“It’s great to walk in and see other people from the Jewish community,” says local business owner Josh Awend about the monthly networking meetings hosted by Gesher. “Past generations could make a few calls if they needed business advice or help with a project. With cell phones, the internet and social media it’s shocking how quickly we lost the ability to make a human connection.” Gesher’s goal is to give the current generation that personal network when looking for help with a new business venture, in need of consultation, advice or career opportunities.
The seed for Gesher was planted when Awend found himself talking shop one night after a young, Jewish engagement event. He realized that “there was no place for established Jewish professionals who want to just meet and talk about business without the constraints of an organizational acronym.” He felt the Twin Cities needed an independent group that was focused on creating a network of Jewish professionals. Two years later, the organization is 300 members strong and organizes monthly meetings over coffee or drinks to network, kibbitz and help each other advance professionally.
People who come here want to be here. There’s always somewhere else you could be at 8:00 in the morning, so the people here are really getting something from the group.
“If you have an issue and are looking for someone to turn to, we actually have a lot of good resources right in our community,” says Gesher member, Steve Schoenberger. “What really appeals to me about this organization is that we’re actually bringing people together to meet face to face.”
I went to my first meeting last month, not really sure what to expect. I walked into Dunn Brothers on Hennepin to find a dozen or so folks gathered around a table with coffees and pastries. From non-profit professionals to business owners, realtors to finance experts, the room was a real mix of experienced and emerging professionals.
After introductions, the group talked about the chosen topic of social media and how to leverage it to attain business goals—be it sales, engagement or referrals. The group helped a new business owner who sold winter apparel come up with a creative way to use Twitter in a snowstorm. Someone looking to sell a condo found a realtor. I came away with a few new contacts and article ideas for TC Jewfolk. Okay, it might have had something to do with the double cappuccino, but I was feeling pretty productive considering it was still right after 9:00 a.m.
“People who come here want to be here. There’s always somewhere else you could be at 8:00 in the morning, so the people here are really getting something from the group,” says Schoenberger. “We really like being the place for established business professionals to connect. There’s not a lot of direct B to B contact out there anymore and we provide that. It’s great to get feedback from other professionals. This is a safe place to float ideas.”