This Woman Turned Her Passion for Food into a Thriving Business in Tunisia
She enrolled in an entrepreneurship program to bring her dream to life.
Sonia M’Hamdi always enjoyed experimenting in her kitchen, so she decided to turn her passion into a business with the support of her husband. Her business Oulat Sabra, launched in 2017, offers a range of traditional condiments that are freshly prepared from a mixture of different spices.
“I gained my degree in International Trade at the ISET of Sfax in 2005,” explained M’Hamdi. “During a university course in business creation, I got the idea for a project that produces condiments to meet the needs of busy people who are looking to quickly and easily prepare high-quality meals.”
The idea soon became a passion for M’Hamdi and she gradually mastered her craft, trying out recipes on her close friends and neighbors. In her drive for perfection, M’Hamdi sought to differentiate her condiments based on their quality, using only the freshest spices and the finest ingredients.
Before launching her project, M’Hamdi contacted the Espace Entreprendre, a local institution that provides support services to entrepreneurs in the region.
“That’s when I heard about the Mashrou3i program’s HP LIFE training,” she said. “During the training I learned how to calculate the breakeven point in order to cover variable costs and fixed costs, and to determine the start-up costs of my business. It also taught me how to best market my products, to attract and respond to the needs of clients, and to identify ways to ensure the quality of my products.”
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.
Besides benefiting from the HP LIFE training, M’Hamdi also received technical assistance from Mashrou3i experts who enabled her to finalize her business plan and facilitated access to finance to launch her business. As a result, she obtained a credit of 20,000 Tunisian dinars from a national bank for the rental of her business unit located in the city center of Sidi Bouzid and the acquisition of four grinders for the preparation of her condiments.
“The mentoring that I received from Mashrou3i really focused on the needs of my start-up and was crucial in allowing me to realize my project,” she said. “The coaching continued over time following my progress, and I was invited to join additional Mashrou3i trainings, like a group coaching workshop in order to improve my marketing skills.”
Through Oulat Sabra, M’Hamdi and her husband represent a new hope for young entrepreneurs in the region of Sidi Bouzid, as well as an added element of diversity in the sector of traditional condiment preparation.
“In the long term, I want to ensure the prosperity of my business by acquiring other grinders and a bagging weighing machine that will allow me to improve the packaging of my product range and its marketing,” M’Hamdi said. “After securing a better working capital, I will create two more jobs in my area and will invest in a car for delivery.”