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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.