Ask any startup founders how they met, and you’ll probably hear something along the lines of “Well, I knew a guy who’d worked with her, then we ran into each other at TechCocktail and she introduced me to …”
The startup community is networking nirvana.
Yet the best networker I know doesn’t run a startup. He works for a Skokie-based family accounting firm. But—in his spare time—he leads a networking group that’s grown from zero to more than 18,000 members in just two and a half years.
That’s a lot of coffee and cake. Jewish B2B hosts events nearly every week, in the city and suburbs, with anywhere from handfuls to hundreds of attendees. New postings pepper their job board daily, and they’re busy planning for their second annual business leaders’ trip to meet with administration officials and legislators in Washington.
And it all started from a single lunch. Klein explains, “I realized many of our clients, friends, and family needed to meet each other, so I planned a lunch at Slice of Life restaurant in Skokie. While I expected 20 people to attend, 75 people turned out. I walked into my neighborhood Starbucks the following day and saw three meetings going on from the day prior.”
A startup that grew so quickly from 75 users to 18,000 would probably be in line for some serious funding, but Jewish B2B is strictly a non-profit enterprise. Many of their events are free, and, in case you’re wondering, you don’t have to be Jewish to join.
“Business owners and job seekers—both Jewish and people from all faiths—are finding out about our resources, educational programs, and events, and are taking advantage,” says Klein. “Tens of thousands of business connections have been formed, and hundreds of jobs have been filled.”
Like most successful entrepreneurs, he makes it sound simple, even inevitable.
But building a network with the size and impact of Jewish B2B, in just two and a half years—in his spare time—makes Shalom Klein a networker extraordinaire.