When we moved 6000 miles away from our families 22 years ago, I certainly never imagined I would be working in the business my grandfather established way back when. Way back when . . . there was no internet, no low cost international telephone service, no e-mail, and no digital photography. My children are grown up now, and theoretically I COULD leave the house and find outside employment, but I have now chosen not to take that path. This time the decision is a calculated one.
Throughout my family's childhood and teen years, I solved the “where to be first issue" by working from home. My hard-earned M. Sc.degree in Human Resource Administration was shelved - although I would like to think I applied some of the key principles to running our in-house human resources. As a fluent English speaker in a foreign country, armed with the latest computer equipment in my own home when computers were fairly new even in offices, I opened an English-language word processing business out of a corner of my living room.
My clients came from the nearby academic centers and new hi-tech industry park. As word processing became more sophisticated, I moved on to desktop publishing and was soon creating books, brochures, and journals. I attended seminars, read the literature and soon expanded my services to offer copywriting and marketing communication. Over the years my portfolio grew and I felt a special frisson whenever I saw a company with my marketing material succeed.
All the while, the children were growing up, and although often pressured from the deadlines and demands of not one boss, but many - as is the plight of the independent business person - I was able to “be there" for them and participate in school and club events.
Over the years, I co-authored a book, established, published and wrote an online magazine with two women partners, and with them also built an online business. All this while, my children graduated high school, served in the army, traveled abroad, returned, left home, returned, had a baby, worked abroad, returned, got a girlfriend (who knows? he doesn't tell me anything. . . ), and we built a house. Now I have a fabulous corner office looking out on the garden and my husband has his own sanctuary upstairs.
And then my father surprised me during a routine touch-base telephone call, which he later backed up with an e-mail note. “I've been thinking. . . Maybe you see a way to use the internet for our business? Is there a way you could direct something like that?"
Well, blow me away. I just happened to be at a crossroads. My husband was preparing to set out on a two-week long male-bonding trek in the Himalayas, I was recuperating from a torn miniscus operation, my son was nearing the end of his army duty, the downturn in high tech and in tourism had negatively effected my bottom line, I cherished drop in visits to my little granddaughter, and I needed an opportunity I could sink my teeth into.
When Joel headed east to trek, I headed west to create a new interface to a 90-year-old family business, Maurice Goldman Fine Jewelry .
Over the last eight months, the learning curve has been steep. Within 2 weeks of opening our eBay store, the fraudsters were running rampant.
David Bloom wrote in from Cremona, Italy, with ready cash for a $20,000 sapphire ring, and a strong recommendation that we use an escrow service to protect him from losing his hard earned cash. It's true that he never spoke about protecting us from losing our hard earned merchandise. . . At the eleventh hour, well, actually at 8 AM in my pajamas in front of the computer screen, with the aid of my calm and analytical husband, I avoided our first theft in the virtual world. We learned that not all escrow sites are created equal, and that the one our “customer" “recommended" was a fraud. In his last e-mail note to me, Mr. Bloom lamented that the site was phony, and that he had just suffered a loss of $20,000. Couldn't we have told him sooner?(!)
Other would-be sales included stolen credit cards (this is apparent when the buyer suggests that you take MORE money than you the posted sales price to cover charges), more fraudulent escrow sites, money transfer deals, and a bank check swindle. As Joel points out, the crooks are always a step ahead.
My work vocabulary has grown exponentially, as has my respect for the business world in general, and my father in particular. Our business issues are the same: to source new products, to market and sell to a growing customer base, and to avoid theft and fraud. But whereas my Dad deals with the real world, my business is virtual. I find the global reach of the virtual world tremendously satisfying and very neat. Customers tell us that our online presence means they can acquire goods otherwise unavailable in their small towns. So here I am in Israel, promoting and selling jewelry that is in New York, to customers around the world, without leaving the house. The process of building and handling the internet extension of our family business, and combining family, home and business brings me full circle. My cup runneth over.
Judith Isaacson lives in Israel from where she develops and runs the internet end of the family jewelry business which is based in New York. http://www.mauricegoldman.com