The diamantaire Shula Zeides, Emma Yanover and Ilana Bran, share with the readers of HaYahalom their personal stories, which also tell of daring, creativity and sharp senses, bequeathing us with interesting business insights.
In the following article, we present the stories of three senior experienced diamantaires that worked with ingenuity and strength, each in her own way, turning an opportunity into thriving success: Shula Zeides, Emma Yanover and Ilana Brant.
Shula Zeides - 50 years in the industry. Former manufacturer of baguettes and tapers and owner of the firm "Shula and Nadav Zeides Diamonds"
When telling the story of how the Israel Diamond Exchange came to be, there's no doubt that Shula Zeides is part of the story and the legend. Shula Zeides entered the business world in 1972, after working and studying for 15 years with a person she calls "The Diamond Whiz" - the late Aryeh Moldavsky - who didn't keep anything from her and bequeathed to her the foundations and the secrets of the trade. His office was located in Ahuzat Bayit, the last home of the Israel Diamond Exchange, before it moved to Ramat Gan. Once she felt ready to take on the market alone, she rented an office and began her career as an independent diamantaire. In those days, very few women worked in the industry, and an independent woman who owned her own office was certainly a rarity.
"I had a Japanese client whose acquaintance I made through written correspondence. Over the year, when he would write me, he would write "Mr. Zeides". I was surprised, but I didn't think much of it. One day, after years of productive business, he came to my office, asked for Mr. Zeides, and was shocked to learn that I am a woman."
"When I began to work independently, I was already a professional in the trade, and people who had business ties with me knew that, and treated me in kind. I never felt disrespected and unappreciated because I am a woman. Just the opposite, I received the respect I deserve as a professional and as a woman. This work demanded of me almost total dedication, including many trips abroad, meetings with clients, and working late at the office. Despite this, I found the time to devote attention and love to my three daughters. Today they are all grown up, married with children, and I try to devote to my grandchildren a good deal of my time and to be a part of their lives."
Shula Zeides ran around looking for clients, traveled to foreign embassies and requested addresses and telephone numbers of diamantaires around the world. She brought her husband Nadav into the diamond world from the construction industry. Because women were not accepted into the bourse as members, the two decided that he would submit his application for membership, so that at least one of them could have bourse membership. Gradually, Shula made connections and built up an impressive and successful business that still operates today under her name, while her clients include loyal customers she has worked with for forty years, and though she has reduced her workload in recent years, she is still devoted to them.
Shula Zeides and her husband Nadav owned a cutting and polishing workshop where they specialized in manufacturing baguettes and tapers, or as Shula Zeides likes to say, "Our specialty is everything that isn't round". When evaluating diamonds, she holds them in her hands - not tweezers.
Shula Zeides's motto is "To be a good professional". Throughout the interview, she stresses how important it is for a person to know the profession they decide to specialize in. "If you are a good professional, your clients believe in you and place their trust in you," she says.
"Women are more gentle businesspeople, they can make business connections more easily, but it's important to know what you're talking about. Even today, in the era of internet purchases, it's important to focus on the personal connection, which technology can never replace."
The basis, she says, is trust: "I have a client that is loyal to me for over 40 years, even though he already has many family members in the industry." "A good reputation greases the wheel" - Ecclesiastes 7:1 - says Shula Zeides, "and it proves itself over the years."
Shula Zeides has a refined, aristocratic look about her. She has sparks in her eyes and a contagious enthusiasm. When I spoke with her, she leaned back and mulled over memories of the successful journey she has had in the industry, without parents or family members in the trade.
Shula Zeides has been dancing traditional Israeli folk dances for many years. Previously she was a member of the Carmon Troupe. Today she dances with the Petach Tikvah Seniors Troupe. She used to often travel to dance all over the world, and only two weeks prior to this interview, she returned from a dance recital that took place in Bulgaria. Her passion for dance is a hobby for the whole family. Before we part, Shula Zeides tells me that the late Aryeh Moldavsky got mad at her when she left him to start an independent business, and didn't speak to her afterwards for many years. Naturally, it weighed heavily on her heart, became she greatly respected him, and he was a kind of spiritual mentor, but her passion dictated that she spread her wings and go it alone. Many years later, the late Aryeh Moldavsky suddenly appeared at the entrance to her office and asked to see her and the factory she established. The visit was very emotional for her and allowed them to have closure. Only a week later, he passed away.
Emma (Suleimani) Yanover - Diamond Manufacturer and Trader, Owner of a Office for Polished Diamonds. 40 Years in the Industry
"In 1973 I registered for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to study Economics and Business Administration, but because of the [Yom Kippur] war the start of classes was postponed, and my father, the late Shlomo Suleimani, invited me to temporarily enter the industry. I began working an a secretary, because no one thought a woman could be more than a secretary. But over time I switched to sorting diamonds and I started to learn the trade. Naturally, I didn't go back to study."
In 1979, of course, a major crisis hit and buried many offices and led to ups and downs and major changes. The whole power structure changed: "Those who were big shrunk, everything started from scratch. My father also went into debt with the banks. The family moved to the United States in an attempt to sell stock and cover the debts to the banks. When the boat capsizes, all the clients left, and we had to start all over again from the beginning."
The circumstances of the crash led Emma Yanover to charge forward and succeed. A young woman in her early thirties, married with two children, alone in Israel, she affirmed her place in charge of a company, held the reins, and let the business forward. "I always knew what was happening in the market, which way the wind was blowing. I always had a eye on the ups and downs of the market, and therefore, despite the crisis, I succeeded in selling a lot of stock and eliminating the debts."
"My clients were mainly Chinese people from Hong Kong. It's easier for Chinese people to do business with a woman, because to them, women are more believable and can be trusted. To them it goes without saying that a woman has power and position. In the beginning, when the struggle had just begun, a Chinese client came to me and announced that he had heard that I was in crisis and am selling stock for the bank, and that he came to get a bargain. I brought him into my office and sold him lots of stock, while still bargaining and standing up for myself. Over the course of the transaction, we developed a relationship that has lasted many years, and which led to connections with many other clients. That was one of the events that taught me that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Over the years, that Chinese man's business developed into an empire, and Emma Yanover achieved great success and appreciation.
"When I started out, there weren't many women trading, certainly not as office owners. It was a phenomenon. We were warriors. But I had no time to deal with that, because I devoted all my energy to building up the business. My late sister Orna returned from New York to help me and together we managed to bring to the business great success."
In 1995 Emma Yanover left the family business and started her own office. This time she relayed that there is a trading advantage to manufacturing in countries where labor costs are low, and she has started to manufacture in China.
"I always ensured that the house would be under control, that I could go off to a day of work with a clear conscience, untroubled, ready for business. I had a lot of responsibility, but the house was run perfectly, the food was cooked and waiting in the fridge. I always employed a woman I could trust to run the house when I was gone. Everything has a price. It was difficult to leave the kids, but I was forced to leave and fight to make a living. Maybe that is one of the reasons that few women advance in business, because it demands intensive work around the clock.
I had a Japanese client that said that men have long fingernails. They like to scratch and get flesh under their fingernails. They are greedy, while women are more modest. They sell for smaller profits and enjoy more return business. Women have the ability to give. That is her nature. And it comes out in business, as well.
Trustworthiness and integrity are the recipe for success. Today you must be professional and become acquainted with all the changes and demands in the world.
Emma Yanover, who grew up in the home of a diamantaire, an international home, which hosted for dinner senior diamantaires from all over the world, living for two years during her youth in Belgium and for a year during her adolescence in the United States. She is a strong woman with values who does not shy away from stepping up and leading. "I have breathed this industry, and the more you know the industry you work in, and the more you know your work environment, you are more in control. Once, all the consumers came here. The bourse was full of clients spilling out of all the offices. Today if there were incentives and they were received correctly, they would continue to come and the industry would look very differently. To make that happen will require serious work, and there's no reason it shouldn't be done."
Emma Yanover gets up early and makes a point of exercising regularly. She is an active volunteer with the group "Women's Spirit", a non-profit organization that strives to create social change and to advance the economic power of Israeli women who are the victims of violence.
In the best-seller "Half the Sky" by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, on women who turned poverty and oppression into opportunity, there is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. that says: "A man can't ride your back unless it's bent." I feel that this saying is appropriate to summarize the interview with Emma Yanover.
Ilana Brant - Senior Diamantaire, Owner of the Firm AVNIT, together with her husband Avraham Brant, Accredited High School Instructor and Extensively Knowledgable In Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics
Ilana Brant grew up in Belgium to parents who were not diamantaires. Her acquaintance with the industry came as a result of her husband, the fancy diamond manufacturer Avraham Brant. At first she ran the company's finances, and because she spoke many languages, she began to meet with consumers and to help them make purchases. But her knowledge and understanding of polished diamonds was only learned 20 years ago, when her husband took ill and needed an operation. In his absence, the polished diamond trading devisor came under her management. When her husband recovered, he focused on rough diamonds and manufacturing. Eventually their daughter came to manage the company's finances and the firm began to grow, as several of their children took on central management roles in the various departments.
Iland Brant is confident that children must only be brought into the business after they have received an education, because the future of the industry is unclear.
"There is total equality in the abilities of men and women," she says. "Women must have a mathematical mind and be focused on the objective. Decisions come from the news and the state of the markets. You must know when to release stock, to go with the ups and downs of the industry and be flexible to change. When there is a demand for stock and prices rise, you have to sell quickly, and never forget that there are variations upwards and downwards. At all stages, you must be very efficient, because there is total uncertainty, especially for the manufacturer who purchases rough diamonds at a certain point in time, and within two months there are dramatic changes." Rapid turnarounds are the solution to these ups and downs, says Ilana Brant, and therefore she is celebratory over the opening of a GIA laboratory in Israel, because it speeds up the process. In an industry that encounters crises like ours, you mutt be prepared in advance for falling prices. She says, "You must ensure that the stock does not take two months to manufacture, and ensure a logical ratio between bank debt and personal wealth, so when the value of the stock drops, we'll be protected."
"Trust. The buyer's need to feel secure and that there's someone they can rely on - that's the key to success. A buyer will return and buy from you again if they feel secure, even if rivals offer them lower prices. Stand behind your word. A price is price. Don't try to figure out how to "stiff them". Honesty and integrity will achieve the goal perfectly and respectfully."
On how to strengthen the Israeli diamond industry, Ilana Brant says: "When those who are unable to pay sell off their private properties, there will be more secure trade." And she adds: "There still exist areas of production that are exclusive to Israel. We must maximize them and strengthen them, for the coming generations."
Ilana Brant is aware of everything going on in the office. Even over the course of the interview, she follows what is going on around her, makes an effort to update and be updated, move things forward, and share motherly love with the customer sitting across from her. "You don't reach the objective immediately. Therefore you mustn't let go, but hold on to it tightly and be attentive to changes that appear."
Ilana Brant puts much emphasis on family ties. "I make sure that I have a connection with my grandchildren. So they won't see me as a grandmother who is a businesswoman, but rather that they'll remember me for my cooking, experiences, presents and our relationship." She travels with them on vacations, goes out with the older ones and rewards the younger ones on their victories and accomplishments.