This Woman Turned a Hobby Into a Successful Business

HP's entrepreneurial training program helped her channel her creativity.
Mar 8, 2018 8:15 AM ET

In 2005, Atka Ben Abdallah received a land surveying degree that enabled her to work for eight years as a designer in an architecture office while staying in her hometown Kebili, Tunisia. Like many young people, despite her experience, her career prospects and salary remained insecure. She decided to leave the company knowing that she was unlikely to find another job. Entrepreneurship became an obvious alternative to unemployment.

Her first experience in entrepreneurial learning started in 2013 when she participated in training through CEFE International. Following this, she opened a fashion shop in 2015. In October 2017, Ben Abdallah was contacted by one of the trainers from the HP LIFE program, which is part of the Mashrou3i program, inviting her to attend a four-day entrepreneurial training session.

The Mashrou3i program, organized by UNIDO in partnership with USAID, the Italian Cooperation, and the HP Foundation, 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 28 interactive modules covering business and IT skills training in seven languages.

During the training Ben Abdallah realized that handicraft can be more than a hobby and her business idea was born.

“In October, thanks to Salma Gharsallah, the HP LIFE trainer, I discovered HP LIFE e-Learning and the Mashrou3i project,” she said. “I immediately completed the 28 e-Learning courses on the online training platform, which was supported by a Mashrou3i face-to- face
training in Djerba.”

At the same time, Ben Abdallah began to develop her handicraft skills at home, particularly in embroidery. “I've always been passionate about handicraft, but the training provided by Mashrou3i has helped me to develop my ideas and improve my way of working in a creative way,” she said. “I already had skills in embroidery and crafts, but through this managerial training I can now innovate, create recycled products, and also market them."

As soon as the training was completed, Ben Abdallah made the decision to move to another location for a more spacious and creative location. “My business now involves the creation of traditional bags thanks to a strapping technique that allows me to have an old style but at the same time modern and practical for everyday use,” she explained. “I really like making fashion accessories from all types of materials and giving old objects new life.” 

Ben Abdallah is aware that her success is due to the creativity and careful customization of her products, giving a new artistic touch to products like traditional leather bags. She also enjoys experimenting and introducing precious materials like silver, which in the future will create three jobs, through the employment of specialized craftswomen.

“Today, I would like Mashrou3i to support me in improving all aspects of my brand in terms of marketing and communication like creating a logo and promotional materials,” she said. “I’m also hoping to get support from the Mashrou3i Expert in Marketing and Communication on the development of my brand and customer loyalty that will make a difference in the sustainability of my company.”

This article was developed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and published here with the approval of UNIDO.