A bit about Yula before we start: Yula Halfin works with people and helps them achieve a healthier lifestyle – through nutrition, healthier cooking and alternative medicine, either one-on-one in her clinic, through workshops or lectures. She lives with her husband and three sons in Karkur.
The first time I met Yula was about a year and a half year ago. It was at a networking meeting held by the Iskit Project. It was shortly after I had left by job and was just starting up as a self-employed. I was very excited (and a little bit scared). I remember Yula from that first meeting. I remember her introduction of herself and her business and especially her enthusiasm and positive approach that I found really charming. When I first had the idea of starting to write a series of interviews for the blog, about people who are “doing it differently”, with people who have made big made life changes, Yula was one of the first who came to mind. Her story is certainly one worth hearing!
Yula, thank you so much! Also for your time and also for being my first interviewee. Yesterday I saw on Facebook that exactly three years ago today, it was your last day as an employee at a large high-tech company after working there for many years. That is interesting timing! Can you take me back to that day?
Wow! That was a day with a lot of mixed feelings. I made the decision, on one hand with full awareness and my eyes wide open, but on the other hand, I had no idea what I was getting into. It was only later that I started to work out all the details.
At that time I had been working for 15 years, 12 of them at that big high-tech company. Over the last decade I was in Human Resources. I have a BA in economics and a MA in Business Administration.
When did you decide that you wanted something different?
Honestly, after the first semester at university I realized that those studies were not what I wanted. But you know, I was taught growing up that if you start something, then you finish…. The fact that I didn’t feel any connection to the profession, I realized very quickly. But the conviction that you do something because you want to or because you like it, that was not part of my vocabulary at the time. What I knew then was that first you study, then you look for work, then you start to earn and that it is. When I look back at those years, I was busy with trying to get away from that field and that was how I ended up in Human Resources …..
So what happened?
About 11 years ago I fell seriously ill and I think it was the beginning of the change. When I became ill, I discovered a whole new world of alternative medicine that I didn’t knew existed. My mother is a conventional physician and that was what I grew up with.
So I started out this whole thing by being a patient and only later started to study nutrition. I was still deep in my work at the Hi-tech company and hadn’t even thought that I would ever do something with it professionally. During the studies I realized that I really liked it. At first it was just a hobby, where I helped friends and instructed some workshops for employees within the organization. Very slowly the idea of turning it into a business started to grow within me although it still seemed impossible.
After my maternity leave with my youngest son I really did not want to go back to work. We sat down, my husband and I, building excel tables to see if we could manage without my salary. At that point, even if I had started to think about turning my idea into a business, I still had the conviction that it wasn’t something I could possible make a living from. Besides, it seemed impossible to give up on a high-tech salary ….
But you left anyway?
Yes, eventually there was that last straw that broke the camel’s back and I realized that I couldn’t do it anymore. But still, from that point on it still took time to make that final decision. it was a very long process and I cannot say exactly when I decided.
How did you feel after the decision was taken?
I was very scared! At first, I had fears that were almost existential. Like for example, that my children will have nothing to eat. Even if I knew that it would never get that far. After all, my husband was working, we had a big house we could sell and move into something smaller and so on. There was this huge gap between those fears and what my reality really looked like, but that was how I felt.
But even with all that, I was very clear on what I wanted. I still have a notebook from 5 years ago (two years before leaving by job) with the idea and the plan for my current business. Some things have changed a bit since then, but all in all, what I wrote in that notebook is very close to what I am doing today. So at the time that I left Hi-tech, I knew exactly what I was going to do but I had no idea how to do it.
So how did you start out? What was the most difficult in the beginning?
I started this business with zero equity investment. I did it all by myself. I didn’t allow myself to spend a penny until the business began to prove itself. Slowly I realized that this was something real, that I had something to give to the world.
How do you see your life as a self-employed compared to when you were an employee?
Today I work much more! But it’s so much easier! I can do what I want with my business and that it so important for me. I get up in the morning and can then decide what to do and that is an amazing thing! I can dream about something in the evening and start to apply it to the business the following day! Time is mine and I choose to do with it what I want.
What about the family?
Today the situation is completely different from what it was! I think I’m physically less accessible because I am busier, but emotionally I’m much more accessible. I am a human. Before that I was not a happy person. I would come home from work tired and with no energy for anything. I was miserable. If you ask my husband, then no doubt, he both feels and sees it. Which he also tells me. There is no doubt that I feel so much better about myself. I also feel that is something important that I pass on to the boys. That they have a mother that is happy and content. Especially as education for boys, I think it is important they know, that their wife deserves to be happy. I think that that is something important to pass on to the next generation.
And about your fears? Has it changed? How do you feel today?
Completely different, but that took time, lots of time. I dealt with it in many different ways and slowly things began to move forward with the business as well. At first I was worried that the progress was only temporary. What if it does not continue? Then I realized that if I have clients coming in today and tomorrow and also one week from now, then they will probably continue to come after that as well.
Today I’m in a different place. I have some fears still, but nothing compared to the way it was. Now I know that even if everything crashes, tomorrow I will be able to get up and do something else. I will find something to do, how to do it and how to market it. Today I see the world much differently, much bigger than it used to be and with lots of options.
What would you do differently today?
I would do it much, much earlier! No doubt that I was really sabotaging myself ….
There are things that you miss from those days as an employee?
Just one thing. That trivial thing of receiving a fixed, monthly salary. For it to be a good one and for it to be satisfying. I have never been rich, but economically I was on such a place that allowed me to do whatever came to mind. Today, though, I think, why did I need all those things? Now my main priority is to invest my money in the business instead of spending it on something else.
At that time, I was so full of frustration, that to make myself feel better, myself I would go to the mall every Friday and spend several thousands of shekels on clothes, accessories, bags, shoes and jewelry. It was like a hobby. Every Friday. Totally as a compensation and even partially as a conscious act. It stopped right after I left the company. I still like to buy myself something nice now and then, but nothing like before. Today I do not use money as a way to compensate misery.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?
The first thing should be to really check with yourself, if being self-employed is right for you. It is not for everyone and that is ok. What you have to be, is aware of all existing options.
Secondly, it is hard work! There are those who are not prepared for it. You should also be prepared to be available in a different kind. And you should have support, because you are going to need it.
Third, we must be willing to do the things you might like the in the business like financial management, advertising, marketing, administration and more. You cannot run a business but not take care of finances, for example.
And another thing, do not be afraid to lack experience or knowledge. It will come. I think that in each stage you find yourself in professionally, there will also be the customers to match. No matter in what field. You should be aware of your limitations at every stage. It is a shame to wait years for professional knowledge when experience is just as important.
And so as we are almost at the end, what would you say is the is the biggest change you’ve been through?
When I worked in High-tech, I saw everything very black or white. Things like, if I won’t work at this company I will work at different but similar one. Or than either I am studying or I am working. I realize now that there are plenty of ways to do something that are in between two extremes. I see now that, I could have cut my position down to 80% while studying one course at a time. Today everything is much less black and white. Suddenly I see a lot of other shades.
I meet a lot of people who tell me that they are not happy with what they are doing, but do not know what they want. How lucky for you, they say, that you do and that you can. Everyone has a choice and it has nothing to do with luck. That makes me remember that last day of work at the High-tech company. When I made a round to say goodbye to people, you know what they all said to me? Not “Good luck”, “we hope that you succeed” or “you have courage”, like I would have expected. No, they all said “How fun for you, I envy you so much.” As if I was released from prison. So why didn’t they do anything about it? They are all still there today.
Today I really have fun with my work. I feel like I’m constantly on the move, growing, developing. If I enjoy something, I continue to do it, I have a choice. I really enjoy trying out new things to see if they work for the business. I learned that sometimes, things we plan do not work out and that is fine. That is how it should be.
Every idea has potential and therefore I will try it out. If it works well, fine, if not, that is fine too. Today I do not see things like those as failures, but as something new I learned along the way.
Yula, thank you so much!