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Small Business, Big Profit

C.B. Gavant

Whether you converted your basement into a store or created your own graphics firm from scratch, you’ve spent hours and hours trying to make your company profitable. But most months, you barely break even. How to take your business to the next level — and start bringing in real profits

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

For years, Chavi Zimman* worked as a graphic artist for a successful firm. But when the economy worsened, the company took a nosedive, leading to budget cuts and salary slashes.

When Chavi sized up her new work situation, she decided to make a change —a big one. With her husband’s blessing, she quit her job to open up a graphics business of her own. Chavi, who lives in Lakewood, New Jersey, figured that the advantages of being her own boss and working from home, with minimal overhead, would offset the disadvantages of having to find her own clients and balance her own books.

So she dreamed up a catchy name for her company, created a cute logo, and began to advertise. Business started to trickle in, with many clients attracted to her well-honed professional skills and relatively low prices.

But as the months went by, she noticed something strange … and altogether unsettling. Despite the many hours she was pouring into her business and the hundreds of dollars spent on advertising, she was still barely covering her mortgage and other basic expenses. Her income didn’t even come close to the amount she had received at her old firm. Worse, the hours she spent cultivating clients just seemed to fizzle out.

What was going wrong? Chavi didn’t know, but something had to change fast if her business was going to stay afloat.

Like Chavi, many frum women run businesses, either providing services from their homes or actually opening storefronts and offices to generate parnassah for their families. But too often, these women struggle to make their company profitable. Especially in today’s economy, it’s hard enough to stay solvent. So how can self-employed earners and small-business owners streamline their efforts, make more money — and actually see the fruits of their labor?


What It Takes to Succeed

Educating yourself about business fundamentals is a crucial first step. Look into taking a small-business course. You can also gain a lot by attending a small-business convention, such as the one held in Jerusalem earlier this year by Kishor Women’s Professional Network. At the conference, titled “From Dream to Success: Tools to Build Your Business,” several hundred attendees networked with other frum businesswomen and took workshops on how to create — and sustain — a successful company.

As participants learned, there’s a big difference between running a business, and running it well. How do you know if you have the elements necessary to manage a successful company? One way to tell, says Debra Kodish, founder and president of a Jerusalem-based investment bank called Kodish Capital, is if you can answer “yes” to most of the following questions: Are you passionate about your business? Are you filling a need? Are you cutting costs for others? Do you know who you’re selling to and who your target audience is?

Ideally, these questions should be asked before your business is launched, but even if your business is struggling, it’s not too late to ask the questions. Consider it an opportunity to reevaluate your business plan. If your passion has shifted or the money isn’t coming in, you should take a good hard look at what you’re doing and see what can be done differently.

Admittedly, this may take a few hours, or even days. “Having a business is like having another child. It’s just as demanding, if not more,” comments Naomi Elbinger, cofounder of MavenMall, a new online shopping mall for frum women. Indeed, running your own company requires a serious time commitment in the beginning when you’re launching your “baby” — and every step along the way. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t want to learn and create and contribute something to the world,” Naomi adds.

Beyond business basics and clocking in enough hours, your personal sense of ethics can also impact how much money you bring in. “If you’re a person of absolute integrity, that will be reflected in your numbers,” asserts Bella Werzberger, a New York-based personal success coach whose specialty is in career and business coaching.

“We built our business on emes,” agrees Gilda Naiman, owner of Gifts by Gilda and the Silver Gallery, two highly successful shops in Baltimore. “Whenever anything comes up, we always ask sh’eilos. When you do the right thing, Hashem takes care of the rest.” (See sidebar)

“We started out 27 years ago with a line of ten silver-plated items,” adds Gilda. “The fact that we’ve kept on growing is pure siyata d’Shmaya.”


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