Monday, June 10, 2013

Business advice — and kosher food — are on the menu at first New York biz conference for Hasidim 

CEO roundtables. Social media marketing sessions. Afternoon prayers?

Bring your black yarmulke and your business cards to what is being billed as the city's first-ever, large-scale business conference for ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Organized by 34-year-old Borough Park-based entrepreneur Meny Hoffman, the one-day event, dubbed LTB Business Summit 2013 - LTB stands for Let's Talk Business - is taking place on Tuesday at Dyker Beach Golf Course in Brooklyn.

The idea is to offer resources and networking opportunities to members of the city's ultra-Orthodox community who may not have easy access to professional business education, guidance or tools.

Hasidic families often choose not to send their children to college and limit their dealings with the secular world. That can present roadblocks for entrepreneurs in an increasingly tech-driven economy.

"They need so much more: the basic education, energy and motivation to succeed," said Hoffman, whose company, Ptex Group, provides marketing, branding, web design and other services.

While there are notable success stories in the community, such as iconic photo and video store B&H, many have their roots in traditional sectors such as retailing, real estate and apparel manufacturing.

"I meet so many smart people in our community," said Henry Kauftheil, who owns multiple businesses in the retailing, real estate and the health care fields, including kosher food emporium Gourmet Glatt in Cedarhurst and Borough Park. "They are learning Torah for a good part of their lives. They don't have the experience and the knowledge to build businesses."

Attending entrepreneurship events is not an easy option because of the many rules ultra-Orthodox Jews observe. Only kosher food will be served at this conference and men and women will be seated separately. Mincha - afternoon prayers - is on the schedule.

Speakers, who include best-selling business book author and digital and social media consultant Gary Vaynerchuk and management training expert Bob Prosen, were told not to say anything off color. "There are certain things you don't talk about," Hoffman said.

Other pros involved include Kevin Harrington, one of the sharks from ABC's "Shark Tank." He'll be on a panel of prospective investors ready to put up $100,000 in seed money for entrepreneurs competing in a "Shark Tank"-like event, Hoffman said.

The cost to attend the conference is $279, with discounts available for some. Sponsors of LTB include the Daily News as well as prominent Hasidic-owned businesses. The title sponsor is Brooklyn-based Fidelity Payment Services, an electronic payment provider that employs 300 with offices in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

"Our community has a very high rate of entrepreneurs," said Fidelity's founder, Ben Weiser, a Satmar Hasid. "Ironically, we also have less support for them than any other community."

Hoffman never went to college. After he go married, he spent most of the day studying Jewish texts and did bookkeeping on the side before starting Ptex with a business partner.

Over the years, the company evolved from a printer into a full-service marketing company.

"If you bring value and you have personality, it doesn't matter what your background is," Hoffman said.


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