Success story: Dalila Jemni discovers an oasis of opportunities in date derivatives

February 1, 2019

The region of Jemna is famous for its excellent quality dates, known locally as ‘Deglet Nour’. As one of Tunisia’s most productive oases, it’s no surprise that Dalila Jemni decided to launch her date derivatives business, Jemni Dattes, here.

Born in Jemna, Dalila started her career as an accountant in Kebili before returning to her hometown. “After graduating in accounting, I first worked as a volunteer teacher in a primary school between 2011 and 2012,” she says. “Then in 2013, I did several internships as an accountant in the private sector in Kebili. But I did not find the happiness I was looking for.”

Dalila quickly realized that she wanted to be independent. She decided to launch her own business and naturally gravitated towards the production of date derivatives.

Her entrepreneurial path started in 2015 when she went to the Business Center of Kebili to learn about the procedures for starting a business. There, she discovered the project Mashrou3i, a public-private partnership between USAID, UNIDO, the Italian Cooperation and the HP Foundation.

Thanks to the HP LIFE entrepreneurial e-learning training of Mashrou3i, she successfully conducted market research and finalized her business plan, which enabled her to obtain a credit of 28,000 Tunisian Dinars from the BTS (Tunisian Bank of Solidarity).

Supported by the regional expert, Mashrou3i also financed a biochemical analysis of Dalila’s products by the Central Laboratory in Tunis. This was a decisive step for Dalila’s business, enabling her to significantly improve her sales.

“The experts from Mashrou3i also provided me with training in marketing and communication,” Dalia says confidently. “I got the opportunity to raise awareness of my business on regional radio, which helped me gain several new clients.”

Jemni Dates launched in January 2018 and already has a team of 3 full-time employees. The young entrepreneur is now dedicated to what she has always dreamed of: promoting the wealth of her country and region through innovation.

“The local date processing industry is still in its early stages, especially compared to the international market,” she says. “Right now production is largely artisanal and small-scale. With the support of my sister, who is specialized in the study of dates and its derivatives, I intend to change this by developing production and applying manufacturing processes at a more industrial level.”

Conscious of the potential of her business, Dalila does not forget to praise the merits of her natural products: ‘robb’ (a date syrup), jam and date coffee. “Rich in fiber and vitamins, they have incomparable health benefits. And, they are all traditional, local products, created with know-how from the region.”

As business grows, Dalila plans to move to a larger factory so she can further promote and maximize the potential of the traditional date derivative products from her region.

“I’m passionate about making sure more people know about my products, especially in Tunisia. While date derivatives are very popular abroad, there is still a lot of work to be done to make them more popular and increase demand on the local market.”