Starting a second company in the middle of a pandemic is not necessarily the most outlandish thing Georgina Green has ever done.
She did, after all quit her studies in accountancy and finance – which she had done with honors and with a scholarship – at the prestigious University of Nottingham in London just six months shy of her degree. While studying for an exam, it suddenly dawned on her that she was just not accountant material, shut the book and that was that.
Just one week later she was making aliyah to be with her then-boyfriend-now-husband-and-CFO of her company, Yaniv Harel, in Israel.
“My parents were devastated. I went through private Jewish education and then I met this man who was nine-years older than me,” says Green, the founder and COO of the successful GMT HUB digital marketing company, which focuses on connecting digital applications with the right traffic sources.
“They were not impressed,” she says now, wryly. “I had thought of continuing my studies at Hebrew University but my parents were not giving me any money so I sold all the belongings of my bedroom and came to Israel and arrived at ulpan at Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael near Zichron Ya’akov with £300 and two suitcases.”
In Israel for nine years and now with her own successful digital marketing company, Green is a sought-after online marketing specialist and speaker. But still, she felt there was something missing.
“There was a gap in my soul,” says Green, 30, the mother of two boys. “I was making money but I wasn’t helping anyone. We give to charity, but I wanted to find something that could help people on a mass scale.”
Then the COVID-19 pandemic came along, and sitting in her office in Tel Aviv looking out at the empty streets, she knew that she was lucky: though the digital marketing industry had been affected, it was not as devastating in comparison to what happened to other businesses, some of which were on the verge of having to shut down.
“I looked outside the window and saw no cars on the road and no shops open and I fell into despair,” she says. “I said to myself: This country gave me so many opportunities and possibilities after I dropped out (of university). I realized now was the time to repay that debt, that gift given to my by this country.”
She understood she could use her expertise to help these small businesses. Thanks to a small but very dedicated and focused team, within 1.5 months she had her new Beezee delivery application for small businesses in Israel up and running. Not an easy feat for something that usually takes six months to do.
“I found the right developers, two young religious olim (immigrants) from Brazil, 20 and 21 years old, who are passionate Zionists,” says Green. “They are so passionate about the project and they understood what good it can do. We have been working on this night and day and with so much love. I have a team of 10, strong incredible women (in addition to the two men developers).”
Among her the company’s staff are Korean speakers and Japanese speakers. “I tend to hire strong women with extra language skills. I don’t even speak Hebrew. I can order food and I can order a drink,” she laughs. “I work in hi-tech and work internationally. This is the first project I have actually done in Israel for Israelis.
“I am running two companies during a pandemic. What idiot decides to open a second company during a pandemic? It may be either the smartest or the stupidest thing I have ever done.”
She invested $100,000 of her own money on development and PR and by the beginning of June she had 30 shops already signed up on the app – free of charge – with some 100 users. The app can be downloaded on any mobile phone and the Israeli consumer can easily order from a variety of stores for a minimum delivery cost and their purchase will be at their door within 24 hours, Green says. It is similar to the restaurant delivery apps available, but geared specifically for small businesses.
“Israel is known as the ‘Start-Up Nation’ because of our creativity and innovation. It is time to actually help each other (with that),” says Green. “We are one big family and like most families, we mess up sometimes, but we have to help each other.”
With the Beezee online market, business owners have their shop inside the app and people can purchase anything from toys to computers to cosmetics, while Beezee arranges the delivery logistics. There will be support for (members of) the older generation who do not how to work with the app, which creates a store dashboard where they can easily add items then it automatically gets uploaded to app, and if they run out stock they can take it down.
“The country should stop buying abroad and shop local instead, to start supporting our businesses,” says Green.
Some restaurant delivery apps take up to 35 percent of the sales from the restaurants, but Beezee does not take any percentage, she says.
“When shops close that is it. We are not only thinking of the pandemic time, but also we are a country who goes through wars. Farmers are suffering because they can’t sell their produce. If they had a delivery system we could sell their products across the country,” she says.
She also foresees the app being used in the periphery and also in the South during periods of tension along the border with Gaza to help businesses get their products to consumers. People abroad can also use the app to make orders for delivery for friends and family in Israel too, she adds.
“I think this is the next generation, the new world. This is not just sustainable, this is the world we are coming to, the way shops will be able to stay in business, God forbid if there is another wave [of COVID-19], or another war,” she says. “We will connect the entire country. It is going to be a revolution.”
So far the app is available in English and Hebrew and they will also be adding a Russian and Arabic version. It is available for both Android and iPhones.
“It has cost a lot of money to do but I get a great feeling out of it. I get the feeling that I am making a real change and I don’t feel helpless during the pandemic. I have the feeling of helping us get used to the unknown,” says Green.
Though it has not been easy, and she still needs to hire people, the thing that has been most difficult is getting shop owners to believe that the app is free for them and that there is no catch.
“The shop owners are very suspicious when you come to them and tell them we are not taking any commission; that we just want to help. Their first reaction is: What is the catch? That is the first problem we are confronting. People are really suspicious and can’t believe it. The hardest part is getting shop owners to believe we are not con artists and we really love our country and this is the way we can help,” Green says.
Devorah Wolf of Jerusalem runs Devorah Cosmetics, her own cosmetic business out of a shop near Mamila, including doing make-up for events, and when the coronavirus quarantine was imposed, her business shut down from one day to the next.
“During the coronavirus (lockdown), Green’s team contacted me while the app was still in development so on the day of its release I could have all my information up. I was thrilled; it was like a godsend,” says Wolf. “Had I not met them personally before I would have been a little bit suspicious because it sound too good to be true…But during the corona time we have seen a lot of good coming from a lot of good people.”
The release of the app has just been recent, she says, so she has not had sales to date but she is excited to receive her first order.
But in addition to introducing a new app which can help businesses, Green is also keen on setting an example to other businesses of what role they should and could be taking to help out other Israelis during this time, and also showing her own sons how not to give up and how everyone can initiate change for something they believe in.
For example, when Green came to Israel she did not get off to an auspicious start. She lasted about two weeks at the kibbutz where she had been put to work at the laundry and cow shed, before deciding that wasn’t for her either. She joined her boyfriend at his moshav outside of Jerusalem and summarily got fired from her first job as a cleaning woman. “I was not even a good cleaner, and actually cleaners get paid very well. I was genuinely devastated,” she recalls. “But mummy and daddy weren’t helping me so okay, honey, I had to get over it.”
Luckily for her, she managed to snag herself an interview for a digital marketing position, which she got and which ended up being the best opportunity of her life, she says. There she flourished and has been working in the field ever since.
“We are not helpless. We are amazing and we can do it, even though it may be a bit scary,” she says. “I want to make sure to show that everyone can do amazing things when they want to help people. We have to start at home… and Israel is our home,” she says.
And while she continues to work hard to succeed with her company, she knows there is more she can contribute to her community.
“What is the point of making money if you can’t help people? To buy a new car every year?” she says. “I scratch my car all the time.” n