Tribe 12 Fellows Pitch New Businesses

The 2020 Tribe 12 Fellowship cohort had to adapt to COVID-19.
The 2020 Tribe 12 Fellowship cohort had to adapt to COVID-19. (Courtesy of Polly Edelstein)

Thirteen Jewish entrepreneurs pitched their businesses to loved ones and fellow professionals over Zoom during Tribe 12’s 10th annual Fellowship Launch on May 12.

“Part of the launch night has always been this culminating celebratory event where they reach not an end, per se, but a next level to have something to show for their business to a large audience,” Tribe 12 Fellowship Coordinator Polly Edelstein said.

The Tribe 12 Fellows submitted prerecorded video pitches and answered questions in separate breakout rooms.

For many fellows, the coronavirus pandemic meant that the project they pitched at the event was different from what they had planned at the start of the four-month fellowship.

“A lot of our fellows had to pivot because we’re in this new now, and they’ve gone from in-person ventures to digital-friendly ones,” Edelstein said.

Fellow Katie Rabinowitz founded The Shaw Method, a fitness studio intended to double as a personal and professional networking space. Since the start of the pandemic, she has taught online fitness classes that serve the same purpose.

“People are making friends and developing new business relationships through the classes,” she said. “I open up the Zoom room a few minutes before we start class and keep it open for however long people want to talk after. People stick around and hang out and talk to each other.”

Ashley Toal, another fellow, originally planned a company that would pair adoptable dogs with people recovering from substance abuse, who would train the animals and help them find forever homes. At launch night, she pitched iGoodboy, a service that connects owners of misbehaving pets to behavioral specialists who can assist with training.

Stay-at-home orders led to an increase in pet adoptions, but owners may struggle to train their animals without outside help.

“It would be a real shame if you had people with pets who felt like they had nowhere to turn and felt they would have to return their pet to a shelter because of these behavioral issues,” Toal said.

For Michael Saks, the pandemic shed a new light on the demand for the digital marketing services offered by his business, Michael Saks Digital. The company provides website and social media strategy support to small businesses and nonprofits.

“This truly shows the need for what I do,” Saks said. “I help people build an easy-to-use website or social media platform. Having that digital presence and footprint is vital to keeping your business afloat, especially for small businesses.”

Personal tragedy informed Noga Schechter’s decision to change projects during the fellowship. She originally planned a co-living space to fight loneliness. Then her mother died of coronavirus-induced lung failure.

Now she is the chief operating officer and head of implementation at Rapid Medical Parts, Inc., a company building ventilators to help hospitals prepare for a second wave of coronavirus cases in the fall. RMP received a Department of Defense DPA Title 3 cooperative agreement in April to manufacture the equipment.

“I immediately went into this ventilator project because of the way my mother passed away,” Schechter said. “We’re about two weeks away from FDA submission.”

She was happy with the launch night results.

“We got to prerecord videos so we could be more prepared on our pitch than normal,” she said. “Tribe 12 did a really good job thinking through the logistics.”

Rabinowitz appreciated the networking opportunities.

“The fellowship did a really good job of bringing people together and creating a strong network of people in Philly, and I’m grateful for that,” she said.

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