Celebrating 12 years


Small Business, Big People - Spotlight on Local Business: 

 

In this space we will focus on local business owners. To inaugurate this section we are interviewing the Shenashi store that is celebrating its bat mitzvah! This store has been operating in Efrat for 12 years!

Name of Business Owner: Ayelet Safra, married to Bezalel, and mother to 4 daughters and one son. Lives in Rosh Tzurim.

Business Address: The Te’ena Shopping Center

Number of years the business has been open: 12

Type of Business: Lingerie and gift shop

Tell me, what made you start this business?

"I studied psychology and worked in human resource management in high-tech companies. Then Bezalel and I decided to spend 3 years as educators in the United States. In preparation for this mission, I studied at the Po'a Institute to become a "counselor for the Jewish home" so I began to think about femininity.

Having had experience in large workplaces, during our shlichut I discovered abilities and strengths that I didn't know I had. Away from my family and from all that was familiar to me, I was running large and significant events that I never imagined I could.

When I returned from the United States, I decided I wanted to use these newfound strengths to start my own business. It was clear to me that my business would serve women and that it would be here in Gush Etzion in the region where I live. I identified a need, and when I believe in a project I follow it through to the end. The store was born out of a desire to enable girls and women to purchase lingerie in an intimate and respectful atmosphere.

At first I thought of starting a small business based in my home, where women could make appointments to get measured and buy products. My husband, Bezalel, pushed me to open an actual store, to hire workers, and to embark on this journey. He is fully supportive of what I am doing.”

 

Ayelet and Bezalel have been married for 28 years. Bezalel is a rabbi by training, and Ayelet notes that she turns to him when halakhic questions arise. For example, "Is it allowed to sell lingerie during the 3 weeks?. It is very convenient to have a rabbi close by," she laughs.

 

Why did you decide to open your business here in Efrat?

"Efrat is the largest and most central settlement in the Gush. I really like Efrat, and it feels like exactly the right place for me and my business." 

The choice to open such a store, in the heart of a shopping center in an older residential neighborhood in a religious community is not self-evident, but when I ask her about it, Ayelet confidently answers "I knew that there was no reason to hide the store. And to this day it is important to me that the business looks good, that it is pleasant and inviting.”

“Years of selling to a clientele of women has taught me that women have a tendency to take care of and buy for everyone around them: their girlfriends, children, spouse, etc. It is harder for them to pamper themselves. That's why it's important to me that the store be an empowering place, that women who enter my store feel that we are attentive to their needs. Everyone needs lingerie, so I can be relevant to any woman whatever stage of life she is in. From young girls, through adolescents, brides, women who are pregnant and breastfeeding, mothers, grandmothers. At every stage of life.”

How has your business developed over the years?

About 5 years ago Ayelet added another tier to her business and began selling "love products".

"I recognized a great need and decided to go for it."

When debating whether to enter the field, she published an online survey. 300 women from the Gush responded. The vast majority indicated that this was necessary and important. "Today I can say that it is an existing need with many circles of influence: raising a women’s sense of security, solving problems and difficulties for couples, and contributing to peace within the home."

Ayelet translated her experience in the field into a series of lectures she developed with a sexology company called "The Wonders of Couples Pleasure". She has delivered these lectures to thousands of women throughout the country.

"Many people do not know that there is also a Jewish view when it comes to love products, so it is not something that is undignified and beneath us."

Ayelet comes to each such lecture with 2 assistants, and at the end of the lecture they stay to give personal advice and guidance to women who are interested in the products and about sexuality in general.

"’I’ve gotten a lot of feedback over the years from women who told me that it improved their relationship, that it changed their lives. There have even been responses from men."

Ayelet modestly states that she gets a lot of satisfaction from the feeling that she is a partner in revolutionizing many homes in Gush Etzion and throughout Israel. "One woman told me, 'This is not physical health, this is mental health.'

"It's important to me on a personal level to raise awareness. I see it as a mission."

"I studied psychology, I'm an academic and I sell lingerie"

"I'm not busy thinking about what others will think of me. I am busy making change. I feel that I, my staff, and the whole business have a part in changing and encouraging body positivity among women, in promoting healthy sexuality in a respectful and pleasant way.

 

How did you manage during Corona?

Corona was a complicated time, it wasn’t easy at all. Financially or mentally. During the first lockdowns the store was closed. I was committed to continuing to pay my suppliers, and sales went down. The workers had to be furloughed, and I found myself alone. To deal with this new reality I posted a lot on social media. I would come to the business to manage and pack orders and I made deliveries to the residents in the Gush with my family.

A lot of people were at home, they needed pajamas. 

During the third lockdown in Efrat, they asked businesses in the shopping centers to become parcel distribution centers because there was a high demand for packages and the post office was overwhelmed. I hesitated, but I decided to do it, since it would meet the needs of many residents and we continue to do that in the store today.

Men have always been allowed to come into the store to buy gifts for their partners, but we restricted package pick up to the afternoons to accommodate women who did not feel comfortable with men around.

About 3 years ago I opened an online store to sell products all over the country (and even abroad! We have clients from the US and Europe...) so when Corona hit I was already prepared for online sales.

What has made your business successful?

"A high level of personal service and professionalism. My team is like family to me," says Ayelet, and she means it.

Shenashi is what she is today thanks to the staff who care about every customer, who care about service.

Shenashi currently employs 5 regular staff members, all of whom are residents of Efrat: Sybil Breiser, Elisheva Rania, Ronit Turgeman, Gabriela Kupietsky, and Tzippi Goldstein.

I prepare my staff well, and everyone knows first and foremost to listen to the customer's needs before the sale process begins.

 

How are you celebrating the business’ bat mitzvah year?

I wanted to give my customers a gift, so the bat mitzvah sale that is taking place throughout November gives the third item purchased as a gift. The sale is unique in that it includes all brands and almost all the products in the store.

In addition, throughout November those who make purchases will be entered into a raffle for a couple's vacation in Israel or a plane ticket!

And, as we do every year for the store’s birthday, we took professional photos of the staff. This year we were photographed by Efrat resident Joani Davidovich (see the attached photos!).

What are your plans for the next 12 years?

I never imagined that Shenashi would become what it is today.

I thought I was just setting up a neighborhood store, I didn’t know that women from all over the country would come to us, I didn’t think that I would also open an online store, and I never imagined that I would sell love products. I want to continue doing what I am doing, providing good and personal service to my clients, and to continue to view my work as a mission: to continue to promote and strengthen femininity and relationships in Efrat, Gush Etzion and throughout the country.

Website: shenashi.com

Facebook page: חנות she נשי

Instagram: she_nashi