WES Entrepreneur Highlight: Hana Chaari

Meet Hana Chaari, WES Business Award winner, from the Optima Syphax WES Center in Sfax.

Watch the video to learn more about Hana and how she plans to use her WES Business Award. 

Meet the WES Entrepreneurs Series: Mounira Ben Boubakker


Mounira Ben Boubakker, WES graduate from the NOOR Association for Human Development (ANDH) WES Center in Sousse, believes that participating in WES trainings increased her confidence and productivity, and was the catalyst for her successful business endeavors.

Watch the video to learn more about Mounira and the impact of the WES program.

WES Sustainability & Networking Conference

WES entrepreneurs showcase their products and share business ideas with WES staff and partners at an entrepreneurs marketplace.

Last month, the Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) program brought together representatives from each of the eight WES partner organizations and 24 women entrepreneurs for a two-day conference in Hammamet, Tunisia. The goal of the conference was to exchange best practices and lessons learned; showcase and celebrate WES achievements; and plan for the sustainability of WES centers and entrepreneurs’ network. We were very honored to be joined by distinguished guests from the U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and Microsoft, as well as a panel of experts on entrepreneurship in Tunisia.

In opening remarks by U.S. Chargé Kathleen Hanson, she highlighted that WES is a model of U.S. and Tunisian partnership for expanding economic opportunities.

WES Country Director Chéma Gargouri shared program accomplishments after two years of programming including that, as a result of WES, 150 women have started or expanded businesses, while over 600 Tunisian women have developed business plans and are well positioned to launch new businesses once a new microfinance law is passed.

An excellent panel discussion on supporting women entrepreneurs in Tunisia was led by Leila Belkhiria Jaber, Vice-President, National Women Chamber of Commerce (CNFCE); Fares Mabrouk, Tunisia Country Director, Yunus Social Business; Dr. Soukaina Bouraoui, Executive Director, Center on Arab Women Research (CAWTAR); and Tahar Ben Lakhdar, Chairman of the Board and CEO Esprit -Ecole Supérieur Privée d’Ingénierie et de Technologie.

During a highly interactive World Café activity, participants on how to better support women entrepreneurs including to establish a WES Boutique to display and sell entrepreneurs’ products, expand partnerships with the private sector, encourage mentorship opportunities and develop nation-wide WES brand awareness.

A highlight of the conference was the entrepreneurs marketplace where WES Business Award winners displayed (and sold) their products and services and presented their business ideas to WES staff and partners. For example, Mouna Bouchaala presented her idea to develop green housing for college students in Sfax and Mouna Werchefani, an electromechanical engineer, shared her business ideas on rehabilitative robotics (she is creating a robotic finger that you can use on a keyboard using a sensor activated by head movement).

Participants left energized and even more committed to the work we are doing through WES to support women entrepreneurs in Tunisia.

Announcing the WES Business Award

WES Business Award

WES Business Award

We are excited to announce the launch of Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES) Business Award! The WES Business Award is a competition intended to provide an opportunity for WES graduates to strengthen their business plans and compete for small seed grants to launch or expand their businesses. This competition will also help WES engage with the private sector in our work, expand our networks and attract new women to attend WES workshops.

The WES Business Award is open to WES graduates from November 4, 2013 through December 9, 2013. The winners will be announced on February 3, 2014. Three awards will be given out at each WES center – two awards for TND 1000 and one award for TND 2000. (See the list of 8 WES Partners in Tunisia.)

Winners will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity of Vision: Applicant has a clear vision/plan for her business. She can clearly explain what she wants to do with her business and has a realistic plan for how she will use the Award funds in the next 3-6 months.
  • Market Opportunity: There is proven demand for the applicant’s product/service in the region. The applicant has a well thought-out plan to market and respond to the demand for her product/service.
  • Profitability and Financial Feasibility: There is a demonstrated understanding of the financial requirements of starting or expanding a business. The applicant is clear about her potential revenue and profits and the plan seems to be financially feasible and profitable.
  • Management Capability: The applicant has the management and entrepreneurial qualities and skills to successfully launch or expand a new business.

Applications will be reviewed and rated by an independent selection committee comprised of three entrepreneurs, business people, university professors, etc. from the community. The committee will submit their final recommendations to the Institute of International Education (IIE) who will make the final selection of winners. Preference will be given to applicants whose business plans demonstrate excellence in each of the selection criteria.

Here is how you can join us in empowering women entrepreneurs in Tunisia:

  • Suggest Tunisia-based private sector partners to support WES graduates
  • Connect us with women mentors for WES graduates
  • Write a guest post on our blog sharing your entrepreneurship tips or inspiring story
  • Spread the word about WES and the Business Award on social media

Stay tuned for exciting updates as we select our first cohort of WES Business Award winners!


From childhood friends to business partners!

Zeineb and Turkia

Zeineb and Turkia

Zeineb and Turkia have been great friends since childhood. Now they’ve decided to become business partners.

The two friends were introduced to WES at a networking event organized by the WES center in their community. Inspired by what WES had to offer, and with the support of their families, Zeineb and Turkia enrolled in a WES training. During these trainings they were encouraged to explore their visions and evaluate their own entrepreneurial skills.

Within a few short months of completing the training, Zeineb and Turkia have launched a home- based pastry business inspired by their traditional family recipes. The business planning and marketing skills they learned during WES trainings helped them get started.

Zeinab and Turkia started small by selling first to WES graduates and family members. But during Ramadan and the wedding season their sales and clientele have both grown significantly.

Below is a guest post (in French) from Afaf Zaddem, WES Director at UNFTK, describing Zeineb and Turkia’s entrepreneurial journey.

Deux grandes amies d’enfance, elles sont très proches l’une de l’autre, elles étaient ensemble jusqu’à l’âge du mariage.

Aujourd’hui elles sont mères de famille et elles s’occupaient de leurs enfants (comme des poules !).

Un jour une amie leur a proposé de l’accompagner à « Dar El Maraa (comme on dit chez nous), pour une journée porte ouverte, elles été au rendez vous, curieuses de découvrir ce nouveau programme « WES », dédié aux femmes et à leur service.

Et depuis, elles sont devenues deux participantes assidues à la formation grâce aux encouragements de leurs époux et enfants. Elles ont suivi avec succès des modules de Microsoft office (word , excel, power point) internet (mailing et navigation web) et médias sociaux(facebook, blog), jusqu’à atteindre un niveau assez confortable, au point d’échanger avec fierté et confiance leur savoir avec leurs enfants. Continue reading

WES Fair at the Spring Art Festival in Kairouan

In honor of Heritage Month in Kairouan and the start of the Spring Art Festival,  WES Partners Kairouanians for the Culture of Citizenship  and The NOOR Association for Human Development organized a fair from April 27 – 30th. The fair was an opportunity for ten women from the two WES centers to showcase and sell their products. The Minister of Culture, Mehdi Mabrouk opened the event which was attended by multiple local media channels. The WES entrepreneurs had the opportunity to showcase and sell their projects to the nearly 1,000 visitors who attended. In addition to being a business opportunity, this was also a networking opportunity for women in Sousse and Kairouan to explore options for collaboration and more sustainable business models.

[This video was created by Mohamed Rammeh, Communication Officer at Kairouanians for the Culture of Citizenship.]

بمناسبة شهر التراث و انطلاق فعاليات مهرجان ربيع الفنون الدولي , نظمت جمعية قيروانيون من أجل ثقافة المواطنة (القيروان) و جمعية نو ر للتنمية البشرية (سوسة) من 27 إلى 30 أفريل 2013 معرضا يتضمن منتوجات حرفية للنساء المشتركات ببرنامج المشاريع النسائية المستديمة WES , افتتح المعرض وزير الثقافة المهدي مبروك بحضور وسائل الإعلام المحلية و الوطنية و قد شارك بالمعرض 10 عارضات من ولايتي سوسة و القيروان و استقطب قرابة الألف زائر ليكون فرصة لتتدرب المشاركات على ظروف البيع في المعارض و للتشبيك بين المشاركات في مركزي  المشاريع النسائية المستديمة بسوسة والقيروان

WES Social Media TOT – A Fun Learning Experience

Guest post by Ahmed Hamza, Program Coordinator, WES, Tunisia

Ahmed Hamza explaining the fishbowl exercise to the participants

Ahmed Hamza explaining the fishbowl exercise to the participants

The WES team and partner organizations gathered from San Francisco, Tunis, Kairouan, Sfax, Gafsa, Sousse and Zarzis for a six-day Training of Trainers (TOT) in Tunis, January 6-11, 2013.

The second half of the TOT included two workshops by trainer and social media expert Beth Kanter –the Networked Nonprofit and Social Media for Women Entrepreneurs. Beth is an impressive trainer and knows how to effectively incorporate lots of fun, interesting, and interactive activities into the training. She used a variety of participatory training techniques including a fishbowl exercise, speed geeking, variations of world café and stone soup to engage participants.

Working with Beth Kanter was a great opportunity for me to learn from her and also practice the training skills I had gained as a Training Coordinator for the E-Mediat program.
In the Networked Nonprofit workshop, participants created network maps for their organizations and thought through their social media strategies to achieve the objectives of the WES centers. The network mapping exercise helped participants to realize the value of creating online and off-line networks and sharing skills and resources across the WES network.

The Social Media for Women Entrepreneurs TOT exposed the participants to the strategic use of different social media platforms including Facebook, blogs and LinkedIn.
I had the opportunity to facilitate a small group exercise for ‘creating blog content’. I used a participatory technique to help participants to think through content for blog posts. The group decided on a blog post topic and each participant was expected to write the opening sentence for the post. Each participant then circulated their opening sentence to others in the group who kept adding sentences to create a full post. The exercise allowed each one to contribute to the post and the final product reflected different viewpoints. I was introduced to this technique at the Arab Regional Forum for Democracy, organized in Jordan in September 2012.

The TOT participants were an amazing group of people full of joy, smiles, and great hopes for the country, and the future of Tunisia’s Women. The interactive, participatory training techniques were appreciated by the participants and they enjoyed the lively sessions conducted in the training room and on the beach by the Mediterranean Sea!

I really enjoyed working with all the trainers and the IIE Team.

This training further strengthened my faith in the power of the Tunisian women and their capacity to participate in the shaping of a stronger and more creative new Tunisia.

Long live the WES Women’s Network!

GEW – Celebrating the Spirit of Entrepreneurship

Country Director, Chema Gargouri speaking at the WES Press Release Event

Country Director, Chema Gargouri speaking at the WES Press Release Event

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators, who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.

From November 12-18, people everywhere were inspired through local, national and global GEW activities designed to help them explore their potential as self-starters and innovators. These activities, from large-scale competitions and events to intimate networking gatherings, connected participants to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors—introducing them to new possibilities and exciting opportunities.

During Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Institute of International Education’s Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives formally launched a new program for women entrepreneurs in Tunisia. The new program, Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES), is funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) of the U.S. Department of State. For more details about the WES program please visit the ‘About’ section on our Blog.

During GEW the WES team and Partner Organizations (POs) joined over 7 million people in a celebration of entrepreneurship. We are honored that L’institut Arabe des Chefs d’entreprises selected WES as a partner for GEW events.

Stay tuned for more updates and photos from GEW events organized by the WES Partner Organizations.

Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability partnering with women-led organizations in Tunisia to train entrepreneurs

Participants at the WES Entrepreneurship training, October 2012

Participants at the WES Entrepreneurship training, October 2012

TUNIS and SAN FRANCISCO, November 13, 2012 – The Institute of International Education (IIE) Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives is partnering with eight women-led organizations in Tunisia to deliver leadership, social media, e-commerce and entrepreneurship training to emerging and established women entrepreneurs throughout the country. The new program, Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability (WES), is funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) of the U.S. Department of State.

In partnership with MEPI, IIE will collaborate with private sector partners, LinkedIn, eBay, Microsoft and Craig Newmark, Founder of craigslist.org, to provide resources, support and services to eight local Tunisian women’s organizations to train 1,000 women over an 18 month period in six cities across Tunisia, including Tunis, Sfax, Kairouan, Zarzis, Sousse and Gafsa. The WES program utilizes a dual approach by building capacity in social media, entrepreneurship and leadership of both local organizations that will operate WES Training Centers and of the individual women entrepreneurs who launch, build and grow their businesses. WES’s innovative training program was developed by a cadre of experts from the U.S. and North Africa including social media expert Beth Kanter, author of Beth’s Blog and co-author of The Networked Nonprofit, and top management and leadership consultant and President of CEO of the Center for New Futures, Barbara Fittipaldi.

“IIE is committed to empowering women around the world through the IIE Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives and honored to launch the new Women’s Enterprise for Sustainability program with generous support from MEPI,” says IIE President and CEO Allan E. Goodman. “We are eager to bring the expertise and resources we have developed administering other successful programs in partnership with MEPI, including the E-Mediat and Women in Technology (WIT) programs, to a new community of women leaders.”

WES prepares organizations to provide a menu of high quality, innovative and standardized training offerings, while developing staff as skilled instructors and coaches. The new initiative will also engage individual women entrepreneurs in dynamic activities and trainings that will contribute to the development of new businesses, more sustainable organizations, workforce development and economic empowerment for women and their communities.

WES Training Centers will open their doors to emerging and established women entrepreneurs at the end of November. WES graduates will join a vibrant network of women entrepreneurs and innovative leaders working to shape the future of Tunisia.

WES Partners

Institute of International Education’s Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 18 offices worldwide and over 1,000 member institutions. IIE designs and implements educational and leadership training programs in 175 countries, impacting over 25,000 people annually. IIE’s San Francisco office houses the Institute’s Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives, which provides opportunities for women worldwide to participate in cutting-edge professional development trainings and pursue higher education. Through the Center’s programs, women develop and join networks of peers and mentors and serve as innovative leaders in the public and private sectors around the world.