportunities with each other and to assist and support each other in our individual growth. I’m excited to continue nurturing this little community! There are some amazing people in the group and I can’t wait to meet everyone else!!

Q: In addition to AI Digital Suite, you are also a musician at Sacral Crown, which is described as “seeking to create with a tuned ear for the culture and spirit of our current society.” Tell us more about Sacral Crown for those who may not know.

A: Great question! So, yes. My music project is called Sacral Crown. The sacral chakra is often associated with pleasure, sexuality and unconscious desire. The crown chakra is often associated with spirituality & enlightenment. The project is a journey & a guiding beacon for myself to self-actualize from unconscious desire to my own enlightenment, using music & my personal process in creating the music as a walking stick & helping hand.

Q: What Top 3 tips would you give an aspiring entrepreneur to become successful?

A: Hmm. 1. Start. 2. Be consistent. 3. Learn one thing at a time and do it well before moving on. I fail at the last one often. There’s always the ’new shiny object’ syndrome, especially in the online space. But, please start. The world needs your gifts!!

Q: As the great Albert Einstein once said: Failure is success in progress.”  What have been some of your failures, and how has it helped propel you towards success?

A: I’ve had many failures! I’d say a big one has been my lack of understanding in my younger days of how my tone could impact others. I often thought that, if my intention was right then it didn’t matter. There was a process of realization, coming to terms with the responsibility of the impact of my actions as well as the actions themselves. I’m deeply grateful for this lesson although it has been one that has hurt me at times.

 Q: Do you have any daily habits, tools or business hacks you find useful to share with the Shalomoji readers?

A: Eat healthy! Food is medicine! Eat real foods, stay away from processed foods, cook your own meals, jump up and down every once in a while, get outside more than I do and do what you love!! Follow the process. Take the first step. Start.

Q: Are there any books, blogs, or podcasts you recommend that you believe helped shape your success?

E: Sure! There are lots! A few good ones are The Alchemist (book), The Lean Startup (book) & I’ve recently been reading a great book called Neurosell that breaks down the neuroscience of the sales process. Nonviolent Communication is an important book as well. I believe it’s important for us to stay educated & informed as to the realities of the world that we live in so on that note, I’d recommend reading Savage Inequalities (book). Read daily!

Q: Can you give readers an inside scoop on what’s next for you?

A: I’d love to! Next up, I’ll be continuing to focus on growing my business as well as fine tuning some of my more recent compositions for release. I also am beginning to grow my personal brand & am excited to write more articles, continue working on my book as well as become a better public speaker & storyteller! The future is bright!

Q: How has Judaism played a factor in your entrepreneurial journey?

A: Great question! I was raised Orthodox, living in an Orthodox community until I was 14 years old. I went to orthodox elementary & middle school and transitioned to public school for high school once I moved from my mom’s to my dad’s. This was due in large part to my temperamental nature (at the time) as well as my increasing dissonance with the religious structure. Currently, I identify as ethnically Jewish. In terms of religion & spirituality, my core perspective there is that “Everything simply is.”

Q: We here at Shalomoji would like to leave our readers with a nugget of inspiration. What has been your greatest inspiration? Is there a particular quote, life motto or mentor you look up to that has given you unforgettable advice that you’d like to share?

A: I was at an event having a conversation with my good friend and fellow musician who goes by the alias Shanti. This was a heated conversation, somewhat intense and personal, although positive. In the middle of the conversation, he looked me in the eye and said, “Be you.” This was one of the most important moments I’ve experienced yet. I’ve always doubted myself. That meant a lot. So this is me, saying to you. “Be you.” I’d like to add…”Please start, the world needs your gifts.”

For more information about Elisha Israel, Check out the links below:

AI Digital Suite

AI Digital Website

AI Digital FB

AI Digital IG

Sacral Crown

Sacral Crown Bandcamp

Sacral Crown Soundcloud

Sacral Crown FB

Sacral Crown IG

Elisha Israel

Elisha Israel IG

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Shalomoji Says Shalom To Jewess Magazine Founder Kylie Ora Lobell

Welcome Shalomoji friends to our third feature interview with Founder, Writer, Creator, and Jewess in chief, Kylie Ora Lobell of Jewess, an online magazine for Jewish women. Lobell dives deep into life as a freelance writer and online magazine owner. She discusses Jewess Magazine submission guidelines, offers a slew of advice for newbie writers, covers monetization tactics, and much, much more! Check out the full interview below!

Q: Jewess is described as a “site geared towards modern Jewish women of all backgrounds looking for a place of inspiration, entertainment, and community.” Tell us more about the online magazine for those who may not know.

A: I converted to Judaism two years ago after living an observant lifestyle for the last seven years. During this time, I’ve written a lot about Judaism and my conversion process for sites like Aish, Chabad, Jewcy, and The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. I thought it was time to start my own publication for Jewish women. Some sites have sections specifically for Jewish women, but none of them are only for this demographic. I wanted to change that. We are doing too much good in the world and it should be publicized.

Q: What compelled you to launch Jewess Magazine?

A: As I said above, I found a niche that I thought was lacking. I know so many awesome Jewish women in my community and there are incredible Jewish women in the world at large doing amazing things. They are devoted wives and mothers, they run non-profits, they create television shows, they do art, they write, they volunteer, and they own businesses. I wanted to start a site that would highlight these women and their accomplishments.

Q: Tell us about your role at Jewess Magazine and what a day in the life looks like for you?

A: It just launched last week, but so far, I solicit articles from writers, edit them, make suggestions, and help them create a piece that is meaningful or funny or useful or whatever! I try to get pieces that you wouldn’t see elsewhere. I also update all my social media, which is hugely important for promotional purposes. I usually work out of my house or a coffee shop. If I’m at home, I’m doing my work while hanging out with my husband Danny Lobell and my dogs and my chickens and my tortoise.

Q: What are some topics Jewess Magazine looks for in submissions? Any specific topics you’d love to see more of?

A: I love personal essays and profiles of Jewish women. Right now it’s pretty Orthodox-focused, so I’d love to branch out to other communities. This is meant to be a site for Jewish women, not Jewish women of any certain denomination. We are all one.

Q: Do you prefer pitches or a completed article? What tips can you give someone regarding what information to include or not include in a pitch?

A: Pitches. Please include your professional background and some writing samples. I like specificity, too.

Q: Walk us through the submission process and how long writers should be patient before hearing back.

A: You can email me your pitch at JewessMag@Gmail.com, and as long as it’s not Shabbat or a holiday I’ll get back that day usually. When I’m not observing Jewish holidays or Shabbat, I’m pretty much constantly online.

Q: Tell us about the benefits Jewess writers enjoy including possible payment.

A: Right now all writers are volunteer, but of course, I hope to change that very soon. I’m a full-time freelancer myself and I know how important it is to get paid. That may turn off some full-time freelancers, but I completely understand. I’m doing all this for free. It’s a labor of love. Hopefully I’ll grow it really huge and be able to pay my writers $2 a word one day.

Q: What’s your policy on submitting previously published work on another site or personal blog? Do you ever consider that or does it need to be original for consideration?

A: It must be original. A) It’s a personal preference and B) I don’t want to get penalized on Google search.

Q: You have an extensive background as a freelance writer. In particular, you’ve written for a variety of Jewish publications, such as Aish, Chabad, The Jewish Journal, The Forward and Tablet Magazine. You’ve also written articles for the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Mayim Bialik’s Grok Nation. What advice would you give to a) a newbie freelancer writer? b) to someone who is thinking about starting his/her own online magazine or blog?

A: Go for it. You may need to have a normal day job for a while before you can do it full-time, but if you turn in excellent work on time and you are nice to your clients, you will get there. I started off in 2010 making $50-$150 a week writing articles for my local paper in Brooklyn. Now I make a decent salary and can survive in Los Angeles. As for your own magazine, learn the craft first and look for a niche before you jump in.

Q: What promotional tactics do you recommend newbie online writers/ bloggers to use to raise awareness about their online magazine/blog? What has worked best for you in terms of gaining a loyal audience?

A: Find a niche. Learn about social media. Read about SEO. Join relevant groups on social media. Make friends with influencers. There are lots of guides out there you can read. If you have enough money, hire social media consultants to help you.

Q: We noticed Jewess Magazine is preparing to launch a podcast by the end of September 2017. What inspired you to create the podcast and what can listeners expect from The Jewess podcast?

A: My husband has a huge podcast called Modern Day Philosophers where he talks philosophy with comedians and he told me I should start my own. That was supposed to be my new venture, and then he said to turn it into a website as well. My husband has the best ideas.

Listeners can expect a monthly interview with a Jewish woman doing amazing things. So far I have Rain Pryor, comedian Richard Pryor’s daughter and an entertainer herself as my first guest. My dream is to get on Lena Dunham and Rachel Bloom and Ilana Glazer and Jenji Kohan. Since my husband is a comedian I’m very into that world as well.

Q: Monetization is obviously an area of significance to online writers/bloggers who aspire to make either a part-time or full-time living writing. What monetization tactics do you recommend for newbie online writers/bloggers?

A: Build yourself up in a certain niche, and take all my advice from above. Always be humble and do what your clients want, as long as you’re not sacrificing your integrity.

Q: What’s next for Jewess Magazine?

A: I’m going to build it up and produce multiple pieces of content a day. And work towards paying my writers.

Shalomoji Says Shalom To PopCholent Founder Danny Zeff

Welcome Shalomoji fans to our second feature interview with Founder, Creator, Writer, and Editor-In-Chief, Danny Zeff of the Jewish entertainment blog Popcholent. Zeff dives deep into life as a blog owner, Popcholent submission guidelines, advice for newbie bloggers, monetization tactics, and much more. Check out the full interview below.

Q: Popcholent describes its mission “to discover the best Jewish music, movies, food, and fashion and to “unite Jews of different communities, ethnicities, religious movements, political parties and beliefs to share a laugh.” Tell us more about the blog for those who may not know.

A: Another way I usually describe the site is that it is “a special blend of pop culture, comedy, and everything you learned in Hebrew school.” The blog covers topics that I love to read about online – mostly movies, TV, music, and food – but from a Jewish angle. Sometimes that means I’ll review an upcoming film that has Jewish themes, or I’ll do an in depth look at a Jewish musician or comedian. Other times I might look at a book or a news piece and just ask “Well what makes this Jewish?” or “What if so and so was Jewish?”

Most articles are written with a casual and comedic tone, like what you might find on Cracked or BuzzFeed. They are also designed to be informative and educational, as it is nearly impossible to talk Judaism without having a “teachable moment.”

What makes Popcholent special is that it is not just a culturally Jewish blog. In the articles, I often refer to religious aspects of Judaism that not all members of the tribe may understand. And while I do my best to make the website approachable to Jews of all types, I like to throw in “deep cuts” for those who would appreciate it.

Social media also plays a big role in the website. The Popcholent feeds on Twitter and Facebook are home to funny pictures and interesting videos, and I also post links to articles on other news sites that fit with Popcholent’s mission.

Q: What compelled you to start the blog?

A: I feel like I live in two worlds: my Jewish one and my secular one. Most of the time, these two worlds stay separate from the other. But I love it when they cross over and there is a little bit of Jewishness in my secular world. It’s the feeling when I hear Matisyahu on the radio, watch Rugrats celebrate Passover on TV, or discover that one of my coworkers went to my same Jewish summer camp.

I wanted to create a website that obsessed over the cross between those two worlds, cataloging and celebrating every bit of Jewish pop culture.

The idea of the blog actually originates from a podcast I recorded in high school. Titled “oyPod: the Jewish teen podcast,” the show explored Jewish news, music, and pop culture. I recorded 27 episodes over the course of 3 years.

A few years later, I had an idea in the same vein as oyPod. Only instead of a podcast, I wanted to make a website with viral Jewish content… news, lists, quizzes, pictures, videos… all easily shareable across the internet. I wrote my first article, an explanation of how the movie The World’s End was actually about Yom Kippur. And thus Popcholent was born.

I came up with the name Popcholent after shopping around a few other ideas. Originally I came up with The Bagel, and then I decided on PopKosher (a subtle play on “pop culture”). Unfortunately, popkosher.com was already taken, so I had to come up with something else. I don’t remember how “kosher” morphed into “cholent” but ultimately I fell in love with it.

Q: Tell us about your role at Popcholent and what a day in the life looks like for you?

A: If I could, Popcholent would be my sole job and I would churn out new content on a daily basis. Until then, a day in the life of the blog is based around my personal life. Usually, I come across a bit of Jewish pop culture on the internet or something interesting happens in the news, and I become inspired to write an article about it.

I will write a few drafts of the article, trying to sprinkle some humor in as it fits. Then I go and scourge the web for images and videos to add to the article. My favorite thing is when I can’t find the exact image I’m looking for and I have to stitch some photos together in Photoshop to get my idea across.

When the article is finished and ready to publish, I post to Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, and wait for the feedback to flood in.

The other part of my job is posting content to social media. I rarely need to scrounge the web to find good content; often there is something already in my Facebook and Twitter feeds that is perfect to repost.

Q: What are some topics Popcholent looks for in submissions? Any specific topics you’d love to see more of?

A: Pretty much anything goes, as long as it has some sort of Jewish element to it. Common topics are movies, TV, music, religious life, and Israel.  I’d love to get more submissions about sports. It is a topic I know very little about, yet I am also aware that there is a rich Jewish history of sports.

When I first opened the blog, the only topic I refused was anything political. However, over the past few years, politics has become as entertaining as movies and sports. So now all topics and ideas are on the table.

Q: Do you prefer pitches or a completed article? What tips can you give someone regarding what information to include or not include in a pitch?

A: Tying into the idea of “united Jews,” I would much rather receive completed articles, as it brings a variety of voices and writing styles to the website. That said, if someone has an idea but they are not comfortable with writing their own article, I would be happy to collaborate with them to turn their idea into something awesome.

My biggest tip: keep it casual, keep it funny, keep it informative.

Also, proofread, proofread, proofread. Nobody wants to read a pitch filled with typos, and it makes your writing look unprofessional.

Q: Walk us through the submission process and how long writers should be patient before hearing back.

A: I am so eager for guest writers! If you have an article ready to be published, I promise it will be up within a few days. Depending on the topic, I may want to post it around the time of a specific event (maybe a Jewish holiday or a movie release). But I am always near my computer or phone, so if you shoot me an email, I will respond pretty quickly.

Q: What’s your policy on submitting previously published work on another site or personal blog? Do you ever consider that or does it need to be original for consideration?

A: All content needs to be original, although if you want to expand upon a topic or an article written on a different site, you are free to do so.

My reasoning for this isn’t because I’m selfish (although I might be a little). Google and Bing don’t like it when they find the same content on more than one site, and they penalize the sites by making it harder to find in search results. In the end, reposting a published work will hurt both sites.

Q: What advice would you give to a newbie blogger or someone who is thinking about starting a blog?

A: Write what you know. This applies to all writing, whether you’re creating a short story, novel, screenplay, or blog. When you write about something you feel passionate about, it will shine through in your writing, and it will make your audience that much more interested in what you have to say.

I think it’s also good to know how to build a website. Beginners or those interested purely in writing can start out on a platform like Blogger or Medium. But if you want complete control over the look of your blog, I recommend learning WordPress.

Q: What promotional tactics do you recommend newbie bloggers to use to raise awareness about their blog? What has worked best for you in terms of gaining a loyal audience?

A: Social media is one of the best methods to promote your blog. That’s not just having your Facebook automatically post every time you write a new article. It’s about finding unique content to post on social media to build your brand.

So far, Twitter has worked best for building a fan base. In my free time, I peruse Twitter looking for people and brands that I think would enjoy my blog. Often when I follow a Twitter user, they will follow back. The more followers, the more awareness.

Beyond that, it’s really all about sharing. Share on your Facebook brand page. Share on your personal page. Share on Reddit. Share on Tumblr. Email your friends.

Q: We noticed Popcholent has an online shop that sells merchandise. We adore your t-shirts, especially the “Keep Calm And Eat Cholent” t-shirt. Walk us through what motivated you to integrate the store and the process you went through to make this happen.  

A: I love funny t-shirts with silly messages on them, and I thought it would be a great addition to the site. The shirts and other apparel are produced through a site called Zazzle, which prints and ships the items custom for each order. Wearing a Popcholent shirt is another way to show pride for everything Jewish, and it provides a little bit of advertising for the site.

Q: Monetization is obviously an area of significance to bloggers who aspire to make either a part-time or full-time living blogging. What other monetization tactics (other than creating an online store) do you recommend for newbie bloggers?

A: Monetization is tough, and it’s not something I’ve quite cracked yet. An easy way to monetize a site is to place ads on the site, something that can be set up through Google AdSense or Amazon Associates. There is a fine line with ads, as you don’t want to compromise the design of your website by filling it with ads.

Another tactic one could try is to accept sponsored content. This comes in two forms: either you’ll be given a pre-written article to publish, or you’ll be asked to write an article that basically is an advertisement for a product or service. Personally, I have not tried this yet, but I would do it only if the final article still fits within the tone of the website.

Q: What’s next for Popcholent?

A: The goal from the start was new content every day, and that’s a goal I’m still aiming for. Doesn’t matter what it is – article, video, image, or quiz – as long as it is something people want to share around the internet.

But the real next stage for Popcholent is to move beyond simple blog posts and to start developing other forms of multimedia. I have several ideas for original videos, including comedy sketches and music videos. It would also be great to start a new podcast (“Podcholent” maybe?), which would really bring all my ideas full circle.

As I continue to develop the site, I want to continue growing my audience. Jews around the world can continue to get their news from The Jerusalem Post or Tablet Magazine, but I hope that Popcholent will become their source of entertainment. The day that I see friends sharing original Popcholent content on their Facebook feeds is the day I know it has become a success.

Shalomoji Says Shalom to Three Matches Founder Margaux Chetrit-Cassuto

Welcome Shalomoji friends to our weekly Shalomoji column where we interview Jewish influencers around the world to help inspire and support aspiring newbie entrepreneurs, creatives, and thought leaders.

For our very first feature interview, we are saying Shalom to Writer, Public Speaker, and Entrepreneur Margaux Chetrit-Cassuto. Cassuto discusses life as the founder of Three Matches (a Jewish match-making agency), and dives deep into offering a slew of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs ranging from marketing tactics, daily habits, essential skill sets and much much more. Check out the full interview below.

Q: Three Matches is described as ”a family-owned and operated matchmaking agency dedicated to connecting the most-eligible Jewish singles around the world. Tell us more about Three Matches for those who may not know.

A: Three Matches is a result-oriented matchmaking agency founded by my mother and myself over a decade ago. Today, we represent some of the most eligible Jewish men and women worldwide and have expanded to host charitable events, offer coaching and concierge services as well.

Q: How did the idea of Three Matches come about?

A: Like all good ideas, Three Matches was born out of necessity. At the time, online dating was leaving a lot of people jaded and creating more problems than it was resolving by removing intimacy and personal connection from the dating experience. Enter Three Matches with a 2.0 version of traditional matchmaking- bigger, better and more intuitive than ever before.

Q: Tell us about your role at Three Matches and what a day in the life looks like for you?

A: I am the founder, matchmaker, social media and marketing director, in-house psychologist and chief custodian at Three Matches. Like most entrepreneurs, I am practiced in the art of wearing many hats. My typical day starts bright and early reading emails from clients who went on their “first date” the night before. This generally lends me the motivation I need to take on the many tasks before me: be it meeting with prospective clients, coaching current members, advising on first date formalities or recruiting “most eligible” men and women.

My schedule and attention are constantly shifting to tend to the most urgent matters, but one thing remains constant, my days are peppered with meaningful social interaction (phone calls, face-to-face meetings, video conferencing, instant messaging etc.) and consequently, I am on an endless search for a power outlet to charge my collection of Apple devices.

Q: What makes Three Matches different from other Jewish dating sites?

A: Three Matches offers a personalized approach to dating. There is a limited amount of technology involved in an effort to put the heart and the humanity back in dating. I look after every last detail down to the dinner reservations to ensure that all my members need to do is show up and charm their match.

Q:What marketing tactics did you use to develop your loyal customer base/ create buzz around Three Matches?

A: Before Three Matches initially launched, I had a large base of eligible men and women ready to buy what I was selling. This was really a rare privilege and the effect has snowballed thanks to the results and word-of-mouth. At the end of the day, there is no marketing tool more powerful than a solid reputation.

Q: Aside from Three Matches you’ve had a plethora of entrepreneurial accomplishments, namely you’re the Founder and Director of Partnerships at the Ivory Bow Company, which is described as “a luxury subscription box and online boutique designed to celebrate women, the lives they lead and the milestones they mark.” For aspiring entrepreneurs, what skills do you believe are absolutely essential to become successful?

A: Every successful entrepreneur (at least as viewed by me) has a drive to make the world a better place and a feeling of responsibility that this task lies in their hands.

They are listeners. They listen to their audience, to the market, to those who came before them and they learn from everything they hear (and even the things they don’t hear.) Throughout the process they maintain a humble adaptability to accommodate whatever is thrown at them while never losing sight of their goals.

Q: Entrepreneurs know best that before success comes failure. What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

A: I’ve made many mistakes along the way and every day is a learning experience for me and an opportunity to be better than the day before. A failure in my eyes is only really defined by not learning from yesterday’s mistake. With that said, I can’t pinpoint a failure per se (that’s a very scary and absolute word), but I can say that I have revised the business model quite a few times to better meet the needs of my clientele.

Q: You have an extensive background with both public speaking and writing. In particular, you’ve written for a variety of publications, such as The Jerusalem Post, The Forward, The Montreal Gazette, Time Out Israel, Vulkan Magazine and many more. You’ve spoken at Segal Centre Young Leaders, Megan David Odom GA, Israel Bonds YP Division, and have led many other speaking engagements. Having strong communication skills (both written and verbal) is obviously essential in leading a successful business. How has your experience as a writer and public speaker contributed to your entrepreneurial success? How would you advise newbie entrepreneurs to strengthen their communication skills in order to reach a level where they feel comfortable with public speaking and reaching out to write for well-known publications?

A: Strong communication skills have served me well in every role I’ve ever played in my life. There is very little standing in your way once you are able to express what you want and effectively engage with the people who can give it to you. I think every professional who aspires to greatness (entrepreneur or not) should hone their communication skills through obsessive compulsive practice until it becomes second nature… and in the very rare case that practice does not make perfect, I think they should hire someone who has mastered the art.

Q: Do you have any daily habits, tools or business hacks you find useful to share with the Shalomoji readers?

A: I read tremendously and connect with many people from various walks of life daily. Books and people are my life hacks and my business hacks. They introduce me to non-traditional concepts in a practical way and often make me confront world views I might be less comfortable with; consequently guiding me to think more creatively and with a unique sophistication. I think everyone should visit opinions they don’t necessarily agree with and wrestle with them. This is a traditionally Jewish practice we learn from our Talmudic sages.

Also, in line with Jewish thought, I like to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and send heartfelt thank-you notes (or emails) often; as well as actively contribute to the community around me. Call me a unicorn: I’m a millennial who still believes in human social interaction. Furthermore, I think a business that does good does well too.

Q: Are there any books, blogs, or podcasts you recommend that you believe helped shape your success?

A: Truthfully, I consume anything I can get my hands on. Irrespective of the subject or language, I believe there is always something that can be learned and that in of itself can shape success. Of course, I have some thought leaders I am partial to and won’t miss a word they write like fellow Canadian, Malcolm Gladwell (on the topic of human interaction); NYTimes columnist, Nicholas Kristof (on humanitarian issues) and relationship and sexuality expert, Esther Perel. I also frequently visit Chabad.org for inspiration on everyday things as influenced by the Rebbe.

Q: Can you give readers an inside scoop of what’s next for Margaux The Serial Entrepreneur?

A: Right now, I’m in the midst of selling my subscription box start-up both to my pleasure and to my chagrin. It stings me to part with something I built with all my heart, but it brings me lots of pride to know that somebody else believes in the idea and wants to continue it and grow it. I will stay on in an advisory capacity but my entrepreneurial efforts will mostly be concentrated on continuing to grow Three Matches, introduce as many happy couples as possible and eventually grow my own family.
I used to allow myself to be pulled in every which way and gave in to it spreading myself thin because of a chronic case of FOMO (fear of missing out) but with some maturity, I have come to understand that building an empire (and a personal life) are worth far more than credits on many smaller projects. Furthermore, it leaves me with a far more fulfilling sense of accomplishment too.

Q: We here at Shalomoji would like to leave our readers with a nugget of inspiration. What has been your greatest inspiration? Is there a particular quote, life motto or mentor you look up to that has given you unforgettable advice that you’d like to share?

A: My greatest inspiration is not a motto or a mentor (though I appreciate both) it’s a mentality that has pushed the Jewish people to strive for excellence throughout history and drives me: This translates as a relentless pursuit of education and social justice. It also means to lead a life and business according to our Torah values. Do this and success will almost naturally follow.