There is life after hi-tech

Two women leave high-powered careers to follow their dreams.

For Yochi Eisner, working in the beauty industry was a childhood dream (photo credit: Courtesy)
For Yochi Eisner, working in the beauty industry was a childhood dream
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hi-tech companies play a central role in the Israeli economy, and hi-tech employees are amply rewarded.
Even start-ups with minimal resources frequently provide their workers with higher-than-average salaries, well-stocked kitchens, subsidized lunches from local restaurants, mobile phones, cars, activities for children during vacation time and generous insurance plans. Some of the larger companies even have their own gyms. And in return, their employees are dedicated and involved, working long hours, sometimes pulling all-nighters to complete projects on deadline. The atmosphere in a hi-tech company is intense, challenging and at times exhausting.
Two women who spent a major part of their professional careers in hi-tech have since chosen to leave behind the tension and excitement – and remuneration – for very different occupations.
For Yochi Eisner, it was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.
Eisner, 55, a bridal makeup artist and hair stylist, was fired from a well-paying and prestigious position as director of marketing communications and proposals at an international telecommunications company in 2008.
“The most natural thing to do was simply look for another hi-tech job,” she recalls, “but at the back of my mind I wondered if perhaps now was the time to revive an old dream of working in the beauty industry. When I was five years old, I’d tease the hair of all my grandmother’s friends and spray hairspray over them – to this day, I find the smell of hairspray intoxicating.”
Once she’d made the decision to step into the unknown, she took courses in hair styling, wig styling, chemistry (coloring), brow styling and makeup techniques.
She was always the oldest person in the course.
“In fact,” she smiles, “in the first lesson, most of my fellow students thought that I was the instructor.”
On completing the course, she opened a salon in her home, but business was slow. Realizing that she needed to target a specific audience, she did some research on the Internet and discovered that the most lucrative niche market in the beauty industry was the bridal beauty market.
“I registered for a year’s course in marketing and sales aimed specifically for the beauty industry, and it was during the course that I came up with the name to brand my company: The Kallah Whisperer.”
Armed with computer skills acquired during her years in hi-tech, she prepared to launch her newly branded business.
Using Wix (a website creation platform featured in Metro in March), she built a website, began writing a blog on everything connected to brides, weddings, traditions and beauty, and provided free consultations on Facebook and Skype.
She also created a computer-generated imaging system to give brides a preview of their final bridal look.
Today, more than two years since completing the marketing course, her clientele runs the gamut from brides who come to Israel with their families for the wedding, to local brides throughout the country.
“I also have clients who consult me on a wide range of beauty-related subjects, from where to buy a wig to how to find English-language beauty classes, and everything in between. I travel around the country, giving lectures and workshops on how to do makeup for Purim and on Shabbat, how to apply makeup, how to match your skin tone to makeup and how to buy makeup.”
She continues, “On any typical day, I can find myself going to a bride’s home to provide hair and makeup services to the bride and bridal party. I pay special attention to the mothers of the brides, because I know they need that attention but don’t always get it. I bring my entire beauty salon with me, all the makeup, hair-styling equipment, hair accessories and jewelry. I also do wig repair and provide other services to women, such as to those who have lost their hair due to some medical condition.”
In addition to cutting and dyeing women’s hair, Eisner treats and dyes eyebrows.
“People don’t realize how important eyebrows are,” she says. “ Eyebrows frame the face and help other people read facial expressions. If somebody’s eyebrows are stiff and pointy, it makes their face look mean or like they have a headache. Your brows should always look soft so you look approachable.”
She notes that “unlike in hi-tech, I live in a very touchy-feely world today.
I need to be aware of a woman’s feelings and vulnerabilities. Some women have been through such tragedies in their lives, and while I’m pampering them, they feel free to open up about their lives and let their emotions out.”
Eisner has no regrets about her change of direction and is constantly honing her beauty skills by learning the newest techniques and testing new products.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “ And I love to help make women of all ages feel good about themselves.”
Cindy Richard is the quilt lady.
When Richard, 54, attended her first quilting class 20 years ago, she had no inkling that one day it would become her life’s work.
“I went for a lark,” she recalls. “I was new in the country and feeling isolated.
The lady giving the class did beautiful work, and I was really taken with it. I thought it would be a great hobby.”
Richard completed a sampler quilt consisting of 12 color-coordinated blocks and then, at her instructor’s suggestion, tried quilting by hand instead of using a sewing machine.
“Quilting by hand involves moving the material around on a hoop. Well, I had small children, a house to run and a full-time job. It took me 10 years to finish it.”
As with most hi-tech jobs, she worked long hours as a technical communicator, sometimes late into the night to meet deadlines. In 2010, at the end of a grueling project, management thanked everyone involved in the project for their work, then announced that the company was letting them go.
“We’d worked really hard, around the clock, and it was very hard not to take it personally,” she recounts. “But then it dawned on me that I was being given an opportunity to do something that I had a passion for, which was to become known as a quilt artist, or fiber artist, as some people call it.”
To familiarize herself with the quilting industry, she traveled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and met with the Amish community, which quilts by hand to this day.
“I spent a few days there wandering around their shops, speaking to people, asking how they do things. Historically quilting was always a community project, where women would sit together making quilts from old fabrics and then give them to young couples. Nowadays, quilting is a multi-million-dollar industry.
People no longer use their old fabrics, such as calico with the tiny flowers, but fancy hand-dyed or batik-dyed fabrics, and they’re very fussy about the fabrics they use.”
To launch her new business, she drew on her computer skills to build her website and write a blog. She opened a virtual shop in Etsy, a web-based, international market for arts and crafts, and started to fill it will a variety of quilted items.
“When I brainstorm with myself about what to produce, I consider three main markets,” she explains. “In Israel, people want functional items that are pretty, don’t cost much, and are washable, such as trivets, table runners, [hot plate] covers and bags to carry a siddur [prayer book] in. In the States, trivets and table runners go down well, as do halla covers. Quillow, a blanket that folds up into a pillow, has sold quite well.
“The third market is creating fiber art to hang on the wall, also known as textile or surface art, that I can exhibit in art shows. This is more complicated, and each project can take at least a month to create. They’re less likely to sell, but it’s important to get my name out there and become known.”
Richard has exhibited her quilts both locally and abroad. A quilt depicting a man buying produce from a vendor in Mahane Yehuda was displayed in the Jerusalem theater; another, showing a kibbutz scene, was exhibited at the Beit Gavriel Cultural and Social Center in Tiberias and was also shown at a quilt show in France. One of her quilts depicting Jerusalem was exhibited in Canada.
In addition, she has become involved with Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) – an international forum where quilters can communicate and showcase their work – joining their mentorship committee and helping to run webinars.
SAQA also publishes a quarterly magazine focusing on trends in quilt-making.
“They recently ran a contest and received almost 300 quilts, from which they selected 12,” says Richard happily, pointing to the picture of her quilt of poppies that was featured in the magazine.
“My main challenge has been to identify my voice, to distinguish my work from everyone else’s,” she continues.
“I realized that I live in a unique country. There’s such beauty here, but Israel is given such bad press around the world. In my small way, I want to produce quilts that show Israel in a better light. So I decided to try my hand at creating quilts based on people and the places here. I’d already been running around the country making quilts of landscapes, but now I’m moving in the direction of portraits and am trying to capture characters, people in the shuk, different moments in a life here.

“And it seems to be working for me, because sometimes when people hear what I do, they say, oh, you’re the quilt lady!”