October 3, 2012 By
p-content/uploads/2012/09/Irv-Shapiro-240×300.jpg” alt=”Irv Shapiro” width=”240″ height=”300″ /> Chicago-based Ifbyphone CEO Irv Shapiro has twice started companes that landed on the Inc. 500 list.
If you think the growth of the Internet and text messaging have wiped out the need for phone calls, think again.
One of the fastest-growing small businesses in the nation routes more than 15 million minutes of phone calls in a typical month, and it’s not in the traditional phone business.
Chicago-based Ifbyphone is CEO Irv Shapiro’s second company to be named to the Inc. 500 list of fast-growing businesses, with his first startup, system integration consulting firm Metamor Technologies, achieving a rank of 389 in 1995. That company grew from $100,000 in annual sales in 1985 to about $32 million when it was sold to Houston-based Corestaff in 1997.
Shapiro has taken a similar approach to filling a gap in the marketplace with Ifbyphone, which provides a voice-based phone management and marketing automation platform for small and midsize companies. And Ifbyphone is on a similar trajectory, achieving annual revenue of $7.7 million in 2011, up from about $500,000 in 2008. Twenty-one Chicago-area companies were named to the 2012 Inc. 500 list, and dozens more made the Inc. 5000 list.
By assigning different phone numbers to specific marketing offers for about $2 each, Ifbyphone can help companies identify where they’re generating the most interest so they can zero in on the most effective marketing opportunities. It also tracks which keywords customers entered to find the client company, and by detecting where customers are calling from, it can route callers to a business’s appropriate location.
Suite of services
“That’s the tip of the iceberg,” Shapiro said, noting that the company helps its customers manage, measure and automate phone calls. It has rolled up a suite of offerings so its customers don’t have to look elsewhere for one component or another. “We’ll automatically call customers to remind them of deliveries, or tell them to renew their subscription or survey them on quality,” he said.
By offering a suite of services, Ifbyphone is blowing by its single-minded competitors, of which there are more than 100, Shapiro said. Many competing providers offer one service, such as call tracking, call forwarding or delivery notification. Less than a handful offer multiple services. “Part of the reason we’ve grown so fast is we’ve taken the Microsoft Office suite approach” to offering every managed phone service a business needs.
The company, ranked as the 249th fastest-growing company, achieved 1,442 percent sales growth during the past three years and a sales increase of 770 percent in 2011, according to Inc.com. More than 3,500 companies use the company’s services, paying from $50 to more than $10,000 per month, he said. But Shapiro sees even faster growth ahead.
Profits still to come
The 70-employee company, which has raised $17 million in two rounds of venture capital, isn’t yet profitable because it has been re-investing by hiring more sales representatives, Shapiro said. ”Right now our investors want us to focus on the top line because we have such a high gross margin,” he said.
Shapiro stumbled upon the unmet need in the marketplace that led to Ifbyphone in 2005 when he was shopping online for a high-end digital camera and couldn’t believe the camera retailer’s website didn’t show a phone number. “I couldn’t figure out why someone selling products for thousands of dollars wouldn’t make it easy to call,” he said.
So Shapiro, who studied computer science at Washington University in the 1970s, began evaluating available technology for small and midsize companies to handle phone calls efficiently. While high-end technology was available, it was too costly for many businesses.
A market opportunity
“There was a market opportunity to build technology to allow midsize companies to handle customer interactions over the telephone as well as the best companies do it,” Shapiro says. “What we’re basically doing is applying Internet technology to telephone technology.”
It took about two and a half years to develop the technology and begin selling it. The service works on any phone as well as Skype, Shapiro said. While most customers learned of Ifbyphone from Internet searches, increasingly the company is gaining referral business. Shapiro’s target is to double the company’s size in the next year, assuming it can hire enough qualified people. The company recruits what Shapiro calls “SWANs,” who are smart, hard-working, ambitious
Landing a spot on the Inc. 500 should make it easier to find people,
he said. “If we can hire the best people, we will build a great company.”
Read More at SmallBizChicago….
September 14, 2012 By
h=”230″ height=”164″ />Michael Dorf, CEO and Founder of City Winery in New York, is bringing his popular concert venue and winery to Chicago’s West Loop.
“Chicago’s [a great] if not better, a city for what we want to do,” Dorf said. “There’s an incredibly passionate food and cultural scene here. I’m constantly amazed at how veracious people eat and drink.”
The new, 33,000 square foot Chicago facility, which opens mid-August, is located at 1200 W. Randolph Street. A former refrigerated food distribution warehouse is being transformed into a contemporary winery producing more than 20 in-house wines, a restaurant and bar serving small and large plates meant for sharing and wine pairing, private event spaces, an outdoor event space and a performance venue that will seat 300 with beverage and dining service.
“This is our 2.0,” Dorf said. “We learned a lot in NY…Everything [in Chicago] is improved.”
For example, City Winery Chicago will feature a tap wine system, where some of their wines will skip the bottle and go directly from the barrel to the glass, a green and efficient way to serve wine. In addition to their in-house wines, City Winery Chicago will also have a wine list of over 400 different wines from all over the world.
“We will bar none have the largest selection of Israeli wines in Chicago,” Dorf said, noting that the wine industry in Israel is “exploding.” “We’re very proud of Israel’s wine industry.”
According to Dorf, 15 percent of the wine produced at City Winery Chicago will have OU Kosher certification. They also have a special Shabbos tank with a timing system set to work on fermenting without being touched. Though they won’t have kosher food as an option on their regular menu, they will have the ability to bring in wrapped kosher food upon request.
In addition to an eclectic mix of some respected names in pop, rock, jazz, blues, and world music, the concert lineup for City Winery Chicago also includes many Jewish and Israeli musicians and artists like Asaf Avidan, an Israeli-folk musician and David Broza, an Israeli singer-songwriter and guitarist. Jewish Comedian Lewis Black will officially inaugurate the venue with a five-night engagement Aug. 15-19. Music, spoken word and comedy will be presented 20-25 nights per month.
There will also be a weekly Sunday Klezmer Brunch, a popular event at City Winery in N.Y., which joins musical performances by local klezmer bands like the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, Jutta & the Hi Dukes and more, with a menu of schmears, scrambles, and Nova Scotia salmon. The first Klezmer brunch will take place Aug. 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
City Winery Chicago’s Jewish inspired lineup stems from Dorf’s love
of Jewish music.
“I can’t help that part of my DNA,” Dorf said. “I’ve been a music promoter for 25 years and somehow early on I got really into Jewish music. I love Jewish music. I’ve always felt a connection to the lineage through the cultural parts of what we do.”
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.citywinery.com.
August 30, 2012 By
AM 002″ src=”http://thejewishbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/jeremiah-lunch-and-learn-and-MAM-002-282×300.jpg” alt=”" width=”282″ height=”300″ /> A lunch and learn takes place, organized by Temple Jeremiah
You would expect to hear Rabbi Ken Spiro, senior lecturer at Jerusalem’s Aish HaTorah (an Orthodox organization and yeshiva), discuss the impact of Judaism on democracy and Jewish U.S. voting trends, in a lecture hall. Instead, you are lunching with attorneys, corporate realtors and a sprinkling of college students in a business conference room on LaSalle Street.
Before and after the discussion, participants network and have questions for Rabbi Spiro and Rabbi Zev Kahn, founder of Jewish Education Team (JET), the event’s sponsor. Some participants are parents who heard about the event from their students at the University of Illinois who also participate in JET programming. Others heard about it from previous participants in JetNet, the organization’s young adult branch that combines networking with Jewish education.
Or maybe, you’re listening to Rabbi Paul F. Cohen, Temple Jeremiah in Northfield, talk about a discourse on ethics. At a previous session, he focused on the ethics of speech and the impact of words. This time, he expands to include thoughts such as the 10th Commandment’s direction to not covet. You might expect the topic to be a sermon. However, similar to JetNet, participants are lunching in a downtown business conference room, this time on West Monroe Street.
Both events are among the many Jewish Lunch and Learn programs that literally turn a law firm or an accountant’s office into a Beit Midrash (house of study) at lunch. They feature a Rabbi-led, mini-class at a business office convenient to downtown professionals. But, classes also attract retirees interested in intelligent, educational discussions.
Out in the suburbs, if you attended a recent Torah Learning Center of Northbrook session the Monday before Shavuot, you would have gotten a fuller meaning of the “Gift-of-the-Torah” holiday from Rabbi Yehoshua Karsh. The noon session was held at a Buffalo Grove bank.
If you went to Chicago Torah Network’s lunch session at the Northbrook Jewish Community Center (JCC), you would have picked up tips from Rabbi Moshe Katz on “Living Life to Its Fullest.” You’d have also done another mitzvah as lunch is provided by Keshet’s KJ Café.
Similar to the downtown programs, suburban Lunch and Learn sessions are convenient to business people, retirees and non-working parents interested in scholarly Jewish thought and their applications.
“I love going to the class. It’s a chance to continue my Jewish education as an adult,” said Sam Cole, an attorney who works downtown, but lives in a Northern suburb. He attends a Lunch and Learn session led by B’nai Joshua Beth Elohim (BJBE) Assistant Rabbi Brian Stoller at a congregant’s Loop office. “It’s something I look forward to every month,” Sam said.
The rabbis choose their topics and often distribute handouts with pertinent quotes or passages. Topics are often listed ahead of time based on a theme, holiday or current events that impact the Jewish world. Some lunches are provided by the host and at others, participants bring their own.
“The Lunch and Learn is a vehicle for engaging people. It offers a connection to Judaism,” said Rabbi Stoller. “It works because it’s offered at a time and place convenient for them. It’s a way people can take a break during week. I want anybody who has an interest in Jewish learning to be able to learn,” he said. “It’s a part of our (BJBE) approach, “Where you want it, when you want it” program.
Rabbi Vernon Kurtz, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park has been teaching a monthly “Study in the Loop” for congregants for more than 32 years for. His class has also been expanded to Northbrook, held in conjunction with the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago. “Classes focus on everything from ethical
issues to pre-holiday to current events using rabbinic and contemporary sources,” said Rabbi Kurtz. “Being in the city allows me to see congregants and study with them in their own setting,” he added. “It helps me build a more personal relationship with them and creates a Jewish experience during the business day.”
Pamela Rose participates in a “JetNet” luncheon sponsored by Rabbi Zev Kahn of the Jewish Educational Team
At a recent JetNet Lunch and Learn, two political authorities addressed issues of Jewish concern connected to the upcoming presidential election. “It’s an interesting subject. And this is good for networking,” attorney Sally Pissetzky said, explaining why she came.
The opportunity to hear interesting, Jewish-related subjects, learn more about JET and meet other business people are high on Pamela Rose’s list, a well-known corporate realtor who started the JetNet branch. “I wanted to add balance to people’s business life. My reason was twofold: Jewish learning downtown and to support JET’s efforts,” said Rose who co-hosted the event.
The common denominator among rabbis teaching the sessions and participants is an eagerness to discuss all things Jewish. Rabbi Ezra Belsky of the Komimiyus-North Shore Torah Center conducts a Lunch and Learn every other week at the Much Shelist law firm on North Wacker Drive. He also holds day and evening classes in the suburbs. His topics range from Jewish philosophy and the Bible to history and ethics – the full gamut. Characterizing his work as “outreach,” Rabbi Belsky said, “I do it for Jews who admit they didn’t learn everything in Sunday School. Wherever there are Jews interested in studying, I’ll show up.”
August 17, 2012 By
The second annual “The Business Event” held on June 14, 2012 proved to be a powerful networking tool and business development opportunity for almost 5,000 people. Held at LincolnwoodTownCenterin Lincolnwood, The Business Event combined job se
ekers, employers and vendors in
an atmosphere of exchanging ideas, connections and resources. Spearheaded by Shalom Klein, founder of the Jewish B2B Networking and publisher of Jewish Business News, in conjunction with the Small Business Advocacy Council, the event showcased the importance of face-to-face meetings.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9) speaks to Shalom Klein, Chairman of Jewish B2B Networking, and other business networkers
“It was a great event with an exciting sharing of ideas,” said Lisa Sheridan of The Giving Tree. “People were open to meeting and wanted to connect our organization with other non-profits.”
More than 20 different breakout sessions led by industry experts were presented throughout the day. Seminars
on job searching, networking techniques, Linked In, resume reviews and more assisted job seekers in their quest. Sessions entitled, “Keeping Up with Today’s Resume Development While Holding on to Your Sanity” and “Building Your Business Using Social Media” were jam packed.
Shabsai Schuchatowitz from New York Life was “looking to both expand and hire,” while Russ Vollmer of Cash Coupon was searching for potential advertisers as well as sales people.
Local politicians greeted the crowd
State and national politicians U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, U.S.Congressman Robert Dold, Deputy Chicago City Treasurer Tom Johnson, Lincolnwood Mayor Jerry Turry, and Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen were among the political leaders who attended and came away with the message of “we need jobs.”
Thousands of networkers arrived at Lincolnwood Town Center on June 14′th for the second annual free business and employment expo
At the Village of Lincolnwood’s April meeting, Mayor Turry recognized the efforts of Shalom Klein in helping to stimulate small business and economic development by issuing a resolution proclaiming June 14, 2012 as “The Business Event Day.”
A Real Networking Event
Many of the participants were there to just make connections. DePaul MBA students Steve Kaplan and Ian Menger were scouting out jobs. Kaplan is studying leadership and change management and searching for an opportunity in a people-based consultancy, while Menger is seeking a position in marketing brand management.
Larry Bloom, president of ATI Graphics, Highland Park, thought it was a great group of networkers and it was time well spent. “I even bought a new watch band!”
Vendor Rodger Kadet of Private Jewelers said he met a lot of new people to do further business with in the future. “I also plan to join theSBAC,” he added.
Steve Jaffe of eDot felt the event gave his company an opportunity to demonstrate their newest technology in network security. They were also there to recruit specialized systems engineers.
Stan Gertz, president of American Enterprise Bank,Highland Park, saw a good flow of people throughout the day. “There’s a lot of great potential for us to follow up on. The event created new leads we might not have had otherwise.”
Plans are already underway for the next Business Event scheduled for June 2013.
August 13, 2012 By
Ask Northbrook resident Natalie Penner about the volunteer work that she does, and she can’t stop raving about Keshet. While she has embraced the organization wholeheartedly, Keshet is also grateful to her. Penner designed and painted Keshet
’s colorful “Rainbow of Friendship” tribute cards that feature a picture of children painting a rainbow. Thanks to these meaningful cards, Penner has helped raise almost a million dollars since 1995.
The Keshet image, as featured on the greeting card’s by Natalie Penner
“Keshet is just a wonderful program,” says Penner, 84, the mother of three grown children and grandmother of four. “Keshet wraps its arms around the children and helps them in every possible way. Keshet gives purpose to these kids and their families.”
The Northbrook-based non-profit organization was founded in 1982 and provides educational, recreational and vocational programs for children and young adults with developmental disabilities.
Penner started volunteering for Keshet 17 years ago when her grandson, Adam, now 23, was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. “When Adam was diagnosed, I felt our lives were going to change for the worst, but I was wrong,” says Penner, who was married to her late husband, Richard, for 60 years. “Adam received speech and physical therapy and because of Keshet, I’ve met the best people I’ve ever known.”
For a minimum contribution of $18, individuals can order cards for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, “speedy recoveries,” birth of babies, as well as for the death of a family member. Penner’s artwork graces the front of each card, and her distinctive calligraphy – Penner has had her own calligraphy business for more than 50 years- announces the contribution, inside of each card.
“I enjoy doing the cards because it allows me to use my creativity to raise money that will further Keshet’s mission,” Penner says. “It’s also given me a
passion in my life to think that my calligraphy may help to send a child with special needs to school or to camp or in any way make a difference in their life,” she adds.
“Natalie Penner, our resident Grandmother to all, is one of the most loving people I know,” said Abbie Weisberg, Keshet, CEO/Executive Director. “Natalie’s artwork warms the walls of Keshet and we are forever grateful for her dedication to all cheap viagra online the children of Keshet”
Keshet recently exhibited the KJ Cafe at “The Business Event” in Lincolnwood Town Center
Eight years ago, Penner also started a “Grandparents Plus” group, a group of 25-30 grandparents who meet four times a year on Sunday afternoons. “We have a speaker who talks about issues pertaining to special needs children,” says Penner, who’s the current president of the group. “We also giftwrap packages at neighborhood bookstores to raise money for Keshet.”
For more information about Keshet, go to www.keshet.org.
August 7, 2012 By
.jpg” alt=”" width=”300″ height=”241″ />For many years, I’ve led a weekly “Lunch and Learn” program on Wednesdays at 12:10 p.m. It moved from place to place as law firms moved and consolidated, as members
moved from firm to firm, and, finally, as MetroKlub opened its doors downtown.
The program ranged from 10 people or more to even just a few regulars, loyal every-weekers. You would never know who was coming, which new people would come, which people would move on to another shiur or another schedule. However, the people who participated have been some of the most important leaders in our community. It is really because of this shiur that people connected with Anshe Sholom, and eventually joined and helped build our eruv, day school and mikvah. Others moved on to make aliya or to become leaders of other synagogues throughout the country. More than any other shiur I give throughout the week, the “Lunch and Learn” inspires me to appreciate the commitment of my members and non-members to Torah and community.
This “Lunch and Learn” embodies Torah with Derech Eretz – the “way of the land” – the way we contribute to creating a world which works and functions. It symbolizes that Torah and work are not mutually exclusive. With enough effort, we can find ways of bring the two together – bringing Torah to where we work, and bringing the energy we bring to our jobs to the Torah that we learn. And if we can combine Torah Im Derech Eretz with good, kosher food, in a kosher establishment – then Torah and hard work come together with mitzvot as well.
Moreover, some of the people who regularly attend a monthly “Lunch and Learn” that I give in Skokie on Thursdays (currently at Ken’s Diner) are also retirees. The message that they send is that while they may have retired from working at jobs that pay them money, their “derech eretz” and Torah continue in their volunteer activities and Torah learning.
The “Lunch and Learn” programs all over Chicago and the world are a tribute to our
Jewish brothers and sisters who understand that contributing to the world while keeping Torah the central focus and foundation of our lives is an age old tradition.
July 17, 2012 By
Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford opened an exhibit today in Chicago’s James R. Thompson Center to honor the Polish Righteous Among the Nations, a group of men and women who helped save Jewish people from the Nazis during World War II.
e exhibit is titled “Righteous Among the Nations – Help of Polish people for the Jewish population in Malopolska Province in the years 1939-1945.” The exhibit is sponsored by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance and is being co-presented at the Thompson Center thanks
to cooperation between the Polish Consul General Zygmunt Matynia and Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford.
At the unveiling of the Polish Art Exhibit "Righteous Among the Nations - Help of the Polish people for the Jewish population in Malopolska Province in the years 1939-1945" with Deputy Polish Consul General Robert Rusiecki.
“This exhibit is successful in its mission to teach about the virtues of selflessness and courage. It demonstrates how one’s life choices can change the course of history for entire generations of people,” said Rutherford.
This exhibit commemorates the Polish Righteous Among the Nations, people living in southern Poland during World War II, who demonstrated extraordinary courage and risked their own lives – and the lives of their families – to rescue Jewish men, women and children from extermination by the Nazis. The exhibit is a tribute to the rescuers who by saving a single life saved entire generations.
Polish citizens were the only people in the entire Nazi-occupied territory who were punished by death for helping Jewish people. Over 19,000 people worldwide have been honored by the State of Israel as the Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jewish lives from the Holocaust, and more than 6,300 were Polish citizens, the highest number from any country.
Some may find various images of the exhibit disturbing, but the message the exhibit carries is overwhelmingly positive. It will be displayed for the week of July 16-20, and is located in the ground level atrium of the James R. Thompson Center, 100 West Randolph Street, Chicago.
May 17, 2012 By
Groundbreaking boys: Mr. Avroham Brandes, Boruch Brandes, Naftali Soloveichik, Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, Joshua Schur, Mr. Baruch Schur
The Jewish community turned out in force on April 22nd to celebrate the groundbreaking for the Libenu Home of west Rogers Park, and to show support for independence and inclusion for Jewish adults with special needs. Despite the crisp weather, over 200 people were in attendance as leaders of the community welcomed the Libenu residents and praised the efforts of the organization. The Groundbreaking Ceremony represented a true spirit of “achdus” or unity for the Jewish community, as supporters from all walks of Jewish life were in attendance.
The program included Divrei Torah and Bracha (Words of Torah and Blessing) from prominent Rabbis in the community. Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik of Congregation Beth Shalom Ahavas Achim, addressed the gathering, noting that “We are not simply breaking ground for a house, but for a true ‘home’ in which we welcome the Libenu residents as equals and important members of our community.” Rabbi Efraim Twerski of Khal Chasidim, described the event not as “Groundbreaking, but as Earth-Shattering.” Rabbi Gedaliah Dov Schwartz, Av Bet Den of the Chicago Rabbinical Council was not able to attend in person, but sent a letter in which he stated, “May Hashem bless all of those who have spared no effort to make this project feasible for our community, and may it be an outstanding recognition to create such a facility which gives credit to the Torah values by which it will be operated.” Rabbi Leonard Matanky of Congregation K.I.N.S. also wrote, “The Libenu Foundation is responding to a critical need by providing opportunities for Jewish adults to live independently, in kosher homes that adhere to Torah values, as fully included and valued members of the Jewish community.”
Groundbreaking 1: L to R: Rabbi Efraim Twerski (Khal Chasidim), Mr. Shael Bellows, Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik (Beth Shalom Ahavas Achim), Dr. Yigal Yahav, Rabbi Sidney Glenner, Rabbi Yosef Davis, Mr. Baruch Schur
The Libenu Foundation was honored to have many of its supporters don “Libenu” hard-hats, grab shovels, and participate in groundbreaking. Undoubtedly the most touching moment of the ceremony was when the Libenu residents and their friends came up to participate. Baruch Schur, Vice President of the Libenu Foundation and parent of resident Josh, commented, “The involvement of the Libenu residents, current and future, in the groundbreaking for their own home, is a symbol of hope for the future for all parents of children with special needs.”
Alderman Debra Silverstein, co-founder of the Libenu foundation, spoke about the organization’s remarkable achievements over the past two and one half years. Silverstein spoke about Libenu’s plans for the future, which include a home for women that will be a first in the Chicago Jewish community. Dr. Shana Erenberg, co-founder and President of Libenu, discussed the
ongoing needs and Libenu’s growing waiting list. Erenberg stated, “Thank G-d, Libenu has been able to accomplish a great deal in a relatively short period of time, but there is still much to be done. Together, as a community, we can enable Jewish adults with special needs to live independently, with dignity and respect.”
Senator Ira Silverstein and Rabbi Zev Cohen
For more information about the Libenu Foundation and to find out how you can help, contact email@example.com or 847.982.0340 ext. 227.