(Tel Aviv – Jaffa) -- Ilana Sharon is banking on her passion for fashion to build a lucrative livelihood. By extending a microenterprise loan, KIEDF is banking on her.

Working by day as an accounting assistant, and as a creator of couture fashions by night, Ilana faced a challenge in reaching the buying public. Her microloan allowed her to open a sample store in Old Jaffa where well-dressed women can select from a variety of styles as the basis for their custom-made clothing.

Not one to rest on her laurels, Ilana has identified an untapped market. In addition to her Jewish customers, she is trying to attract Arab women. Few outside the Arab culture know that Arab women dress impeccably beneath their robes and dress up in finery for single-sex social celebrations.

“They appreciate my designs and they appreciate quality,” Ilana said.

It takes about a week from order to completion of a garment, said Ilana, who sends piecework out so that she can staff her store. She hopes soon to be able to buy a sewing machine for the store, so that she can show her customers how she works and work on garments when she’s not fitting them.

Ilana’s hope is that her Moroccan-style, hand-embroidered shoes, bags, and boots, and her custom-made dresses of the finest fabrics, will provide the breakthrough she needs to repay her loan and net a profit.

“It’s been my dream to have a business of my own,” she said. “Without the loan, I wouldn’t have opened. I wouldn’t have had the means or the courage. I pray I make it.”