The first thing Lise Watier noticed on her recent trip to Israel was how “happy” the people were.
Not surprisingly, the cosmetics mogul noticed their looks, as well.
“The beautiful young women went out for the night in miniskirts with their weapons,” she recalled, referring to the half-day she spent training at an army base.
Watier, an iconic Quebec entrepreneur, was the special guest at the 25th Cocktails & Conversation recruiting event, presented by Agence Ometz on Jan. 31.
This was an opportunity for some of the agency’s younger clients to mingle with potential employers and hear from a business leader.
Watier, who founded Lise Watier Cosmétiques in 1972, was interviewed on stage by David Cape, president of the event’s sponsor, Groupe Marcelle Inc., and chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
Two years ago, Groupe Marcelle bought Lise Watier Cosmétiques, making it the largest Canadian cosmetics company. The Lise Watier label continues, and its makeup, skin care and fragrance products are sold in department and drug stores across the country.
Watier stepped down as CEO in 2013 to devote her time to philanthropic interests, as president of the Lise Watier Foundation.
She thought that Israel was “an incredible discovery.… The happiness of the people, the fun, it is not what I had in mind.” Watier was happy to see that men and women are, by and large, treated equally in Israeli society, and was impressed with the country’s entrepreneurial spirit.
Watier said that things have changed dramatically for Canadian women since she dared enter the business world more than 45 years ago.
“No one helped me,” she recalled. “In the late 1960s, it was not easy as a woman to go into business. Most saw it as a weakness, but I knew what women’s needs were. I was so sure of myself. I was (actually) encouraged by those who did not believe in me. I proved them wrong.”
Her advice to young men and women today: “First, be a very strong believer in who you are, be sure of what you can achieve. Don’t let anyone deter you from your vision. If you are clear about what you want, don’t let anyone change your mind.”
In the late 1960s, it was not easy as a woman to go into business.
– Lise Watier
Watier claims she was not a typical boss. “I don’t give orders – ever,” she said. “But when I say ‘no,’ it’s no.”
At 75, Watier said she is still trying to prove those who may not believe in what she is doing wrong.
Her foundation, of which Cape is a board member, is dedicated to helping disadvantaged women become financially independent, “Because this is the only freedom, otherwise you rely on the mercy of others,” she said.
The foundation extends loans of between $5,000 and $10,000 to women, especially mothers, who want to “start a new life.” They get help with going back to school, or starting a business.
Helping people become self-sufficient is Ometz’s aim, as well, said its president, Saul Carliner. Forty-six events such as this one have been held over the past 25 years, in which a total of 1,250 employment seekers have made presentations.
“Eighty per cent have found jobs within three months,” said Carliner. Overall, the Cocktail & Conversation series has generated some 2,500 jobs in Montreal, as is Ometz’s goal.
On this night, 17 job seekers were given one minute to make a snappy pitch to potential employers. They ranged from those who are just completing their educations, to one who has 25 years worth of experience.
Finance, accounting and business development were the most frequently cited areas of interest. A significant number were immigrants, notably from France.
Eighty per cent have found jobs within three months.
– Saul Carliner
Among those from elsewhere was Gisele Albagli, an account manager in the software industry who arrived here from Brazil six months earlier. Marketing specialist Sharon Aron – an Israeli who moved here from London, England, in November – has already launched QuebecFamilyHikes.ca, a non-profit website designed for families with kids who want to discover the province.
Among the non-immigrants, Miriam Grosz, a daycare worker, is looking for a new challenge, after nine years as a “co-ordinator of chaos.”
Stefanie Kimelman, who is working as a waitress, graduated from Concordia University last year in actuarial mathematics and is eager to put her skill with numbers to work.
Queen’s University athlete Jordan Prizant wants to get into sports data analytics.
Bryan Zimmerman returned to Montreal after obtaining a master of science degree in sustainability management at the University of Toronto and is eager to grow his career in this burgeoning field.