My working week: Laura Korat

President of Swisra Industries LTD; www.swisra.co.il; Age: 45; Marital status: Married to Avri, two children, 19 and 17.

Swisra Industries 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Swisra Industries 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Job description:
We manufacture and sell all kinds of textile items for babies – quilts, blankets and accessories including mobiles, wall hangings, diaper stackers and hampers. The objective is to make the baby’s entire room tell the same story with the same colors, designs and patterns.
How get you get into this?
The business was started in 1984 by my late father, who had been in textiles before we emigrated from South Africa in 1979. He bought a few sewing machines, hired several seamstresses and initially started making curtains for the kitchen and bedroom, then gradually began specializing in baby bedding. My father and I had always had a very close relationship. I’d been working as a nurse, but I began to see that he needed help. His command of Hebrew wasn’t perfect, and he felt he didn’t have the skills he needed to keep the business successful. I didn’t think twice. I started helping in 1988 and by 1990 was working full time. In 1999, when my father passed away, my mother, Myra, and I decided to continue the company.

Education:
In high school, I took a second major in nursing. When I went into the army, I was sent to [Sheba Medical Center at] Tel Hashomer to work in the maternity ward. I loved it, stayed the full two years of my army service, and then continued. Nursing made me feel as though I was contributing something. I felt like a real Florence Nightingale.
First job?
I was 14 when I started babysitting.
Worst job?
Waitressing. What can I say? Long hours, low wages, tired feet.
How did you acquire your expertise?
It’s what I grew up with. All my family – including my grandparents and uncles – were in textiles, so fabrics, design and color were always a part of my world.
Do you sew yourself?
No.
High moment:
I love working with fabrics. I love seeing a new design that I created suddenly come to life on a quilt. What I especially love is getting feedback from mothers and grandmothers – and I really love those times when I’m walking along the street and see my designs in someone’s pram.

Low moment?
When a store has trouble, tells me they can’t pay, and I know I’m going to lose money. When you put so much of your own life energy into your business, that’s very difficult. Luckily, those moments are very few.
What’s your favorite design?
All the Disney designs. Growing up, I remember Disney and Winnie-the-Pooh.
How did you acquire the license to the Disney characters?
I went to Disney Israel, showed them the baby bedding designs I’d made, the duvet and the fitted baby sheets, and convinced them that baby bedding was a different market from anything else they were doing. It took a while, but four years ago I got the license. The Disney line is very popular in Israel. Disney and Winnie-the-Pooh are our best sellers.
Who buys your products?
Mothers who are about to give birth. They go to our stores where everything is displayed and see the whole room concept, the furniture, pram, car seat plus all the textiles, and then buy whatever will fill their needs.

Do you export?
So far, no. We sell only in Israel and from our website.

Is anything you do controversial?
We’ve had designs the market didn’t like. Those I sell for a very low price. Color is critical. Israelis don’t like very busy items, things with too many appliqués, too much embroidery. People here prefer the more European styles, simple and refined.
Perks?
I love waking up in the morning and knowing I have something to do that I love. I love having interesting work that’s not housework.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Nursing. I always wanted to be a nurse. When I was just a kid, six years old, at Purim I dressed up as a nurse.

In five years?
Still making baby bedding. I’d like to expand into other textile markets, adult fabrics and twin beds, maybe. I might be exporting by then, too.

Biggest accomplishment?
When my mother and I decided to continue the company, I had a lot of doubts and was a little afraid to sit in my father’s chair. Successfully running the company is my biggest accomplishment.

Your dream?
That one day my daughter will want to continue the company, succeed as I did, and enjoy it as much as I do.