Jewish Atlanta’s first-of-its-kind Shark Tank event at a packed auditorium of The Temple Dec. 12 showcased the Israeli-style Women’s Accelerator and the inspiring ideas of its initial 11 female entrepreneurs.
A woman-led startup designed the incubator program based on an Israeli accelerator for women, Yazamiyot, which was then implemented with the support of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.
“We were delighted that Federation partnered with us and supported the accelerator as part of its innovation initiative, then gave the ladies a community platform at The Exchange,” Hub Central Founder Orna Sharon said of the Federation’s program in which aspiring innovators meet experienced entrepreneurs. “The accelerator and incubator are part of Hub Central’s work to bring Israeli innovation and creativity to Atlanta, reignite Jewish imagination, and inspire the next generation to connect with Israel in a modern and meaningful way.”
Sharon plans to continue working with her fellow female entrepreneurs through an incubator program starting in January.
Established entrepreneurs and business hopefuls mingled during the reception featuring A Kosher Touch feast of mini chicken shawarama, open-faced petite tenderloin on grilled baguette, sweet and sour meatballs, potato bourekas, salad in a jar, and old-fashioned soft ginger molasses cookies.
During the reception, Jori Mendel, Federation’s vice president of innovation, said, “The women are excited to give their ‘pitch’ tonight. Some came with ideas, some with passion, and some with real businesses; but they are all able to learn from each other. I have seen them invite peers to attend functions and share resources. These relationships are as important as that of a mentor.”
Program co-chairs Nancy Freedman and Steven Richman primed the crowd. Freedman spoke of her family’s long history with the Federation ranging from her summers at Camp Barney Medintz, trips to Israel, Jewish day school attendance and her mother’s service as the Federation’s first female president to her parents’ use of senior services towards life’s end. She kept her comments upbeat by interspersing jokes about Jewish scenarios and charitable giving.
Richman referred to Federation’s dynamic role in the community and specifically the internet age where even the night’s winner was selected by the audience’s instantaneous vote on cell phones. After tallying the results, the winner was the orange-clad Catchball team, based on an Israeli sport brought to Atlanta by innovator Rachel Gurvitch.
The other startup businesses ranged from wellness and alternative therapy to educational tools and jewelry. The women’s pitches presented during the evening were well-timed, well-rehearsed and upbeat.
After the presentations, the professional mentor panel took the stage. Robert Arogeti, Brad Ruffkess, Garrett Van de Grift, and Tal Postelnik Baum fielded questions, the last of which was, “How have your Jewish values influenced you/your business practices?
Baum: “As a restaurateur, I want to introduce Israeli food to employees and customers as ambassadors to Israeli food and Judaism.”
Van de Grift: “I want to guide my son along in a Jewish values experience.”
Ruffkess: “I was ADD-driven as a youth and figured I had 5,000 years of Jewish survival and fitness inbred. Besides that, I want to hedge my bet and put the thumbs on the scale by funding my rabbi.”
Arogeti: Joking, he said, “I am mastering my retirement as the CEO of Aprio.”
During the dinner, I asked Eyal Postelnik about his pride for his daughter, Tal, one of the mentors and a restaurateur who owns Bellina Alimentari at Ponce City Market. A high-tech entrepreneur who produces the navigation systems for GM cars in South America, he said, “I am excited about Tal’s success every day, but especially today!” Rabbi Michoel Lipschutz commented on her creativity, “Every day G-d is renewing us; that is one of the basic tenets of Judaism.”