Entrepreneur Russell Gottschalk discusses his Jewish start-up organization, AJMF, the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, at the ProtéJ Nosh & Tell event in Atlanta, GA, on June 26, 2012. ProtéJ, a mentorship and professional development organization for Jewish start-ups, is beginning its first year of training and guidance of Atlanta entrepreneurs. Photo courtesy of Webb Roberts http://webbroberts.com/

Three years ago, Jennie Rivlin-Roberts and her family existed on the outskirts of the Jewish community. However, after starting her own business – online Judaica store Modern Tribe – Rivlin-Roberts joined and became deeply involved with her own entrepreneur community, the Indie Innovators.

This group was created as a way for independent Jewish innovators to support each other as they start up their own businesses. Together, they have recently launched a new program, ProtéJ, which links Jewish entrepreneurs with seasoned business leaders, the latter group acting as mentors to help the former grow their business and be even more successful.

ProtéJ launched June 1, receiving its own space within the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta building. Their kickoff event on June 26, ProtéJ Nosh N’ Tell, introduced to the community the new program as well as the different entrepreneurs it will serve, who themselves as a whole serve over 18,000 Atlantans.

The event started with a presentation called Life of Sarah, which showed how each of the nine entrepreneurs serve members of the Jewish community throughout their lives. To begin, participant innovator Ana Fuchs – creator of Jewish Kids Groups – tells how Sarah starts Hebrew school and is instilled with a strong Jewish background that stays with her.

Next, Sarah benefits from the Jewish Student Union, a group led by Rabbi Chaim Neiditch that works in high schools to provide teenagers with a place to connect with their Jewish peers; and as Sarah grows older, she interacts with other organizations: Adamah Adventures (Adam Griff), the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival (Russel Gottschalk), Atlanta Jewish News (Marcy Levinson-Brooks), Punk Torah (Patrick Aleph), Jewish Interest-Free Loans of Atlanta (Mort Barr), and Open Jewish Project (Rabbi Rachael Bregman).

After describing the impact that each of the represented organizations has on the community, Rivlin-Roberts launched into what ProtéJ hopes to achieve. They will match a mentor with business, leadership and other skills to each of the nonprofit organizations in order to grow as a business.

As she put it, the Indie Innovators had the ideas and drive to be a success, but ProtéJ will provide them with the “work, wealth and wisdom” that are needed to be successful.

Along with mentoring, ProtéJ will support fundraising and other professional development workshops for the entrepreneurs. When chosen, the mentors will be asked to invest $5,000 to a venture fund that will be distributed to the participating organizations, and in addition, the program will conclude with a fundraising gala within the entire community to benefit the organizations.

At the end of the year, Rivlin-Roberts says the entrepreneurs will have gained “‘KSB’ – knowledge, skills and behaviors” that will grow their organization and expand their networks. Given that this is the program’s inaugural run, the hope is that noticeable results will inspire other entrepreneurs to join in the future.

The various workshops throughout the year will be open to the public, allowing the entire community to learn together.

By Jessie Miller
Editorial Intern