Winner of the BC2021: Ahlem sees opportunity in the dairy alternatives market

November 19, 2021

Growing awareness of lactose intolerance has increased sales for milk alternatives, such as oat, soy and almond. In Tunisia, almonds have been cultivated since ancient times and are widely available. 80,000 tonnes were produced in the country in 2019 alone. However, almond milk is largely imported and very expensive to purchase locally.

Ahlem Maatallah, a recent Business Administration graduate from ISET Siliana, saw an opportunity in the local production of almond milk. The innovative idea came to her during a 4-month internship at Siliana’s business center. There the young student began to familiarize herself with the business creation process, which inspired her to develop her own business.

“During my internship, I was in contact with so many young entrepreneurs who were full of innovative ideas. At the same time, I noticed that many people were developing lactose intolerance without finding solutions to this problem. This is how my project was born: the production of almond milk.”

While studying at the ISET Siliana, Ahlem took part in Mashrou3i’s HP LIFE entrepreneurial training program which helped improve her business and IT skills and supported her to turn her idea into a business plan as part of her end-of-studies project.

“The HP LIFE experience started in the first year of my studies. Little by little, our teachers started to teach us the entrepreneurial mindset through the HP LIFE platform and its 32 courses to improve our managerial and IT skills.”

Full of enthusiasm, Ahlem gave birth to her idea for a business project during the preparation of her PFE. In June 2021, Ahlem presented her business project to a jury of ISET professors in the first round of Mashrou3i’s Business Challenge. The simple but innovative idea – 100% natural almond milk offering a healthy and local alternative to lactose intolerant people – blew the jury away.

“The professors in the jury were fascinated by the idea and the solution I was offering. Some of them already wanted to place an order! I got a distinction for my project and then decided to devote myself entirely to this idea and turn my project into a reality.”

On 11 November, Ahlem presented her project during the BC2021 among 14 other students from ISETs across the country. Impressed by the level of innovation of the projects presented, the young student feels proud to have been selected among the finalists and, plus, to have won the competition for the 2021 edition.

There were a lot of mixed feelings, between stage fright, motivation, excitement…  But at the end, I was so proud and happy when I learned that I had won! It was as if I had passed my diploma again!”

After many months of research, she has already carried out product tests with a prototype, which were conclusive. The aspiring entrepreneur wishes to launch a 100% natural and organic home-made recipe on the market, ensuring high temperature sterilization to avoid any unhealthy preservatives. Mashrou3i will support her in the creation of her company in the coming months, thus promoting job creation and the competitiveness of SMEs in the northwest.

“These last few months have taught me that this project has value and can be transformed into a successful business. I am looking forward for being coached by Mashrou3i’s experts to understand and be guided through the steps for the creation of my business. I want to be able to follow each of these steps with diligence, perfectionism and passion, so that I can grow my dream in the months to come.”