“I wanted to be the first woman in the region of Sidi Bouzid to start an iron manufacturing business. This is the first project of its kind.”
Although she had earned a degree in production management and international trade, Raja Felhi knew she would prefer to start her own business rather than wait for a job. “The situation in my region, much like for the entire country of Tunisia, was not conducive to finding a job quickly and starting a career.”
Before establishing her business, Raja was like any other student. She relied on her father to provide for all her needs, but the household financial situation was quite difficult. Raja knew that she could help with supporting her family if her business was successful enough.
When Raja decided to launch her iron-framing workshop, she was just 28 years old. She had noticed that in Sidi Bouzid, no one worked in this sector. People were forced to go all the way to the capital of Tunis, about 300 km away, whenever they needed framed iron for their building sites.
To jumpstart her business, Raja borrowed $3400 from a bank, but this was not quite enough. She still needed $1000 in working capital before she could safely start her business.
Raja decided to go to Enda Tamweel, a subsidiary of Enda Inter-Arabe, YBI’s member in Tunisia, since she had heard about its reputation for quality service. In July 2017, Enda helped Raja secure the final amount she needed to go into business. That's when she discovered that, in addition to finance, Enda provides training, coaching, counselling and marketing support to its clients. She quickly took advantage of Enda’s non-financial services and received crucial entrepreneurship training.
Today, Raja has a total command of the business and manufacturing processes. She manages a team of five employees, including four women. She has also learned how to grow her business, increase her client portfolio, handle various suppliers based in Sousse, located about 165 km away from Sidi Bouzid, and effectively negotiate prices of iron, her main raw material.
Raja is constantly reaching out to new customers and suppliers, working at every turn on her business branding and increasing knowledge about her services. She knows that networking is key to expanding her profits and helping her business to grow. She says:
“My customers and suppliers themselves give me a good reputation, and often introduce me to new markets.”
Despite the death of her father, Raja has become a more optimistic person thanks to her expanding business. Her project has made a huge difference to her family members’ lives, and now she is able to support her mother and siblings. Recently, she helped out with the cost of her brother’s wedding, and now she is supporting her sister with tuition fees and other expenses.
Her ambition has no limit; Raja has just acquired a new iron-framing machine in order to meet the growing needs of her customers, and is planning to hire more people. Though competition has increased, Raja is sure she will get through and knows she can always count on Enda’s financial and non-financial support.