Small Business, Big Potential: YU Alumni at the Helm of Their Own Companies
Small business owners are the backbone of the American economy: they create jobs, sell innovative products and display diligence, ambition and smarts to succeed in a tough marketplace. Many Yeshiva University alumni belong to that group of captains of (small) industry, and we are proud to showcase some of their success stories.
TAMAR ROSENTHAL ’04S: THE BABY ADVOCATE
When Tamar Rosenthal ’04S co-founded Dapple Baby, it wasn’t only because she was business-minded, but first and foremost, because she was a concerned mother. Her first child suffered from severe allergies and eczema. “I was trying to learn different ways to manage my daughter’s allergies, and I was getting frustrated by my lack of success,” said Rosenthal. “I was discussing the situation with my good friend, Dana Rubinstein, when she asked me how I was washing my daughter’s bottles. I was using dish soap and became concerned about lingering soapsuds. Additionally, neither Dana nor I could ever completely get the breast milk or formula residue out of the bottles. We both wished there were better, natural cleaning products for baby items like bottles and pacifiers on the market.”
At that time, Rosenthal, who grew up in Toronto, had already earned her degree from Stern College for Women where shemajored in psychology, as well as a Master of Public Administration degree at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “I had thought I’d be a sports psychologist while I was at Stern but switched to work in the nonprofit sector by the time I graduated,” Rosenthal said. “I was never a student who always knew what my future career would be or what my ‘endgame’ would look like.”
Though neither Rosenthal nor Rubinstein had a business background, their combined frustration with the lack of natural and effective cleaning products led them to spend a few months researching and working with pediatricians and eco-friendly chemists before co-founding Dapple Baby, a line of natural and safe-for-baby cleaning products. “It’s not enough for these products to be safe, they also have to work,” Rosenthal said.
The line officially launched with Baby Bottle & Dish Liquid and, as their own children grew older, expanded to include other products, including a toy cleaner, both wipes and spray, and laundry detergent.
Today, Dapple Baby products are available at major retailers including Babies “R” Us, Buy Buy Baby and Duane Reade, and through websites such as Diapers.com and DappleBaby.com.
For Rosenthal, the success of Dapple Baby has been rewarding on many levels. “It’s very gratifying to see that Dana and I have helped meet this need for an effective product that is also safe for people’s babies and their homes,” she said. “Parents are constantly educating themselves about safety measures, such as the dangers of BPA, and I really think the trend is only going to get stronger. My hope for the future of the company is that Dapple products are on the checklist for home staples whenever a baby is born. Personally, I have also seen the positive effect Dapple has had on my daughter’s allergies, which makes it more meaningful to me.”
The Dapple Baby team, in addition to Rosenthal and Rubinstein, includes six full-time employees in its Manhattan office and regularly utilizes other staffers, such as pediatricians and chemists, who are outsourced but completely dedicated to the product line and its goal.
While each workday is different, Rosenthal says her 5:30 a.m. wakeup time is generally the same. “Then it’s dropping off the kids at school before getting into the office by 9 or 9:30,” she said. “Staff members each have their own area of responsibility, and I focus on manufacturing operations, business growth and sales.”
Thanks to flexible work hours, the benefits of owning a business for an Orthodox wife and mother are many, Rosenthal said. “It’s an exciting challenge and I am continuously learning from the people around me. I am also more than happy to share what I’ve learned with YU students who are looking to run their own businesses one day.”
Rosenthal lives on the Upper West Side with her husband, Robert, and their four children, Yve, 9; Shmuel, 8; Sima, 5; and Moshe, 14 months.
ARI GREEN ’01SB: THE FUNDRAISING WEB INNOVATOR
After graduating YU’s Sy Syms School of Business in 2001, Ari Green began working as an analyst at a private investment firm, a safe and solid path for a business major, when his friend and fellow Syms alumnus Avrohom Liberman ’04SB approached him in need of his business acumen. Liberman was trying to organize a mishloach manot [Purim gifts] fundraiser to assist his synagogue, Ahavat Shalom, in Teaneck, NJ, with its development needs.
“I remember that the elementary school I attended, the Chabad Day School in San Diego, now called the Chabad Hebrew Academy of San Diego, ran a similar fundraiser,” said Green. “After looking into it, I quickly discovered that Jewish organizations everywhere ran similar fundraisers yet lacked an efficient method for doing so.”
Close collaboration between Green and Liberman produced HappyPurim.com, which debuted in Ahavat Shalom for Purim 2003.
“The project was instantly successful and we soon grew exponentially,” said Green. “Word of mouth was the company’s primary means of growth, followed by cold-calling, which is a skill I picked up as an intern at Merrill Lynch while I was a student at Syms.”
At Sy Syms, Green majored in finance and participated in many activities, serving as president of the Max Investment Club and as a member of the Senior Class Board, tutoring and playing intramural flag football.
“My fondest memories from YU are definitely the friends I made and the ideas and strategies for life that I was exposed to and learned from my professors,” said Green. “I believe that the wide diversity of classes and professors with expertise in a variety of fields helped give me a solid foundation from which I was able to succeed in the business world.”
Green also credits Happy Purim’s success to the company’s commitment to keeping costs low for its clients. “We are pleased that this is a fundraiser for Jewish organizations focused on helping their communities,” said Green. “We are able to keep our costs low by leveraging cloud-based computing and bringing on resources, such as independent contractors, only as needed, and usually on an individual project basis. This also enables us to move and adapt quickly to changes in our market place.”
The constant need to acclimate a business in a rapidly changing technological and entrepreneurial world is one of Green’s favorite parts of running a business. “You can run your business any way you want, but the challenge is in making the right decisions,” he said. “When you inevitably make a wrong one, figuring out how to turn that mistake into a win and learning from the experience brings success.”
Aside from professional gratification, Green receives personal fulfillment from his involvement with Happy Purim. “Our company is helping worthwhile organizations raise money for good causes,” he said. “We’ve been able to consistently help our clients raise more money with less effort than they were able to previously. There’s nothing better than having a client tell you they wish they had found you sooner.”
Green currently lives in Teaneck, NJ, with his wife, Sharon ’01S, and their three children, Avigayil, 6; Micha, 4; and Nomi, 2.
MELISSA KLEIN LOVY ’07SB: THE JEWELRY DESIGNER
Melissa Klein Lovy ’07SB, a jewelry designer who started her eponymous line of luxury fashion jewelry, credits her father’s business acumen and her mother’s sense of creativity for imbuing her with both an entrepreneurial and design spirit.
Since she was a little girl, Lovy dreamed of being a fashion designer. As a teenager, she created cuff links for her father to wear to work one day. Admirers began asking her to create original cuff links for them, and Lovy knew then that she had settled on a career.
Lovy attended the Sy Syms School of Business and took classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology through its joint program with Sy Syms, from which she received a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Following her graduation in 2007, she worked at YU’s Office of Alumni Affairs before returning to FIT to finish her studies there and obtain an associate degree in jewelry design.
“The opportunities I gained from being a student andemployee at YU have helped prepare me for the journey I am on today,” said Lovy. “As a student, I learned so much from marketing and entrepreneurial courses, Career Center events and the joint program with FIT. As a staff member in the Office of Alumni Affairs, I created events and reunions for Sy Syms alumni, which taught me a lot about being able to go up to anyone and pitch my own ideas.”
With that experience in her arsenal, Lovy founded her jewelry company, Melissa Lovy Jewelry, shortly after. The brand has its own motto—“when two wardrobes collide”—which, Lovy explained, signifies the brand’s ability to diversify and unite different styles. “Our jewelry really lends itself to layering and stacking,” she said. “The motto can be interpreted in a few ways: West Coast meets East Coast, or style that goes from day to night or work to weekend. It’s jewelry that fits into all aspects of your life.”
Lovy refers to her target market as the “Lovy Lady,” women of all ages, especially those in the 25–50 range, who value timeless pieces of jewelry. Lovy’s website has a blog, The Lovy Lady, which shares all fashion and style-related ideas with readers. Her goal is to see her brand in major department stores.
Lovy said her internships during her time as a student prepared her for a career in fashion. “Despite the time commitment involved in an internship on top of balancing a dual curriculum, it really is worth it,” she advised current students. “The time you put into something has a direct effect on how successful you will be later on.”
Lovy created an internship opportunity at her own company for YU students who aspire to enter the fashion entrepreneurial world. Rosa Gottesman ’15S has been assisting Lovy throughout the 2012–13 school year, helping with design, trend forecasting and social media. “I was eager for a fashion internship as I hope to enter the industry myself after I graduate,” Gottesman said. “I knew this internship would be a significant step in helping me achieve my goal, and Melissa has been invaluable in showing me how the whole process works and how much effort and determination it really takes to make a business succeed.”
Lovy also shares what she’s learned with YU students by partnering with the Career Center to mentor students interested in learning more about business. “It is extremely important to me to give back and to try to encourage those with a dream to go for it,” said Lovy. Her generosity combines with philanthropy in her partnership with the Skin Cancer Foundation to raise awareness of the disease, and she contributes some company proceeds to help fund research for a cure.
While most people would consider jewelry design as a primarily creative career, Lovy said that she actually thinks of herself as a businesswoman before a designer. “I thoroughly enjoy the business side of what I do, and it provides the fuel for the designer in me to emerge,” she said. “I view the designing as the hobby that I am lucky to do for a living.”
Melissa Lovy Jewelry is sold at www.melissalovy.com as well as at select retailers nationwide. Lovy lives with her husband, Andrew ’12E, an orthopedic surgeon, in Manhattan.
LAWRENCE CLINGMAN ’10YC: THE ARTIST
If you’ve ever passed a street fair in Manhattan and paused to look at a brilliant photography print, you may have been admiring the wares of Elementem, a photography print business run by Lawrence Clingman ’10YC and Assaf Duek. Elementem works with photographers from around the world to sell high-quality, affordable digital landscape prints.
Clingman, who was born in South Africa and moved to Scarsdale, NY, as a child, began studying at Sy Syms School of Business before switching to Yeshiva College, where his religious observance was able to thrive. “YU was really able to foster my religious connection and gave me a great background in different secular subjects, which was great because I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said.
After graduation, Clingman dabbled in different pursuits, including music, education and environmental science. One highlight was interning at the Se-phardic Music Festival, an annual large-scale arts and music celebration. “I utilized a lot of the skills I learned while running the YU Arts Festival as a junior and senior,” said Clingman. “That was the first time I worked to coordinate a festival dealing with deadlines and running a team, and those skills definitely came in handy when I was an intern.”
Following that internship, Clingman completed an environmental educational fellowship at the Brandeis-Bardin Institute in Simi Valley, CA. “I loved working the land there… but I really had no idea what to do next,” he said. His father told him of an opportunity with a technology company based in New York and Clingman decided to go for it, despite his wariness with business. He was surprised to find that the job required him to flex his creative muscles in terms of designing Web pages and coming up with marketing campaigns.
After his workdays, Clingman would take long walks through the SoHo neighborhood where he lived and came across a street art market. A purchase from Duek, an Israeli vendor, led to a friendship between the two, and they soon decided to go into business together. In March 2010, Elementem was officially launched. The company regularly sells its prints at street fairs and holiday markets in New York City and Boston, though the best source year-round is through its website, www.elementem.com.
A large percentage of Elementem’s customers are people renting or buying their first apartment who are looking for modern décor that is also affordable. After building the business through traditional retail channels, Clingman and Duek had a great push when they partnered with the online daily deal site Groupon.
“I always resisted the idea of entering business, because to me, it seemed like ‘selling out,’ ” Clingman said. “I later realized, however, that business could be anything I wanted it to be, and it turned into a source of genuine creativity and excitement. Accounting and finance by themselves don’t really excite me, but they do when I apply them to my art business.”
Clingman, who currently lives in Washington Heights, often speaks to Michael Strauss, associate dean and a clinical professor of management at Sy Syms, for entrepreneurial mentorship.
“I’ve advised Lawrence many times about aspects of business such as pricing distribution, marketing and more, and have always found him to be an extremely focused and committed individual who persevered and did not allow any setbacks to deter him from reaching his business goals,” said Strauss. “I encourage more students and alumni to approach me and other Sy Syms faculty members, for guidance on any issues that may arise. Every business owner, whether just starting out or with years of experience, can always use a sounding board.”
Sharing some important advice of his own with current students and alumni, Clingman said, “A lot of what you want to do with your business can initially be done without a lot of money. Start your idea with the most basic version, and if it works, spend more money on refining it and taking it to the next level. Elementem started with a very basic website we built ourselves. That kind of mentality allowed us to be profitable from an early stage and then continue to grow.”
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