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Early Risers

Rochel Burstyn

These five entrepreneurs started their businesses very young and today have flourishing companies. What’s their advice for anyone who dreams of working for themselves?

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

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D

ANIEL GEFEN

London-born-and-bred, Gefen began married life as a campus rabbi in California, but soon found himself out of a job. He returned home to London with his wife and baby boy and took a job as a cashier at his father’s grocery store. But he wasn’t happy. “I found the work unchallenging,” he says.

His wife pushed him to find something more suited to his talents, so he went to Work Avenue, a Jewish career-services organization in Britain, where a business advisor shared an idea: virtual secretaries. He’d heard the trend was picking up steam in the United States, and Gefen agreed it could be a growth area.

Gefen, 25 at the time, began calling everyone he knew to land clients. Eventually, his company launched: Jet Virtual, a telephone answering service that provides a remote, full-time receptionist. Clients’ calls are diverted to a professional secretary, who transfers calls, takes messages and payments, and manages schedules.

Building on his success, Gefen then started Jet Virtual Offices, a company that makes small businesses appear larger and more impressive than they are by allowing them — for a small monthly fee — to have a business address for meetings in locations such as Regent Street, Wall Street, Grand Central Station, and Beverly Hills. (Gefen has agreements with the office owners in those locations and only pays per usage.) The idea was a spur-of-the-moment brainstorm. “When a client asks if you provide services, the answer should always be yes. One day, a client asked me if I offered virtual offices. I said yes, while quickly googling to find out what that was!”

Within two years, Gefen was working 16- to 18-hour days and feeling frustrated with his unreliable workers, who would come late, when they showed up at all. Especially awkward was when his secretary, 30 years his senior, took out her bad mood on a client.

Those seemed like dark times and Gefen was ready to give up. “Suddenly, I had a crazy idea: I fired all my employees and outsourced every aspect of the work to my competitors, down to administration, invoicing, and chasing payments.” That move freed Gefen to work on the business instead of in the business.

“At first I was literally working out of a hotel lobby,” he says. “I was there so much, I was often mistaken for the manager. Eventually, I realized I could live absolutely anywhere in the world and within the year, moved my family to Israel.”

Today, Jet Virtual and Jet Virtual Offices run themselves, with Gefen only checking in about one hour per week.

 

With all that extra time on his hands, Gefen went looking for new ventures. In October, he launched GetFeatured.Media, a PR agency that guarantees businesses-brand exposure through placement in major publications, and on radio and podcast broadcasts.

Gefen isn’t done yet. Next on his list is the launch of a company he’s calling Gelt. The firm will set up wealthy Jewish investors with Jewish businesses looking for investment.

Words of Wisdom

Key to Success

“I’m continuously working on my business — creating better systems, making new deals — and not getting wrapped up in the day-to-day details that go into working in it.”

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