Tunisia's Fresh Female Face of Entrepreneurship
Ever since gaining a Master’s in Applied Languages in Economics and Business in 2007, Hayfa Ben Fraj has wanted to start her own business.
“I always saw myself in the communication field,” Ben Fraj said. “I knew that the first obstacle would be financing, but I had a dream and I wanted to make it happen.”
During the next eight years, Ben Fraj mastered her personal and professional skills working in diverse roles, including head of a large food group, manager of trade and media relations for a farmer’s union, and administrative manager of sales for a foreign company. She also carried out freelance market research.
“Through this work experience, I was able to explore potential new markets, collect databases, establish marketing strategies, create websites, develop brand identities, and drive advertising campaigns and promotions in supermarkets for different fast moving consumer goods,” Ben Fraj said. “But all this work brought me nothing—no bonus, no wage increase at the end of the month.”
At the end of 2014 Ben Fraj resigned, leaving her stable position as a sales manager, and four months later launched Go Market, a company specializing in finding new markets, products, services, customers, and suppliers.
Despite its agricultural richness, the diversity of its craft products, and the existence of three industrial zones, the Kairouan region in Tunisia has experienced limited economic growth. This is one of the reasons that led Ben Fraj to focus Go Market on Marketing and Social Entrepreneurship to meet the expectations of the various entrepreneurs in the region. “There were potential markets—from hair accessories to wholesale agricultural equipment,” she stated.
A year later she was invited by the Kairouan Business Center to participate in the Mashrou3i program organized by UNIDO in partnership with USAID, the Italian Cooperation, and the HP Foundation.
The Mashrou3i program 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.
“Through the Mashrou3i training, I improved my skills, mastered new HP LIFE e-learning technology tools, and gained access to a network of other aspiring entrepreneurs who also took part in the training,” Ben Fraj said.
Go Market wants to contribute to the development of the Kairouan region through market research, marketing strategies, and new markets it opens up to entrepreneurs in a wide range of sectors and diverse fields such as technology, crafts, and agriculture.
The project is already gaining moment. Go Market won Tunisia’s Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability award in 2016 and recently gained a contract to support 17 entrepreneurs in the area of crafts, industry, and services.
Today Ben Fraj plans to expand Go Market at the local, national, and international level with a website that will showcase the region’s products.
This article was developed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and published [on Global Citizen] with the approval of UNIDO.