Entrepreneur Highlight Stories
Business Type: Clothing Design
Before joining WES, Sana Elleuch dreamt of starting her own clothing design business. While she had professional training in sewing, Sana knew she also needed experience creating and managing a budget. Her cousin recommended the WES Center as a supportive environment in which to pursue her entrepreneurial endeavors. She enrolled in a Financial Education training at the ACG WES Center in Sfax and launched a business making covered and non-covered swimsuits, a burgeoning market in Tunisia. As Sana states, “Thanks to WES, I have become more creative and financially independent.” Sana is focused on growing her client base and, using the skills she gained from WES, has created a database of current and potential customers. She meets with these store owners regularly to present samples of her designs and expand the number of boutiques that carry her swimsuit line. Eventually, Sana would like to open her own store-front.
Business Type: Interior Design
Yosra Khazri has an academic background in design. She gained professional experience in client relations and staff management while managing a furniture design store in Tunis for several years. Yosra always dreamed of being her own boss. She decided to make this a reality after getting married and moving with her husband to his home region of Zarzis, where, as Yosra explains, she found herself “stuck in the daily routine with nothing to do.” She learned about the ADDCI WES Center and enrolled in the Entrepreneurship training, where she conducted market research and created a business plan. She launched her interior design business, Dari (“My House”), directly into the formal sector. Yosra expanded her business by acquiring a showroom to exhibit her kitchen designs. In the future, Yosra plans to diversify her products and recruit three permanent staff to help run her workshop.
Business Type: Artisanal Food
Fathia Arfaoui is a talented baker and cook who has made food products for her family and friends for as long as she can remember. Wanting to turn her hobby into an income-generating profession, Fathia enrolled in an Entrepreneurship and Financial Education training at the La Ruche WES Center in Tozeur. Along with the skills she gained at the trainings, the WES Center staff emphasized the importance of diversifying her products and helped her to identify a set of dishes she could make out of dates, a fruit in demand both in Tunisia and abroad. Fathia launched her food business that makes date coffee, desserts, and traditional ceremonial dishes. The WES Center staff encouraged her to launch her business directly in the formal sector and worked closely with her to develop a business plan and complete the necessary paper work to officially register. Since then, Fathia won a WES Business Award and used the funding to buy an oven and raw materials for her business. Wanting to raise her business’ visibility and gain new customers, Fathia worked with the WES Center staff to establish a small, boutique food store in the Tozeur souk. They encouraged her to organize a launch event and coached her on how to invite local media to further promote her business. Fathia explains that the launch event helped her to gain credibility as well as new clientele.
Business Type: Wooden Toys
Chadleya Idriss started to make toys for her children using repurposed wood when they were young. This hobby enabled her to both provide fun and safe toys for her children during difficult financial times and protect the environment by using material that would otherwise have gone to waste. As her children grew, she began to dream of opening her own toy company. Chadleya participated in the Entrepreneurship training at the UNFT WES Center in Kairouan and worked closely with the WES Center staff to conduct market research on the local toy industry. With the skills and confidence she gained from the training, Chadleya launched her new business, Toy Story, in 2014. Chadleya was able to increase her sales after winning a WES Business Award, which partly financed a marketing campaign and helped her to create personalized packaging.
Business Type: Textile
Zina gained her carpet-making skills from the women in her family. While her skills grew over time, her lack of confidence and business acumen limited her success. After participating in Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Financial Education trainings at the ADGS WES Center in Gafsa, her outlook on herself and business transformed. “Now I respect myself and my job,” Zina comments. With WES support, Zina developed a business plan and secured a microloan to improve the quality of her equipment and materials. With additional funds from a WES Business Award, Zina designed more products and gained new clientele, which provided the additional revenue necessary to hire staff and register her business. Zina further expanded her business after winning a competitive award offered through the WES Center, called Gafsa Creates, which provides credit to distinguished women artisans for equipment and raw materials. Through this award, Zina also gained access to a permanent showroom at ADGS to exhibit and sell her products. Zina, who never left home because she was so shy, is now the manager of her own company, employing 15 people, including her husband!
Facebook: Poterie Kairouan
Business Type: Ceramics
Nabiha Zaghouani, a skilled potter, has greatly benefited from the training and coaching provided by a WES Center, which enabled her to expand her pottery business, Poterie Kairouan, and pay social security and medical insurance to her employees for the first time. As Nabiha states, “[WES] made my employees more productive and more comfortable working for me.” Nabiha used funds she won through the WES Business Award competition to increase her brand visibility by purchasing a page in an online e-boutique and magazine. Since then, Nabiha further expanded her business by opening a studio in Nabeul, an area in Tunisia long known for the skill of its potters. With more experienced potters in this area and closer proximity to the raw materials and her client base, Nabiha’s profit margins have increased since opening her second studio.
Business Type: Textiles
Essia Marzougi grew up in a family of artisans from Kairouan who exposed her to the art of making traditional handicrafts at an early age. She launched her business making carpets, embroidery and jewelry over 30 years ago and plays an active role in training women in these traditional art forms. Before joining WES, Essia struggled to find and recruit qualified employees. She also knew she needed more support in managing her finances if her business was to continue to grow. She enrolled in an Entrepreneurship training at her local WES Center, which helped her to develop a new strategy to target potential women employees in rural areas. Using this approach, Essia was able to recruit new employees and now employs 20 women. As Essia explains, “My participation in [WES] training[s]…… helped me improve the internal management of my business and present my products in a more attractive way.” Additionally, WES helped Essia expand her business and network, and she has started selling her products to hotels in Tunisia’s tourist centers. “For me, WES is one of the best experiences I went through. It allowed me to expand my network and discover other women……preserving the traditional heritage of Kairouan,” states Essia. She explains that by staying true to her passion and never giving up, she is able to keep her business growing.
Facebook: Kaser ennour
Business Type: Food Service
While cafés scatter Tunisia’s urban and rural areas, many are filled with men playing cards, discussing current events or watching sports. Women often complain that stares and verbal harassment keep them from frequenting male dominated cafes and that they have very few options for places to meet outside of the home. In Kairouan, there has long been a need for a space in the center of the city where women feel welcome to meet and exchange ideas. Naima Jenayah, head of the local chapter of the National Women’s Chamber of Commerce (CNFCE) in Kairouan, saw this challenge and decided to turn it into an opportunity. In June 2014, Naima opened Kasr Ennour (Light Palace), the first café for women in Kairouan. Just in time for Ramadan, when many people go to cafés after breaking their fasts to celebrate with friends and family, Kasr Ennour is a safe place for women to gather and talk informally. Naima owned the building for many years before opening the café and, initially, rented it out for large events such as weddings. But neighbors complained about the noise and Naima was forced to close her business. Soon after, her husband passed away and, as the breadwinner in her family, Naima knew that her next business venture had to be a success. It was then that she enrolled in the Entrepreneurship and e-Commerce training courses at the National Union of Tunisian Women WES center in Kairouan. Naima used her own savings to redesign the space and transform it into a warm and welcoming place for women. To meet the growing customer demand since opening, Naima has already hired three women to support her in the café’s success.
Lamia Ben Ali
Business Type: Baked Goods
Lamia Ben Ali worked as a pastry trainer at several training centers before participating in WES trainings at the NOOR WES Center in Sousse. Lamia explains that, through the WES trainings, “[I] gained more confidence in myself and started having a clear vision for my future. It was….time for me to start my own business.” Initially, she used her own savings to build baking ovens in her garage, hire an employee and launch her bakery business, The Old Bakery. Since launching her business in the summer of 2013, Lamia has been able to expand and now has clients throughout Tunisia including in Sousse, Tunis and Kairouan. Recently, Lamia won a WES Business Award and used the funds to launch a new line of pastry products and modernized the look of her bakery to attract new customers.
Business Type: Clothing Design
Before she came to the TAMSS WES Center in Tunis, Rachida Gannouni had a registered home-based sewing business specializing in uniforms and work wear that employed four women. At that time, Rachida had a book keeping system that did not separate her business from her family budget and she was not always able to distinguish between expenses and profit.
Rachida joined WES with two clear goals: 1) to expand her business and purchase new sewing machines, and 2) to start paying social security and insurance for her employees. She enrolled in WES Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and e-Commerce trainings and has since participated in computer training courses through the Center as well.
In addition to gaining new skills, Rachida also developed a business plan. “I now review my business plan almost every night at home,” she explained. The WES TAMSS team is helping her acquire loans from the BFPME (Banque de Financement de la Petite et Moyenne Entreprise) to expand her business and access more interesting markets such as universities, hospitals and laboratories. With the help of WES, Rachida has determined that she needs 120 thousand Tunisian Dinars to buy new machines and move to a bigger work space. Rachida has adopted several new business practices that have immediately helped her expand her business, earn greater profits, and secure a large international contract. As she explains, “I am expecting a 50% increase in the profits I make by next month because now I know what my priorities are.”
Rachida succeeded in securing her first large international contract with a client in Saudi Arabia. This new contract is helping Rachida achieve her dream of diversifying her product line. For her first project, she will be making handmade painted prayer carpets and intends to continue to expand her inventory.
Business Type: Food Service
When the TAMSS WES Center opened its doors in November 2012, Boudour Khthiri arrived with an idea she had been dreaming about for a long time and the commitment to make it happen. In just under six months, Boudour completed WES Entrepreneurship and Leadership trainings, and developed a business plan. She also worked on refining her pastry skills at a specialized training center. Committed to supporting her business idea, Boudour’s husband Radhouane Cherif sold his taxi to finance the project. Together they transformed a large van into their own food truck. In April 2013, Boudour and Radhouane launched their “caravane,” selling fast food to families and workers living in the Ennasser neighborhood in Tunis. What’s on the menu? Boudour has a rotating menu with seasonal offerings. In the fall and winter they will sell sandwiches and homemade pizza and, in the summer, they offer ice cream and crepes. As Boudour stated in an interview, “This project changed my life and made me a different person. I now feel like a fighter who wakes up everyday to change my life for the better. I am more confident and stronger and I am sure that I can make it!”
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