Liri Kovalski, BSBA ’11

in Student Profiles, Undergraduate Student Profiles
March 7th, 2011

Liri KovalskiThe last question I asked Liri Kovalski (BSBA ’11) during our interview was about her plans for the future, which include applying to law school and expanding her real estate management business. But then she told me, “There’s a Hebrew saying that I’ll translate into English for you: ‘The man makes plans, and God laughs.’” I knew exactly what she meant, and laughed heartily at the simple truth of it. But the more I thought about it, the more I doubted whether she really buys it. After all, just half an hour earlier, she was explaining to me, like it was a simple empirical fact of nature, “When I decide something, it happens.”

From what she tells me about herself, that sounds a lot more likely. Liri began working at age 12 (though she didn’t have to), because she “never wanted to be dependent on people.”

At 17, she started as a hostess at local bars in Tel Aviv, only to quickly transition into a very profitable event producer/PR manager, much to the chagrin of the seasoned industry veterans around her.

“Both of my older brothers went into the family business, and it was assumed that I would too. But I wanted to make it for myself with no connections in Israel, to prove that I could.”

“Most of my competitors were 30-plus-year-old men. Not only was I the only lady in the industry, but I was also the youngest. Most of them had already pursued their degrees. At first they didn’t take me seriously, but after a few events I threw succeeded, they started contacting me with offers to cooperate. I started doing more serious event production, including premieres of the Israeli So You Think You Can Dance and the movie of a famous local actor.”

Like all Israelis, Liri was drafted into the Israeli Defense Force for two years when she was 18. But unlike others, that didn’t mean she was going to quit her job. She convinced her superiors to let her continue conducting PR business anyway.

A few years later, having fulfilled her duty to the army, while saving some money on the side, Liri left her home in Israel to begin a new life on her own. She knew she wanted to be in Boston, ultimately to study law, and to try her hand at real estate like her father had before her.

“Both of my older brothers went into the family business, and it was assumed that I would too,” she says. “But I wanted to make it for myself with no connections in Israel, to prove that I could.”

Coming from Israel, Liri didn’t enter college with any AP credits, but nonetheless she is scheduled to graduate from the Questrom School of Business this May, a year early. Meanwhile, she was the teaching assistant for freshman-year business classes SM121 and SM122, and this year is the head teaching assistant for all freshman business courses.

As if that weren’t enough, Liri is already following one of her dreams: Last year, she bought a residential property in the South End, which she manages, in partnership with her father. And this year she is looking to make her second real estate investment in the Boston area. Her partnership with her father, who has been a constant supporter and mentor, is 50/50. “I do most of the management work because my father lives in Israel, but I’m happy to be in partnership with him,” she says. “I cherish his opinion and experience—my father did it the same way with his parents.”

She credits her grandparents and father with her interest and success in real estate. Having moved to Israel after the Holocaust with almost nothing, her grandparents always put any extra money they had into real estate.

“I think that was an inspiration to me,” she says. “I learned from them and my father, who followed in their footsteps as I am in his, that real estate is a means of securing yourself financially long-term. It enables you to do things that you love while being sure that tomorrow you won’t starve, because only two generations ago, my grandparents were in a situation where they did starve.”