Jerusalem, Israel - June 20, 2017 - Starring in a movie, has focused world attention on Israeli Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot. However, there are hundreds, even thousands, more Wonder Women living and working in Israel. Each of these women has a unique story of how they arrived to their current business endeavor. While much attention has been focused on high tech start-ups recently, there are also more diverse businesses developing in Israel.
Israeli interest focused groups abound on Facebook. Multiple groups exist for new olim, for cities, towns, even neighborhoods, vast Facebook interest groups can be found in Hebrew and English.
IWEN, Israeli Women Entrepreneurs' Network, is one relatively new, private, but rapidly growing Facebook group. As one founder, Miriam Lottner stated, "A year ago I started IWEN with Laura Cowan and Janice Kaye to help Anglo female entrepreneurs in Israel (mainly low/no tech industries). I don't think we conceived how big it would be or how incredible of a resource it would become. Over 700 members and growing every day!"
This past Thursday, 42 IWEN members took their Facebook collaboration to a new level and met for a one day retreat at the Yehudah Hotel in the scenic hills of Jerusalem, Israel.
"Six months or so ago I joined a Facebook group for women entrepreneurs here in Israel." said volunteer retreat organizer, Zoe Bermant. "I needed a break and felt that many of the women in the group did too. When many expressed a desire to have a break but no one stood up and took charge, I organised a retreat and meet for 42 of us. What transpired was one of the most inspirational and empowering events of my life. Many hours laughing, drinking, getting to know each other outside of Facebook. Some of the small business owners donated gift samples of their products to make up an amazing gift bag for each member. We had a book swap area, a product display and sell area. We did arts and crafts and improv games! It's been such an amazing experience and I can't wait to do it again!" Bermant, with two start-up businesses in various stages of development, plus a consulting business, has two young children at home and a husband involved in academics, exemplifies the olah entrepreneur.
IWEN initiator, Lottner created and produced educational and popular Reveal Israel and Reveal Chai card games that can now be found at tourist spots throughout the country and is about to launch a similar international brand focused on outerspace and various travel destinations around the globe. Kaye runs a successful on-line business selling Israeli made products around the world, while renowned silversmith Cowan designs and produces a variety of high-end Judaica items under her brand Laura Cowan.
Among the women participating in the IWEN retreat were numerous small business owners, business coaches, writers and editors, a doula, "just a nurse," and from Maryland, Jody Werner Parente, a Localization Engineering Consultant and unclutterer and organizer extraordinaire, Rebekah Chaifetz Saltzman.
Leah Karp, has developed craft kits under name of StringBridge. Specialty dyed fabrics and scarves by Suzanne Dekel utilize the natural colors of Israel. Israeli Ceremonie Tea, with its factory in Migdal Emek, has grown under CEO Efrat Shorr with international exports.
Busy mom of 3, Shoshana Rubil, originally from Morristown NJ, after making aliyah in 2009, taught herself traditional soap-making according to ancient methods and quickly transformed her love of Israel and nature with her natural soap making processes into the wildly successful, Jerusalem Soap Company (JSC). Raised in a multicultural and diverse family, Shoshana keenly appreciates and celebrates what Israel means to Jews as well as to the rest of the world and is proud to export JSC hand-made artistic soaps into Azerbaijan market this summer.
Tracey Lipman, shared her story with BJL, "Life got busy, I didn't do much sewing until fast forward to my fourth pregnancy. By now I knew what I wanted in a diaper bag but, as my kupat cholim gave me a free one, my frugal husband said we didn't need to buy a new one. I hated that bag! I wanted a NEW bag, a bag that had the compartments I wanted, so I said 'fine I'll make my own!' And I did! With a toddler on my knee and my baby in a swing I made my first bag. As I used my bag I worked on the design. I created new versions until I finally had a diaper bag I loved and I found other people wanted one too!
As my daughter grew my range expanded to include items as her needs and mine changed. A changing mat that could be put in the washing machine AND the dryer. A pretty wallet to hold everything I needed in organised pockets. A passport holder to hold all our dual nationality passports. A cell phone bag for the carpool dash. Stylish purses and handbags with lots of pockets.
Each product in my range is based on the same principle. I use the first of a new design and adapt and change the pattern to make it more functional, whilst never compromising on the style. A great design does not just happen, it takes a thought process. It involves a fusion of quality components sourced worldwide, brought together with care and attention. These are lovingly cut by hand, piece by piece to showcase the fabric design. They are then carefully ironed and bonded with the appropriate number of interfacings for each section of the finished product. And then I sew ..... bringing each piece together to make a final product I want my customers to love the look of as much as they love using.
As Lipman, says, "Life happens and takes turns we never expect. Who would have thought the needlework skills I learned as a child would lead to a career as a bag maker. Follow your dreams and use your stubbornness to learn from your mistakes to get you there!"
Announced at IWEN retreat, for an Israeli first, a women's cooperative, a shop to be based n Jerusalem's First Station. Tourists from around the world will be able to access these Israeli women's wonders for one stop shopping for all their gifts needs before returning home from Israel.
Jewish women came from as far as Haifa and Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel, for the IWEN retreat. On Friday, the IWEN women headed home, refreshed and energized, wanting to be on time to light Shabbos candles.