Friday, May 17, 2013

How to start a business in Israel

By Nicole Hazan

You might not think the school canteen to be the most obvious place to start a business, but that's where my partner, Naomi and I first came about our idea for Speak UP! summer camp. Watching our students file past us with trays of food, we reminisced about our childhood summers where we attended summer camps, bemoaning that many Israeli youth sat at home, bored all summer long. Speak UP! is a way for Naomi and I to give Israeli youth the experience we had; an American style summer camp focused on drama and art, including jewelry-making, playwriting and hip-hop choreography. Being classroom English teachers that both love creativity, the idea itself was developed easily, however, we were teachers not business women, and setting up a personal business was a huge challenge for us. Here are some things we have learned so far along the way, which you should bear in mind when setting up your own Israeli business as a new immigrant :

1. That's not me, it's Yaniv...If I never hear that phrase, or something similar again, it will be too soon. It doesn't matter how many times you have been told by Dan that Yaniv's job is to price the cost of lunch per student, 9 times out of 10 he will tell you he has nothing to do with it, and you in fact need to talk to Yonatan. But when you get to Yonatan...well, you get the picture. This system of deferring is something, that as olim, we are unfamiliar with and need to deal with if we don't want to end up losing our sanity. My advice: leave plenty of time to get things done. Israeli bureaucracy is, to put it mildly, frustrating, so expect that and leave yourself a few extra weeks to get things done so you don't end up in a last minute panic.

2. Know your strengths: As Olim, we are at a disadvantage in many ways. In Israel, I don't have a car, I don't write Hebrew well and I don't have the Jewish community I could have relied on in England in order to advertise Speak UP! The good news is that we do have the Olim network at our disposal. Olim naturally want to help other Olim so use this to your advantage. Secret Tel Aviv and other Anglo Facebook groups are a blessing; take the time to search them out and advertise there. In the same way, don't be afraid to ask for help. My cousin helped us with our costs, my friend drove us to different schools to advertise, and Naomi's boyfriend designed our flyers. Relying on people close to us, both Israeli and Olim, helped us get professional results without the cost. 

3. Don't waste your time: Time is money, after all. One afternoon walking around Ra'anana putting posters on bilboards in the hot sun taught us that. Who knew that away from Tel Aviv the suburbs would be so sprawling? Many of the posters were covered the next day anyway and our four hours pinning, taping and stapling were pretty much a waste of time. Think things through before you do them, decide on where your target audience will look, and what you think will profit the best results. Naomi and I have instead taken to flyering outside elementary and middle schools as the students leave, where we know our target audience, the kids, will be.

These are things I wish I had known before Naomi and I started planning. Enjoy the process too and if you make mistakes, don't regret them.  After all, everything is a learning curve. Good luck!

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Nicole Hazan made aliyah from London, England in 2010. Nicole and Naomi Strom, two English teachers at Hakfar HaYarok middle and high school in Ramat HaSharon,  have collaborated to create Speak UP!an exciting drama and arts summer camp in English this summer at the kfar. The summer camp, which is taking place in July 2013, is for youth ages 11-14 with a good level of English.
For info about the camp, email


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