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Forward 50 2012

Elana Drell-Szyfer

How does an Israeli cosmetics company dramatically expand in America? First it hires Elana Drell-Szyfer, a 20-year veteran of the beauty industry who was named one of Jewish Women International’s 2012 Women to Watch and one of Pink magazine’s Top 10 Women in Business — and then it lets her run the show.

As general manager and CEO of Ahava North America, Drell-Szyfer has relaunched the company’s Dead Sea mineral–based skincare brand and, in less than two years, doubled its North American sales and increased its presence in major department stores. This September, she took the reins of Ahava’s global marketing. (The company, which started on a kibbutz near the Dead Sea, now sells in more than 30 countries.)

Drell-Szyfer, 43, grew up in a Conservative Jewish family in New Jersey, where her parents placed a premium on education and religion. After graduating from Columbia University and earning an MBA from New York University, she worked her way up via Chanel, Avon, L’Oreal and Estee Lauder. Ahava wasn’t the obvious next step, but it was the right one.

“It was a very interesting opportunity because of my own interests in Israel and Jewish philanthropy,” Drell-Szyfer said (she sits is on the board of the Women’s Philanthropy Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey), “and also because I could run an entire business.” The unexpected bonus? “There’s an intermingling between business life, personal life, Jewish life, family life,” she said, something important to a boss who wants to spend time with her three daughters.

At a time when balancing motherhood and career can feel impossible, Drell-Szyfer proves she can have it all.

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