Oftentimes, when women get together the talk quickly turns to babies, children and household tasks. But that wasn’t the case as several hundred, primarily Orthodox, women gathered for the 2015 Jewish Woman Entrepreneurs’ annual conference.
Held Oct. 18 and 19 at the Crowne Plaza in Stamford, Ct., the third annual JWE conference gave more than 200 women—from aspiring business owners to longtime corporate leaders—a chance to network, discuss best business practices, make contacts and learn from others in similar situations.
“I go to a lot of business conferences, but I’m definitely the odd man, or should I say odd woman, out. I love business conferences, but I’m really not included,” said Frumi Meisels of Brooklyn, owner of iCatch Media, Inc., a marketing company. “The JWE is all inclusive. It’s so inspiring. I am amazed at the power, the creativity and the dreams of the businesswomen.
“There’s so much energy here,” she continued. “It’s exhilarating.”
Founded in 2011 by Chaya Appel Fishman, the Jewish Woman Entrepreneur helps women learn the ins and outs of business so they can achieve financial independence, be successful and create economic growth in their local communities. The organization hosts workshops, offers mentoring programs, and has local city chapters across the country including a North Jersey chapter.
Women are “driven by more than just business,” Fishman told the conference attendees. “We each have a role to play in the universe and G-d is driving us. G-d can make anything happen.”
The theme of this year’s conference “Moving Upwards Together” brought together women from across the tri-state area, as well as from Baltimore, Chicago, California and beyond.
Among those representing the Garden State was Sara Younger, owner of Playland Parties, who also serves a co-chapter leader for the Northern New Jersey branch of the JWE. (Also directing the branch are Abbey Wolin of Not 2 Shabbey and Eve Cantor of Shop Your Closet.)
“As a city leader for the JWE I have learned that most of us have a dream, but many women are afraid to pursue it,” said Younger. “Women are generally less impulsive than men and are more risk averse. Being part of the JWE has allowed me to hear some amazing dreams and visions and to watch women reach amazing levels of success.”
And on a personal level, Younger noted that “being part of the JWE has helped me connect with other successful women and helped us together continue to create our dream businesses. There’s an atmosphere of collaboration, not competition. It’s like having your own private cheerleading team!”
Throughout the conference, speaker after speaker provided concrete examples of how to grow a business, whether it is focused on the retail, wholesale or service industry markets. Workshops included “Make My Own Promotional Video?”; “Creating a Five-Star Customer Service Culture”; “Getting Your Product Onto Store Shelves” and “The Superwoman’s Guide to Balance.”
One of the keynote speakers, Ariela Balk, for instance, discussed her journey from working for someone else to creating her own multimillion-dollar intimate apparel brand that sold in stores like Wal-Mart.
The president/CEO of Ariela & Associates International, Balk outlined her “five keys to success.” She advised the women to: “Decide what you really want; confront reality [what are your weaknesses]; create a plan; make money; and create a not-to-do-list [so you don’t spread yourself too thin].”
Fellow keynote speaker Julie Levi, president and founder of Progressive Promotions in Englewood, N.J., spoke on “cracking the $1 million mark.” She advised attendees to know what their company’s core values are, to set clear goals and know their “numbers,” like costs of goods and overhead, and to be clear on their strengths and weaknesses.
It may seem difficult but, Levi told the women, they all can be successful.
Miriam Weiss was a first-time conference attendee. The opportunity for networking and chizzuk drew her to the conference, and she wasn’t disappointed.
“We have a common interest,” said Weiss, the president of Sonnerie Fashion, a sewing contracting firm in Monroe, N.Y. “Usually when women talk it’s about kids and babies and I think this is the first time I am sitting with women and not talking about babies.”
When babies were talked about, it was often in the context of balancing work and family life, as Balk did in her keynote address.
“When the kids are little and the business is young, it’s a lot of pressure and you don’t have time for yourself,” said the business CEO, whose children range in age from 12 to 25. Balk added that “you do feel guilty” about not always being there.
But the hard work and sacrifices can pay off in big ways, even if that success doesn’t happen overnight.
Miriam Pascal, known to her blog readers as the Overtime Cook, believes that “people don’t see the bloggers who are starting out. Most people see those who have already achieved success, who’ve already made it—not the hard work that goes into it.”
The food blogger, whose first cookbook “Something Sweet” released to rave reviews, added, “You have to put your heart and soul into it.”
Talia Mashiach, founder and CEO of Eved event commerce in Chicago, reminded the JWE members that it is up to each of them to define success. “Hashem gives each of a talent and tafkid. It’s up to each of us to find the purpose. What more can I do with the talents I’ve been given?”
Success, she added “is feeling like you are doing your tafkid, what Hashem wants.”
By Faygie Levy Holt