The Mensch on the Bench: How to Start a Business and Keep the Lights On

When Neal Hoffman’s son — whom he and his wife were raising in the Jewish faith — expressed interest in the Elf on the Shelf, Hoffman had an idea for an analogous toy for Jewish families: the Mensch on a Bench. The Yiddish word for a person of honorable character, Hoffman gave his mensch a role in the story of Hanukkah and named him Moshe. He and his wife, Erin, believed in the idea, but didn’t want to risk their life savings and jobs.

Hoffman bought a trademark and developed a prototype for the toy for less than $1,000. He wrote a book, designed a website and found a company that could replicate the prototype. To keep control of the project, he used crowdfunding, which raises small amounts of money from large numbers of people without sacrificing equity. With the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, he raised $22,000 in startup capital.

Read more about how Hoffman launched his idea without risking his job in Gargi Apte (MBA ’14), Greer J. McPhaden (MBA ’01), Gerry Yemen and Professor Gregory B. Fairchild’s article “Mensch on a Bench: An Innovator Creates a Business Without Quitting His Day Job,” in the Darden School of Business/Washington Post “Case in Point” series.

About the Faculty

Gregory B. Fairchild

Fairchild is an expert in business strategy, business ethics, leadership and entrepreneurship. He specializes in underserved, overlooked markets and has taught financial literacy to victims of domestic violence, and has launched a program to teach entrepreneurship and business skills to inmates re-entering society.

Fairchild was named one of the 10 Best Business School Professors in the... Learn More