Success story: Imane is making her mark on Tunisia’s booming handicrafts sector
Inside a small warehouse in Ben Guerdane, a coastal town near the Libyan border, Imane Sayari is busy sorting an array of brightly colored pottery bowls and cups. The young entrepreneur who launched her handicraft business, Tendance Céramique, in 2017 is challenging perceptions of a region, more widely known for its cross-border smuggling trade than its ceramics.
Imane explains the source of her inspiration: “I’m very observant, always taking in my surroundings and looking for new ideas. The Tanit, a traditional Berber symbol of fertility, is one of my favorite patterns. But I also try to add a touch of innovation to my products with new colors, glazes and even glitter.”
Guided by her love of handicrafts, it was only natural for Imane to study Arts and Crafts in Nabeul. After graduating with a specialization in ceramics, Imane got a job as a project manager in textiles at a cultural association where she also developed her own skills in handicrafts production.
“During these 3 years, I got the opportunity to learn new pottery techniques and to research different patterns,” says Imane. “I also studied the ceramics market, learning how best to sell these products and where to get raw materials at competitive prices.”
In 2015, she decided to start her own business and went to the local employment office for support. There she found out about Mashrou3i, a public-private partnership project between USAID, the Italian Development Cooperation, the HP Foundation and UNIDO.
Through Mashrou3i Imane received training and mentoring at all stages of her project, from launching her idea to growing her business. First, a Mashrou3i regional expert helped her to finalize her business plan – a vital step but not an obvious task to many young entrepreneurs, including Imane. This helped her to obtain a loan from the Tunisian Bank of Solidarity (BTS) which after completing all the necessary approvals, she received two years later. During this time, she also strengthened her entrepreneurial skills through the HP LIFE e-Learning online program and group coaching. To help her successfully launch the business she also received mentoring from the Mashrou3i regional expert and took part in various technical training workshops to improve her knowledge and skills in taxation, digital communication and sales.
“I’ve not only improved my entrepreneurial and technical skills,” explains Imane. “I’ve also improved my soft skills.”
Imane started her business by selling her first creations to wholesalers in Medenine and has gradually expanded to additional B2B clients in the northern regions of the country.
“Thanks to Mashrou3i, I’ve also had the opportunity to showcase my products at handicrafts fairs like the Tunisian Craft Fair in Tunis,” she says. “This is the biggest event in Tunisia for the handicrafts sector with tens of thousands of visitors. I sold a lot of products and gained many new clients. I was also really proud to take part in the event and to be able to promote my region.”
Today, Imane is flooded with orders from regional and also international markets such as Libya and France. She is currently exploring ways to increase the productivity of the business to respond to all the commercial opportunities offered to her.
As the head of a team of seven artisans, Imane is helping to put Ben Guerdane on the map for its cultural heritage, challenging perceptions and bringing a new dynamism into the town.
“Through my business, I can share my passion for crafts and am training young people and rural women in the region to help give them a better future.”