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Work/Life Solutions with Charlene Aminoff

"I see it so clearly: The more we thank Hashem, the more He gives us reasons to thank Him"

Who Charlene Aminoff, founder & CEO at Gali’s Couture Wigs, public speaker, and social media influencer.

What  On July 26, 2010, Charlene’s daughter Gali (short for Avigail) fell into a pool in Miami and drowned. While her 20-year Hatzolah veteran husband was performing CPR on Gali, Charlene did her part to save her child: She vowed to Hashem to take upon herself a powerful mitzvah — covering her hair. At the very moment that the promise passed her lips, Hashem miraculously granted their daughter life. (A must-listen is Charlene’s popular and inspiring speech on TorahAnytime where she vividly recounts this life-changing experience.)

That’s when Gali’s Couture Wigs was born. Charlene realized the potency in women keeping the mitzvah of covering their hair, and she therefore made it her life’s mission to provide women (from all walks of life, from all over the world) with high-quality sheitels.

Today she has a showroom in Great Neck, New York, with 14 employees and 52 wholesale distributors worldwide. And as you’ll see from her interview, she also spearheaded deals with major insurance companies, which enabled her to become an in-network provider of wigs for anyone suffering from medically induced hair loss, including those dealing with chemotherapy, alopecia, trichotillomania, and autoimmune disorders.

Where Charlene was born and raised in Great Neck, where she currently resides with her husband and children. In addition to her business, she gives inspiring lectures several times a week across the Tristate area (and all over the world), on topics such as emunah, kindness, Gali’s miraculous survival, and she does challah bakes. She also lectures at various high schools about bullying and about self-worth, and she teaches teenage girls how to fuse modesty and fashion — without compromising on either one.

Why While Charlene has built a massive wig empire, she infuses spirituality into every facet of her personal and professional life. At work, her goal is to ensure that every Jewish customer feels the power and beauty of the mitzvah, especially brides who are on the fence about covering their hair. Moreover, every wig has the following blessing on its inner tag, written by the rabbanim who attended Gali’s seudas hoda’ah: “May the owner of this holy sheitel be blessed with protection, brachah, and hatzlachah!”

In her personal life, not a sentence goes by without her effusively blessing Hashem and appreciating His love for all of us. (If you’ve ever met her, you know exactly what I mean.) And in addition to her inspirational speeches, she also has over 45,000 followers on social media, where she prides herself on keeping her content real, positive, and totally focused on creating a kiddush Hashem.


1 of 9 What opportunities or personalities played a key role in your career?

I grew up in an extremely loving, warm, traditional, and spiritual Persian home with the greatest laughter and food you can possibly imagine. My father is a brilliant, kind, total workaholic and although we didn’t grow up with money, he never once let us know of our financial state. My mother is this perpetually happy, extraordinarily grateful, hardworking insomniac supermom, having raised four really happy kids in a tiny two-bedroom apartment in Queens with no cleaning help. You would think she’d have complained, but she walked around all day long passionately thanking Hashem out loud as though we were royalty living in a castle. Seeing the way they both worked so hard and had such strong emunah, how they never complained, paved the way for me to know exactly how I wanted to live my life one day as a frum businesswoman, as well as a loving wife and mommy. We didn’t have much money, but we were the absolute richest kids on the planet. So growing up knowing that laziness is not an option and Hashem controls everything somehow built a pretty great work ethic.


3 of 9 What do you do to relax, recharge, or simply have fun? How do you make time for that, and how often?

Relax? What’s that? (Just kidding.) I happen to be an extraordinarily active person, so it’s actually a little hard for me to “relax.” I love to take on too many projects because I have a phrase I always tell my kids, “Busy beats bored.” My family claims that while many people have something called fear of failure, I may have a condition called fear of boredom. But one thing that I definitely enjoy and prioritize is spending time with my kids and husband. I struggled with infertility the first few years of my marriage… and after my fifth pregnancy loss, when I was told by a “top” doctor to give up in my quest for biological children, I promised Hashem that when (not if!) I am blessed with children of my own, I will never take them for granted and constantly appreciate everything.

So, simply hanging out with my kids and husband, playing cards/board games/backgammon with them is my absolute favorite escape in the world. Nothing brings me more nachat. Another favorite is going out to restaurants with my husband, Jonathan. We both love to dine out and make sure to have Mommy-Daddy night at least once every two weeks. But when my life gets particularly hectic where neither of those fun outlets are an immediate option, I need just one hour alone with my Tehillim and a large coffee in front of my fireplace, and somehow that boosts my gas tank from E to F — it’s my life hack! And my Tehillim is torn to shreds and soaked by years of my tears… because if your Tehillim is falling apart, you know you’re not!

5 of 9 If you were granted an extra three hours per day or a spare million dollars, what would you do with that time or money?

I would absolutely select an extra three hours a day. Money comes directly from Hashem, but time is so precious that once it’s gone, you can never get it back. If I were granted an extra three hours a day, I would write a book. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine…. It would be a book all about my spiritual trials and triumphs and how yeshuat Hashem k’heref ayin. When you least expect it, Hashem can send you a miracle in the blink of an eye. I think I’d dedicate one chapter to the tefillah of Nishmat Kol Chai and how saying this prayer of immense gratitude to Hashem is known to yield great miracles.


6 of 9 What is the most inspiring feedback you’ve ever received? Did that impact what you did next?

When I launched my wig business around nine years ago, fresh off the heels of my daughter Gali’s miraculous survival of her drowning, I knew in the back of my mind I would eventually love to cater not just to the religious community, but to the medical community as well. So about five years ago, I woke up around 4 a.m. with a metaphoric light bulb over my head that just wouldn’t shut off. I was going to make my wigs available, at no cost, to those in the medical community. I began researching how to become an in-network provider for wigs for anyone suffering from medically induced hair loss, be it chemotherapy, alopecia, trichotillomania, or autoimmune disorders. Everyone thought I was nuts for wanting to take on such a complicated and exhausting project, but I was relentless — the more they told me I’d never succeed at getting recognized by the insurance industry, the more it fueled my fire.

So one day, I packed up my minivan with tons of snacks, water, coffee, and a newly updated Israeli music playlist and I drove all the way to Albany where one of the main insurance companies is based. I had my clipboard, my patent for our special ComfyCaps, my wig, and my emunah in hand. I knew who to look for, courtesy of Google Images. I spotted the man walking out of a boardroom and I ambushed him. I blurted out my whole life story to him in under 45 seconds and begged him to simply sign the paper on the clipboard that I was shoving in his face, thereby recognizing my company as an official provider for medical wigs. After an awkward 20 seconds of silence, he looked me in the eye and said, “I like your style,” and signed the forms. (On the drive back from Albany, I called all my doubters and shared the great news — and let them know not to mess with this fierce mama when an idea to help the klal comes my way!)

The rest is history. Four years later, we’ve gotten thousands of women approved for gorgeous wigs — for free — via their insurance.


7 of 9 If you were asked to deliver a TED Talk that would be watched by 50 million people, what topic would you choose to speak about? Why?

My TED Talk would be on the power of gratitude. There’s too much complaining in the world. I wish I could scream to the world, “Just stop kvetching! You are so blessed! Thank Hashem instead and watch how things turn around!” My Hebrew name is Michal, and the gematria is 100 — perek kuf in Tehillim is Mizmor L’Todah, which I say way too many times a day. That’s why Hodu L’Hashem is my favorite saying and hashtag.

I’m obsessively grateful and I see it so clearly: The more we thank Hashem, the more He gives us reasons to thank Him — which also, in a magical way, builds tremendous emunah muscles. Once you become so cognizant of your blessings and you begin to thank Hashem, for the good and the seemingly bad, you don’t see anything as bad anymore. I always joke that as a result of all my nisyonot in life, I’ve achieved “bulletproof emunah” and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. And I have my mother to thank for this. Nine years ago, when we got the call from my mother’s surgeon that her biopsy turned out to be malignant, our world began to collapse. My father, siblings, and I were all screaming and crying, sobbing on the floor of my parents’ kitchen, when my mom walked in and started yelling: “Don’t you dare complain! Say thank you that it’s just cancer! Stop crying and start dancing! Hashem is the ultimate doctor!” I couldn’t comprehend how the moment she heard of her terrible diagnosis, she was forcing us to thank Hashem and dance! But her gratitude is what kept her and her family going, and there’s no question why, baruch Hashem, her oncologists are happy today! May she live and be well to 120 with a complete refuah sheleimah for Dina bat Tamar. And since that day, every time she has a scan or is going to her oncologist, we gather at her home and dance and thank Hashem.


8 of 9 Can you share a time when you had to navigate the tension between your deepest values and the business world?

Sure. Here are two brief stories:

1) I was asked to lead a highly documented, extremely exciting overseas trip for a week. It was a dream come true for me — but I’ve never been away from my husband and kids for that long. In addition, when I checked my personal calendar, I saw that each of my kids had something big that week. And I had a moment of truth: I didn’t gain these kids easily. After years of infertility, I had to cry, beg, and plead with Hashem for them, and I made a promise that I will never take them for granted. So even though I really wanted to lead that trip, I decided not to. Ironically, that week with my kids (at their Chumash party, chess tournament, recording studio, etc.) turned out to be one of the happiest in my life! I put my family first, and I’m so glad I did.

2) At the age of 17, before I became frum, I was asked to model Chanel makeup at the makeup counters of Macy’s and Saks. With my parents’ consent, we agreed that I would only do private, basic in-store events. Soon after, Chanel started asking me to do more high-profile and public modeling events, including magazines, shows, print ads, and everything I promised my parents I would never do. When Chanel saw that I wouldn’t budge, they gave me an ultimatum: “Go big or go home.” As tempting, lucrative, and exciting as their offer was, especially for a 17-year-old, knowing how my parents felt about this, knowing that I would never go back on a promise, and knowing that I would never disrespect them, I knew immediately that this was not the right path for me. I chose to walk away. Proudly. I turned them down and never looked back — knowing without a doubt that kibbud av v’eim would bring me far more brachah than anything else.


9 of 9 If you were advising a young man/woman hoping to launch a career as an entrepreneur, which “do’s” and “don’ts” would you share?

When I was first starting out, I was so overwhelmed. I was a stay-at-home mom of five and now suddenly, with no work experience, I was thrust into the workforce. But I knew this was now my avodat Hashem, to help bring people closer to Hashem, to inspire them to cover their hair and make this mitzvah easy and affordable, so I was ready. I had framed a quote and hung it on my wall, which I looked at every single day: “Entrepreneurship is living five years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t.” This mantra ran through my mind every time the going got tough, and every time a new opportunity or project came my way. So my advice is, as cliché as it may seem: Just keep at it. Don’t give up. Don’t let the naysayers break you — instead, let them build you! Work hard, but don’t forget to play hard too. Log in those crazy hours. Deal with sleepless nights. Work as hard as humanly possible — but just remember this: No matter what you do or don’t do, Hashem determines your success. Your hishtadlut is of paramount importance, but ultimately, only Hashem can and will reward all your efforts. So while you’re busy burning the midnight oil, don’t lose sight of where your success will come from. It’s only from Him. Trust Hashem, and don’t forget to trust His timing as well. And don’t kvetch. Just be grateful!


As the COO of Partners in Torah, Moe is spearheading a digital transformation, strategic partnerships, and global expansion. Previously, he was the Founder & CEO at Winfluencers, the Head of BizDev for Hometalk, Strategy Consultant for Deloitte, and Regional Director for the Lauder Foundation. He holds an MBA and semichah, and published his first book, The Gift of Stuttering (Mosaica Press, 2016). He also teaches a Daf Yomi shiur, produces inspirational videos for Aish.com, and gives lectures to audiences worldwide. Moe lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife and children. 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 795)

 

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