Business Scene

Jerusalemite Michael Mizrahi, 30, the proprietor of Blossom, a company that sculpts live flowers and plants, was named entrepreneur of the year.

michael mizrahi 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
michael mizrahi 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
PRIME MINISTER and Acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert last week met with the board of directors of Goldman Sachs, which for the first time held its board meeting in Israel. Goldman Sachs has been involved with numerous offerings by Israeli companies. The meeting, presided over by the bank's chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein, was held in Jerusalem at the Tower of David Museum. The directors met with Olmert prior to the meeting, and were briefed by him on the most recent economic data. He was happy to tell them that growth is up, unemployment and poverty rates have been reduced, interest rates are low, foreign investment is rising and that Israel is in the process of joining the OECD. "I am proud that you chose to convene your board of directors in Jerusalem," Olmert said. "The fact that a major financial institution, one of the most important in the world, is holding working meetings of this kind in Israel is very significant for us. What we still need is for global companies such as yours to invest in Israel, which has much to offer." Goldman Sachs has a policy of holding one meeting each year at a venue other than its New York headquarters. Blankfein said Israel was chosen for this year's overseas meeting because of its strong economy. The board meeting was also attended by some 160 leading figures from Israel's business community, including Lev Leviev, Shari Arison, Yitzhak Tshuva, Nochi Dankner, Yossi Vardi, Michael Federmann, Zadik Bino, Shlomo Nehama, Ofra Strauss, Moti Zisser, Shlomo Dovrat, Idan Ofer, Galia Maor and other notables. KEREN SHEMESH, a philanthropic fund for young entrepreneurs established by the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and the Sacta-Rashi Foundation to assist young entrepreneurs to transform good ideas into successful businesses, held its first Entrepreneur of the Year award ceremony at the Ben Shemen Youth Village. There, Jerusalemite Michael Mizrahi, 30, the proprietor of Blossom, a company that sculpts live flowers and plants, was named entrepreneur of the year. Mizrahi practices a technique he learned in China. He was one of 10 finalists out of 130 Keren Shemesh young entrepreneurs, and received a NIS 20,000 prize to help boost his business. Second place went to Keren Sinai and Sari Mendrovich, both 29, who opened a make-up and accessories studio for haredi women in Bnei Brak; and third place to Rachel Malasa, 33, who came to Israel from Ethiopia 16 years ago, and is now the proprietor of Injara, an ethnic Ethiopian restaurant in Tel Aviv. Injara is the name for Ethiopian-style bread. Keren Shemesh encourages young entrepreneurs to find their individual potential and to take responsibility for what they do. At the same time, it provides a package of assistance in establishing a business by offering counseling, training and interest-free and linkage-free loans of up to NIS 90,000. MEMBERS OF the haredi community are no less interested in lifestyle publications than anyone else - with the exception that they have a different take on content and are more specific about what should be excluded rather than what should be included. Neither advertisements nor editorial texts should contain photographs of women, a rule that few - if any - non-haredi lifestyle publications would impose on themselves. However, Shalhevet Hasdiel, the publisher of the new haredi lifestyle magazine Fine, has no problem maintaining that particular standard, because it's something she grew up with. The 36-year old mother of three has spent her whole life in Bnei Brak, but unlike many of her contemporaries, she is university educated, has worked in the non-religious media and is, among other things, a financial consultant to heads of secular companies that want to break into the haredi market. She also broadcasts on Radio Kol Hai, makes occasional television appearances and writes for various publications. What inspired her new venture was the knowledge that when affluent haredim travel abroad, they tend to look at lifestyle magazines at airport news stands, but they don't buy them because they contain illustrations that are not in keeping with the haredi outlook. Hasdiel realized that there was a void, and that she could fill it. In terms of editorial content, articles will deal with halachic issues such as what a non-Jewish caregiver is permitted to do in the house on Shabbat and whether it is mandatory to leave one wall of the house incomplete in memory of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. According to Hasdiel, the secular advertisers whom she has approached have not raised too many objections about taking women out of their advertisements, and most have shown understanding for haredi sensitivities. However, she has to be aware of other things that might be offensive. For instance, she cannot and will not accept advertisements from business enterprises that operate on Shabbat, and she has to check all advertising texts several times over to make sure that not a single word is offensive to haredi sensibilities. THE NEW chairman of the Beth Hatefutsoth board of directors is former government minister Natan Sharansky, the founder of the now defunct Yisrael B'Aliyah party that represented the Russian immigrant community in the Knesset. Sharansky was elected unanimously at the June 18 meeting of the Beth Hatefutsoth board of directors by representatives of all the institutions that govern Beth Hatefutsoth: the government, the Jewish Agency, the World Jewish Congress and Tel Aviv University, as well as representatives of the public at large. Sharansky's appointment became effective immediately. He replaces former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat, who assumed the position three years ago purely to help Beth Hatefutsoth during an emergency period when it was in danger of being shut down. Lahat, who made a considerable contribution to the stabilization of the situation, thus enabling the continuity and development of the institution, will continue to sit on its board of governors. Sharansky, one of the most widely known former prisoners of Zion, refuseniks and freedom fighters, was released from a Siberian prison and came to Israel in 1986. Ten years later, in 1996, he was elected to the 14th Knesset as head of Yisrael B'Aliyah. Since then, and until his resignation from the Knesset in November 2006, he filled a number of important positions in government. Sharansky currently serves as chair of strategic studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, but he is no stranger to Beth Hatefutsoth. During his term as minister for Diaspora Affairs, he was recruited to assist Beth Hatefutsoth in its struggle to survive, and he is credited with bringing in philanthropist and trailblazer Leonid Nevzlin, who now serves as chair of Beth Hatefutsoth's international board of governors. THE FACT that Osem chairman Dan Propper is also chairman of the Israel Friends of the Israel Museum has made it possible for 500 schoolchildren from Sderot to spend some time away from the threats of Kassam rockets and to have a fun-filled day at the Israel Museum. At Propper's initiative, Osem will fund both the trip and the visit, which Propper says will also be of educational value because the youngsters will tour many parts of the museum. THE PLANT Group headed by Eli Hollander and Jackie Bar of Tempo are the new Israeli franchisees for Dolce & Gabbana jewelry and watches, which were previously represented in Israel by Home Time. The Plant Group has counters at the new Hamashbir chain of department stores, in addition to its 10 Plant stores throughout the country and 12 retail outlets in Eilat. Plant's sales turnover in 2006 was NIS 105 million. Hollander expects sales to exceed NIS 130 million in 2007 with the inclusion of Dolce & Gabbana.