Power to the people

A new website aims to make money while improving the lives of women worldwide.

hebuyshebuy 88 (photo credit: )
hebuyshebuy 88
(photo credit: )
9 a.m. Three elegant women enter the pretty but sparsely decorated and small SheBuyShe office in Neveh Ilan. Behind three desks, which almost touch, they discuss plans, the immediate concerns of the day as well as distant dreams and potential clients. GETTING STARTED The three founding members of SheBuyShe, Anat Negev, Yolanda Rosenthal and Rachel Hadari, describe this new and ever-growing company as their "new born baby." Though the company was only founded in July, and entered the Internet arena barely a month ago, they have accumulated a surprising 70 clients with an ever-increasing network of buyers and sellers. THE JOB SheBuyShe is a commercial Web site where one is able to purchase goods created and designed by women. The Web site is a worldwide marketplace for women to sell their own products, and for the wider public to purchase goods from the Internet in a "fair trade" environment. The company emphasizes that it is commercial, but maintains that it is deeply rooted in its ideology, which includes helping women become more financially independent and channeling the creative force that they believe many women possess. Rosenthal explains, "The concept is women - regardless of where they are, where they come from and what capability they have to market themselves. We want no barriers and no discrimination." The women selling their products come from all over the world, with countries participating ranging from Israel (Jewish, Christian, Ethiopian, Bedouin and Palestinian women all feature), the US, Kenya, India, France, South Africa, Peru and Turkey. Negev explains that the Internet is an important medium not only because it connects the entire world but also because "there is no difference between the women. No one will know if she is established or if she is working from her home in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. What stands out in the end is the product." One client is over the age of 70, and already an established jewelry designer who has come on board because she wanted to support the cause. Mothers who produce crafts from their homes are transforming their hobby into a more substantial income. Others are 18 year-olds, fresh on the scene and eager to get their name and products out in a safe and fair environment. So far, Hadari, Rosenthal and Negev have personal connections with all the clients. "We view them as partners in this project," Rosenthal adds. GOALS Though the site is a connecting point for women around the world, the founders are clear to point out that they are not a feminist organization. There are many men, including their husbands, who are active in the company, and the three women are open to help and suggestions from men and women alike. "We are in no way against men. We simply feel there is a need in the marketplace for a company like this. Women are capable of creating incredible things. We would like to help them market themselves, and men are very much invited to buy from the Web site." ROLES In between adjusting photographs, altering the Web site and checking emails, the three women punctuate each others' sentences and explain how the process works. "Whenever we are travelling, we seek out places where women gather. You go to meetings... There are markets where people come from time to time with their products. We identify the women and offer them this site as a platform to display what they create," explains Rosenthal, whose designated responsibility is international marketing. Though officially Negev is in charge of recruitment, all three say they are always on the lookout for potential clients and are constantly trying to get the word out. Rosenthal says she is amazed, "We go out there and try to explain the concept to women. Most people that you approach, regardless of their age, backgrounds or whether they already have their own fame... Once they hear about it they really want to be a part of it. The concept really works." From there, Negev and the team's technical assistant, Adi, photograph their clients' work, help make price lists and organize a personal web page for the specific designer. The work currently falls into six categories (jewelry, accessories, home art, kids, gifts and art) with the hope of increasing as the demand grows. ROUTINE Currently, the average day at SheBuyShe is a mix of meeting potential clients, working through legal and practical issues, fixing and improving the Web site, and marketing efforts. When asked about a usual day, Hadari, Negev and Rosenthal look at each other with quizzical expressions and conclude that there really isn't such a thing at this stage. "It was only a few months ago that we were working from 8 in the morning until 10 at night, and often after that in our own homes," marvels Hadari. WORK EXPERIENCE The women who founded SheBuyShe all have backgrounds in marketing and believe strongly in the company's ideological roots. Hadari worked as the international deputy spokesperson for the Bezeq telecommunications company. She left that job for undisclosed reasons and began working for a shelter for battered woman as a fundraiser. "Women don't leave their homes so easily," she explains. "They often stay under the threat of violence because of their children, or because they don't have enough money to move out, or because they are scared. Women in these shelters have nothing else. Among other things, I realized that in order to somehow improve this situation, the women need to become financially independent." During this time, Hadari also took a course in jewelry making and silver smithing. What stood out for her during this period, she notes, was the "immense creative force behind women." With these two concepts in mind, Hadari came up with the concept of SheBuyShe. Both she and Negev have their own page of products themselves, and Rosenthal sells fashion jewelry on the Web site. Hadari and Negev have been friends for many years. In their previous jobs, Negev and Hadari worked together in setting up an exhibition for Bezek. Negev herself is an industrial designer with her own studio. She also feels it is essential for women to have their own income and source of profit. Negev's main role in the trio is recruitment, but she also designs and compiles the Web site. Rosenthal joined the two later on. She studied marketing and business management and became the managing director of a new alternative fashion jewelry company based in Latin America. Her work in brand management also took her to Africa. During her travels, Rosenthal says she witnessed terrible things that made her realize that women need a company like SheBuyShe. "I was once taken to visit a 'women's club.' It turned out to be a terribly run-down area where women were gathering together with their children. They had no resources, nothing. With something like SheBuyShe, these women can gain self-respect, and change the dynamics of their entire family." Being the latest addition to the project, she says she is thrilled. "I'm just so excited about this. It is only the beginning, but I think this is going to be great." PLANS All three agree they would like to expand and make a magazine to empower and connect women all around the world. Rosenthal adds, "We have a vision of where we want this to go. We would also like discussion boards [on our site.] If there are women out there who write poetry, we want them to be able to post it on the Web site."