Jewish Journal


February 14, 2011

The business bug


My Israeli father was always coming up with ideas for new businesses: a massive three-day cultural festival to boost tourism in Northern Israel; a massage table with mechanical fingers; a restaurant that would serve dozens of little dishes with Israeli salads before the main entrees (this was long before Itzik Hagadol). They never materialized into actual businesses, but the ideas were always flowing.

My Israeli husband is also a serial entrepreneur: At 10, he bought a crate of sabras — cactus pears — and stood in the hot sun in the middle of his town’s plaza peddling fruit to passersby. His grandfather came by and bought the whole crate. Since then, he’s owned a pizzeria, a salad-bar restaurant and dozens of mall carts selling everything from toy helicopters to aromatherapy pillows as well as a custom apparel kiosk.

I suppose that with them as inspiration, it was inevitable that I, too, would catch the entrepreneurial bug. One day, nearly three years ago, my dad handed me an article he had torn out of an Israeli magazine. I read it and thought, “What an intriguing article.” He told me to show it to my husband, who said, “What an amazing business idea” — the difference between the minds of a journalist and an entrepreneur.

We opened a therapeutic salt room in Encino in 2009 and thus began my journey into the thrilling and terrifying realm of business, a path I had never imagined walking and was ill equipped to navigate. At 10, I made my mom go door-to-door selling Girl Scout cookies for me. The idea of approaching strangers and trying to sell them something they might not want made me queasy. The thought of getting rejected, over and over again, paralyzed me with fear, and no amount of cool prizes or the coveted Top Seller patch was enough to motivate me to ring a single doorbell.

It takes confidence to sell a product — confidence in yourself and confidence in your product. (Israelis, remarkable salespeople that they are, are often able to get by on self-confidence alone.) It takes enormous courage, too, to start your own business, to not just sell a product, but also sell an idea, a vision. Your vision.

In this issue we feature six entrepreneurs, each with a unique vision. All are hard-working, risk-taking, self-starting visionaries based in our neck of the woods, the kind of people who are the foundation of our economy and the not-so-secret secret behind America’s greatness.

But before you read, be warned: The venture virus is highly contagious, and even articles have been known to pass it on. Symptoms may include increased heart rate, headaches, insomnia, depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, excitability, delusional thoughts and, on rare occasions, euphoria.

Despite having experienced most of these symptoms at one point or another along the way, telling people that I am the owner of Salt Chalet is right up there on the pride scale with telling people I am the mother of Matan Mashiah and I’m editing TRIBE magazine.

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