Beauty from Bees
From the heights of Slouguia, on the land of her ancestors, 31-year-old Ahlem Trabelsi regularly inspects her beehives. They are priceless treasure for this young entrepreneur from Beja, who with Mashrou3i support, is expanding her production to create a brand of natural cosmetics that harnesses the power of honey.
Ahlem didn’t plan to become a beekeeper. After a 3-year professional training in industrial modelling, she started her career as a sewing trainer in Tunis. After a year of professional experience in the field of pattern development and sewing, Ahlem returned to Testour. Her dream was to start her own business with her family.
“Was it a sign from nature or a gift from heaven?” she says. “One day, six years ago, I was discussing my future with my father under an olive tree when a swarm of bees following their queen came to settle on the tree’s roots. It was the fruit of my first hive, which I carefully placed in a box offered by our beekeeper neighbour. It was also my debut as a beekeeper and as an entrepreneur.”
Little by little, Ahlem started to invest in the acquisition of new hives with the financial support of her family and improved her skills to raise and maintain her bees. In 2017, she benefited from the support of an association to become part of the APIS VAGA group in Testour and received training and equipment to develop her beekeeping activity in the region.
A year later, Ahlem had learned from this first experience and understood that success in this profession depends on the quality of the honey, the yield and above all its use in different products.
“Thanks to Mashrou3i, I was finally able to focus on the second phase of my project and work on my plants, the extraction of essential oils and the creation of my cosmetic brand. Mashrou3i provided me with the support of a coach who helped me to develop a new business model for my project in aromatic and medicinal plants.”
Ahlem no longer needs to move her beehives through the pastures around the mountain. She has chosen the family land to base her plantations of saffron, lavender, borage, mint and other aromatic and medicinal plants. While providing an ideal source of food for her bees, Ahlem also uses these plants to extract essential oils for her cosmetic products.
Last July Ahlem joined the project Mashrou3i and took part in several training sessions. “I was lucky enough to benefit from technical training in essential oils extraction, training in saponification and perfume creation, technical training in organic cosmetics, and an online training in packaging. I never imagined I could do all of this on my own.”
Ahlem is currently developing her Queen Vaga brand with the support of the Mashrou3i project’s technical experts, and plans to officially launch her product range within the next few months. Queen Vaga builds on her main product, honey, to develop cosmetic products based on propolis or pollen.
“The odds are now on my side to promote the products of my beehives and to develop a range of sustainable cosmetics in the region.”