Starting a Retail Business in Israel
Hebrew: הקמת עסק בישראל
Interview with Alan Silver of Kolbo Alan, a retail store in Kiryat Ye’arim (Telzstone), near Jerusalem.
Alan is typical of many olim who come to Israel without formal qualifications but have many years of valuable work experience. With relatively few options many of them choose to become self-employed. These olim don’t really have a plan but are forced to do whatever it takes to make a go of things.
Please tell us a bit about yourself
I made Aliyah from South Africa more than twenty years ago where I had worked in a family run business. We finally settled in the religious community of Telzstone where we opened our business. My wife helps out and so do my sons when necessary.
Why did you start a business in Israel?
I thought if I was working this hard for someone else, I might as well do it for myself.
What field are you in?
Retail: Hardware, toys, household goods, electrical, plumbing, gifts and much more.
Did you have experience in this field before opening your business?
Do you have any previous business skills or expertise: university degree, courses etc.?
No, I have no formal qualifications.
Do you need Hebrew in your business?
Yes. My Hebrew is quite good.
Did you do any market research before opening your business?
No, not really. I knew I had to make a living and that was all. I’d figure it out as I went along.
Did you determine your target market before opening your business?
Yes, I was asked to open the store as there was nothing similar in the area.
Did you research your competitors before opening your business?
There were none
What makes your business unique?
The South African way of giving service – with ones soul.
Did you have a business plan before starting up?
How long did it take you to set up your business in Israel?
Did you have the required capital to start a business or did you have to take a loan?
I just started slowly with the little money I had. Like most small businesses, I have to have an overdraft facility.
Did you spend more money on getting your business going than you had originally planned?
No, not really. I was lucky in that respect.
How do you market and advertise your business?
I did a lot of marketing in the beginning, but now I do not need to.
Do you have a business partner?
No. My sons are very involved though.
What about your premises?
My shop is located in the community where I live – 5 minutes from home.
Did you need any employees to start up?
Do you manage your books on your own or do you have an accountant?
Both – parts I do myself and other parts my accountant takes care of.
Is your accountant an Israeli or an Anglo-Saxon? Why?
Israeli, one needs accountants and lawyers to be local with all their “protekziot” (connections).
Did you understand the Israeli tax system before you started your venture?
Not at all.
Does your business take up more of your time than you anticipated?
Yes, much more.
If your business were to fail, what would you do?
Cry… Not much else to do.
After all these years, if you had a choice, would you still choose to be self-employed?
What advice would you give anyone wanting to start a business in Israel?
First check things out thoroughly, and speak to as many people as possible.
Extra Reading & Resources
- More Interviews with Olim and Small Business Owners
- Jobs & Employment
- Aliyah Stories & Experiences
- Israel-Anglo Business Directory for Professional Services