Supporting and Investing in Messianic Businesses: Recap from Israel Business Forum 2016

Panel discussion at 2016 Israel Business Forum

Organized by Israel Firstfruits Center for Economic Advancement (IFC), the fourth annual Israel Business Forum took place in Jerusalem on 22 September 2016. Read more about it in an article KNI posted before the forum. 

The forum was a roaring success. “It was phenomenal,” says Grace, one of the local participants. “Everything was so well done. The organizers had thought of every detail.”

CEO of Israel Firstfruits, Mordechai Wiseman, confirms: “We had peak local participation and excitement about growing in business in the Land. I also felt there was a step up in the quality of local businesses represented: the entrepreneurs had taken necessary preparatory and legal steps which enabled them to better attract and utilize international investment. We received outstanding feedback from the international participants and were greatly encouraged by their desire to invest, follow up, mentor and coach local entrepreneurs.”

One forum participant is Hannah Shiloh, a believing Israeli sabra who runs a consulting business called Hannah Shiloh: Above and Beyond Coaching. Hannah heard about the work of IFC at one of their Messianic Business Fellowship conferences in Haifa. “I was touched by how God was raising up and connecting believers in business in the Land,” she says.

“I came to the Forum wanting to find prayer support in the first instance,” Hannah shares. “Now that my business is up and running, I hoped to find a mentor who could advise me on how to grow it in a Godly way. At the Forum I met an entrepreneur from overseas who has the same business as I do, and who is a few steps ahead of me: he now has eight staff. He told me he will provide advice for free, as a contribution. And I promised him I would pay it forward and do this for someone else.”

Hannah’s professional background includes many years of executive management with Israel’s Maccabi Health Care Services. “Working in the pharmaceutical department I grew in my management position and was involved with mentoring and caring for people.” Hannah says. “So many people in business are running after money they forget the people involved.”

Hannah continues that the Lord then showed her to move away from her steady job to start her own business. “I am now a consultant and mentor to leaders in private business, and I advise on career development. My calling is to the marketplace, to influence people and to bring Godly principles there.”

During the Forum Hannah facilitated a meeting between forum participants and a panel of local business owners. Participants could ask questions about the challenges of running a business in Israel, and receive advice – and encouragement to “hang in there” when the going gets tough.

Grace, who immigrated to Israel from the USA and now runs a school here, was one of the entrepreneurs on the panel. “One theme we discussed was how to stay true to our values as believing entrepreneurs in the secular market place. I shared about a major problem I had at the end of my first year in business when I was doing so well I suddenly had to a pay a lot of taxes I was not ready for. With the help of Israel Firstfruits God gave me creative insight to know how to manage these taxes in way that I could pay them and still continue in business.”

As Hannah confirms: “Believers should not be afraid to go into the marketplace either to work as an employee or to have a business: God is with us.”

Grace tells how fruitful the forum was for her business too. During the matchmaking sessions, where local entrepreneurs are paired up with foreign investors and business owners, Grace was matched with a consultant who advises such companies as Disney and Pixar. She recounts: “ I had been in leadership, but had not been in business before. My business is growing quickly and I need to know how to grow it well. This consultant gave me advice from heaven. It was like attending a $1000 dollar consultancy session. I got to sit with one of the best consultants ever, for free.”

“The locals are starting to understand that this conference is about them,” Mordechai reflects. “They now want to be the ones doing the funding and investing. People told me: ‘We should be the ones taking responsibility to invest in ourselves and internationally because Israel is called to be a giving nation.’”

With around 300 participants in attendance, the conference was quite crowded. Mordechai concludes: “We have developed an excellent relationship with Hotel Yehuda, where we have held the forum for the last three years. However, this year we had so many people we almost ran out of space, but they did a great job accommodating us.”