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The Ladies Rule…

By: Sophia Franco

Every summer Women’s Exceed Network gathers the best and the brightest women of New York and New Jersey into one room to brainstorm. Years ago that may have been ten women, or twenty, today it is over two hundred.

When we got together to choose a panel to speak on August 19th we encountered so many successful and savvy women in our midst, and each told a more interesting story than the next. “Confidence is key,” was a common theme, and this year’s panel boasted six incredible spirits who certainly rose to the occasion. The multi talented Nicole Cohen: mom, writer, artist, blogger, designer and photographer, was our moderator, guiding the conversation. Kim Dabah, Vice President of I.F.G. Corp., Vice president Exceed, President Gesher Yehuda, and mom of 7 was our project leader and resident super-woman. She started the day with her twelve truths about life as a woman in her shoes including prioritizing, asking for help, soaring in your field and garnering respect, from yourself and those around you.

This year, our event, aptly called “Shop Talk 3,” was presented in memory of Marilyn Falack, a”h. This is no coincidence, as Marilyn clearly embodied the spirit of an entrepreneur. She bettered the lives of the people around her. She made things happen. She fueled her curiosities and followed her instincts. She educated herself and her children and as she learned, she loved and lived fully. Her daughters and mom gave us a peek into her world through a short video montage, introduced by the incredible Norma Cohen. It was the perfect introduction to a day dedicated to making the most of everything we do.

Nicole, our brilliant moderator majored in philosophy but wrote her college thesis on aesthetics. “You never know when the light bulb will turn on,” explained Nicole, “as parents we need to widen the world for our kids, and it starts by widening the world for ourselves. Throw a million hobbies at your kids and see what sticks…blogging didn’t even exist when I was a kid, and yet here I am, talking to thousands of people every day.”

In Julie and Michael Betesh’s home on this beautiful day our panel was diverse, including Tanya Zuckerbrot, world renown author and nutritionist specializing in the F-Factor diet; Gladys Haddad, first female president of the Sephardic Community Center and the director of Table and Top, Brooklyn, NY; Sasha Bikoff, interior designer; Julie Maleh, certified nutritionist and owner and founder of “Jus,” with four locations in the tri state area; Lynda Levy, “AdrenaLYN,” fitness instructor, Zumba teacher and physical education director at Barkai; and Joyce Salame, director of curriculum at Yeshivah of Flatbush elementary school. Throughout the discussion, much advice was given on a myriad of topics…

On the Journey:
“If you are thinking of going into a business it needs to reflect how you live your life,” explained Tanya, “If you expect others to do it, you need to do it first…What ever it is you are passionate about, stick with it. Authenticity and consistency is everything.”

On Timing:
Joyce Salame spoke about going back to college at 42 years old after marrying three of her eight children. “It all started with a conversation I had with a woman at the butcher, ‘I’m off to class,’ she said. And soon enough, off I went too.” Gladys Haddad agreed, “Opportunities present themselves all the time, and it’s easy to let them pass. Keep your eyes open, recognize them, and more importantly, act upon them.” Lynda Levy, a cancer survivor, expanded, “I believe that good things come from bad. One thing leads to another. If you feel stuck, or find yourself in a rut, look for that second chance; things can change overnight.”

On Confidence:
As a young woman fresh out of college Sasha was happily selling millions of dollars worth of art and paintings, but found she was a dolphin in a sea of sharks. She took her creative energy and started her own design business. “Through hard work and passion you can create anything. We are all scared to grab onto the independence we strive for, but if you believe in yourself then others will believe in you. Know your goal, and observe. You will find your path with ambition, drive and focus. Be honest, work hard and you can accomplish anything.

On Value:
Tanya explains, “If you are offering a valuable product, don’t be afraid to charge for it. I offer a lifestyle solution, teaching people how to eat for the rest of their lives. It is an investment in your health, and you get what you pay for; value, for a premium.”

On community service:
Gladys learned about teamwork, budget, and people skills at a very young age through community service. These are the same skills she used to start Table and Top. “It’s a great way to get your feet wet and get involved.”
On women helping women:
“Women take away fear and inadequacy for each other,” explained Lynda. “Pay a complement, smile. Support from other women is somehow different from everything else.” Joyce agreed, adding the children into the equation, “if you teach your children all that you know and then put them on your shoulders and ask, ‘what do you see?’ they will all be successful.”

On having it all:
“It’s a myth that women can have it all,” Tanya explained, “there is always a price to pay. A challenging road to success is paved with so many failures. Recognize who you are and ask for help with the qualities you don’t have.” More advice, “If you have a dream and it doesn’t work out the first time around just pick a different crayon out of the box and keep on drawing!”

On competition:
In reply to an audience question about the many people in similar businesses, Gladys explained, “Focus on yourself, and what you are doing. Be supportive of one another, it takes away from the anxiety, and remember, there are 70,000 plus people in the community; everyone is so different and has so much to give. Competition is good! Market yourself in a different way. Package and present yourself individually. Be true to yourself and people will follow.” Tanya continued, “Keep your eyes down, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Work ethic, character, and your passion and commitment will pull you away from the crowd.” Julie added, “No one can take away your luck. Focus and believe in what you do and you will be successful.”

Every year I question myself as to why I put so much time and energy into this event, and every year I can’t help but smile when I look at the faces in the crowd. When the panel was complete, a young woman introduced herself and her two teenaged daughters to me. “I look forward to this event all summer, and my daughters enjoy it even more than I do!” Being pulled in every direction by attendees thanking us, commenting on different aspects of the program, and asking questions about our next event, I sigh. “That’s why,” I say to myself, both relieved and rejuvenated and ready for the next challenge.

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