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Lots of Support—No Scolding: BJ’s Mastermind Group for Entrepreneurs

By Les Judd | Issue Date: May 2011

BJ Mastermind Group members, clockwise from left: Les Judd, Betsy Imershein, Naomi Goodhart, Ellen Carni, Rae-Carole Fischer, Pamela Judd, and George Kaplan. Photo Credit: Rae-Carole Fischer

What can BJ entrepreneurs do to connect and help one another? Nearly a year ago, my wife Pamela and I started a Mastermind Group for small- business owners to share successes, challenges, and advice with each other. Earlier last year, both of us helped organize a networking event for BJ business owners through BJ’s Job Advantage Task Force, and many attendees expressed the need for more opportunities to meet others in the same situation. A Mastermind Group for BJ members who own a business seemed like the perfect solution to address the isolation that many entrepreneurs face.

With the invaluable support of Guy Felixbrodt, we posted an announcement in the Kol Jeshurun, and over a dozen people responded. Soon, we had a core group of 8-10 people who were coming regularly to our monthly meetings. Pamela, an experienced group leader and trainer, facilitates the meetings. At each two-hour meeting, every member has approximately 10 minutes to talk about his/her business, a recent success, and a challenge he/she is facing. Other members ask clarifying questions and offer advice. Sometimes a referral is given with the name and contact information of someone who can help address the specific needs being sought. Other times, the advice is more general, including the names of organizations that may have information or services that could be helpful. For example, when Pamela asked for advice on dealing with too many commitments, another member suggested that she hire a virtual assistant to do the tasks that she didn’t want to do. As it turns out, Pamela knows someone who is a virtual assistant but had hesitated to call her until that point. Once she was reminded about this, she was motivated to take action. There have been numerous examples like this one.

Discussion topics include time management, how to go from free to fee, the best places to network, finding your niche, etc. After each meeting, Pamela and I prepare and distribute notes with a list of resources to the group.

Regularly attending members include Betsy Imershein, Ellen Carni, Rae-Carole Fischer, Arthur Belkin, George Kaplan, Joyce Gottlieb, Naomi Goodhart, Marcy Einhorn, Gail Ressler, Suzanne Jacoby, Pamela, and myself. Our group has been meeting since May of 2010 and is going strong. It meets a need for people who own or want to start a business to share their concerns with peers, and offers feedback in an informal and low-stress setting. We don’t make value judgments. We don’t scold people for not listening to our advice. We don’t charge any fees. We offer the best advice we have to each other in a supportive group environment.

Most members of our group have individual accounts on Linkedin, the online social media forum for business networking, and are members of “BJ Entrepreneurs” a subgroup of the “B’nai Jeshurun—New York City,” which is a private group for all BJ members. The Mastermind Group format is easy to learn and can be used for support around any kind of shared interest, from fitness to getting into college to learning Hebrew.

Les Judd has been a member of BJ since 1989. Les and Pamela’s first date in November 2004 was a Friday night service at BJ. Les and Pamela live in Riverdale.