Last week I had the opportunity to attend the WE (Women’s Entrepreneurship) Summit that was hosted by USI (US Israel Business Council) at 7 World Trade Center. There were a number of great panels that included successful businesswomen, founders, entrepreneurs, investors, and bloggers like Joanne Wilson (Investor and GothamGal), Lisa Silverstein (Silverstein Properties), Joy Marcus (Gotham Ventures), Hila Paz (Algomizer), Tanya Low (Star Farm Ventures) and so many more. The panelists discussed the challenges and triumphs that they have experienced in their lines of work and they were truly inspirational.
I really enjoyed event, but throughout it I kept on thinking about my mom, Robyn. While any child of a Jewish mother must continually think about their mother, otherwise they will be overcome by immense Jewish guilt, I was thinking about my mom’s success as a woman entrepreneur. My family arrived to the United States in 1994 from South Africa, and while my mom had worked as a computer programmer, it was difficult for her to convert her South African degree to the American equivalent. In a new country with two kids, no job, and no immediate family besides my dad to lean on for support she decided to start her own company.
In the early 1990’s the internet was just starting to take off, and while companies like Amazon, Webvan, and Pets.com were growing, online retail was an incredibly small industry. From her home office in our basement in Atlanta my mom started her online retail company called Keylan (A mix of my sister’s name, Kelli, and of my name, Ilan – my youngest brother, Shaun, was not around yet). Today, almost 20 years down the road, owning retail sites for coffee machines to office chairs, and horse saddles to pots and pans, Keylan is still thriving and growing. While Keylan has grown, and even has warehouses across the US, my mom continues to run the company with a little help from my dad.
As a true testament to what an entrepreneur should be, my mom started and runs her own company, volunteers for countless organizations, makes time to play tennis and be with her friends, all the while keeping my dad in check and raising my brother sister and me. Against all odds, as an immigrant to a new country, with a family to manage alongside her business my mom succeeded as an entrepreneur.
I hope that this will give some inspiration to entrepreneurs, women and men alike, showing that there is no excuse to not try and succeed as an entrepreneur. I also hope that my mom reads this and gives me a little bit less guilt for choosing to be an entrepreneur rather than an accountant or a doctor.