How This Tunisian Mother Is Building Her Own Business and Creating Jobs

She was able to map out a new career through an entrepreneurship program.
Dec 12, 2017 9:20 AM ET

Originally published on Global Citizen

In 2017, at age 37, Ines Mohdhi launched her own business — a service dedicated to the cleaning and environmental management of Kairouan, Tunisia, which eventually will help to create eight permanent jobs.

After graduating from high school, Mohdhi got married and started a family. She continued her studies in Kairouan and obtained a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature in in 2007, all while raising her children. She then began her professional career as a teacher in French at the Organization for Education and Family and later became an administrative agent with the Youth and Cultural Center for five years.

Though Mohdhi lost her job in 2012, she remained ambitious and full of energy. Her strength of character led her to engage in Kairouan civil society. “My involvement with civil associations after the revolution was a second school for me,” she said. “I became very active in the struggle for the cleaning of my neighborhood and began to understand the municipal processes and procedures.”

Mohdhi quickly became an active member of the project monitoring committee in the governorate of Kairouan, enabling her to launch the “Association for Culture and Development of Kairouan” of which she is now the secretary general.

“Being unemployed a few years already, I decided it didn’t make sense to study again to get a degree to become a teacher in the public sector,” said Mohdhi. “The idea for the business was born from the need: the environmental problem that the municipality was struggling to handle with a lack of equipment and human resources. Thanks to a poly services unit in Kairouan, I am now able to carry out waste collection, manual sweeping, weeding, gardening, and housework.”

Awarded through the “Bader” program with a credit of 52,000 TND (Tunisian Dinars) and an honor loan of 18,000 TND, Mohdhi was required to submit a business plan to the Tunisian Bank of Solidarity. It was at this time and through the support of the Business Center of Kairouan that she discovered the Mashrou3i program.

The Mashrou3i program — organized by UNIDO in partnership with USAID, the Italian Cooperation, and the HP Foundation — is designed to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship and offer tools that support fledgling business owners. Its mission is to create some 6,000 jobs and reach more than 25,000 aspiring and existing entrepreneurs in Tunisia over the next five years. In addition to mentoring and technical skills training, participants have access to HP LIFE, a free, online program of the HP Foundation, which features 27 interactive modules covering business and IT skills training in seven languages.

“Thanks to the support of the Mashrou3i trainers I was able to develop a viable business plan,” said Mohdhi. “I completed the 27 interactive modules on the HP LIFE e-Learning platform, which enabled me to do a feasibility study for my business. I learned how to conduct a financial study, analyze the market and find my place in it. I also gained a new understanding of different marketing techniques, and found out how to create lasting relationships with customers, suppliers, and partners, as well as manage the threats inherent to the market.”

Through the support and assistance of Mashrou3i and its entrepreneurial training, Mohdhi has already won a first call for tender from the new municipality of Regada for the sweeping, weeding, and cleaning of sidewalks. She is now applying for a second one. 

“Mashrou3i supports you in the early stages of your business launch process to see the entrepreneurial journey more clearly,” said Mohdhi. “If I had to give advice to other young people who are launching their projects...the change comes from you; just make the decision to do it and go for it. There is no lasting failure, only perseverance leads to the success of your business.”