Dates are an important typical product of Tunisia, popular across the globe for their health benefits and delicious caramel flavor. For 27-year-old Nada, they are also the main ingredient of her innovative business NADA DATTES, which already provides employment to 34 people in her community.
Nada fondly remembers her childhood, helping her uncle, a subcontractor for date packaging factories, to remove the pits from dates to earn extra pocket money. After studying fashion design in Tunis she returned to her hometown in 2013 and decided to follow in her uncle’s footsteps and start her own date valorization unit.
"The idea of making products from dates came naturally to me,” said Nada. “I got in touch with APII to learn more about the procedure of setting up a business. I also contacted the Regional Center for Research in Oasis Agriculture to find out about specific training opportunities and to gather information about testing the sugars, flour and coffee made from the by-products of dates."
This was back in 2015 when Nada took her first steps on the path towards entrepreneurship. Then things started gaining momentum, as Nada strengthened her knowledge and consolidated her new entrepreneurial profile by first attending the Thniti program from CONECT (Confederation of Corporate Citizens in Tunisia) to develop her business plan. She then completed the CEFE training and took part in the entrepreneurial "Start-up Challenge" contest in 2016, which marked a new turning point in her entrepreneurial career.
In August 2017, Nada launched her self-funded date valorization unit. Through the support and the technical assistance of an expert from the Mashrou3i project, organized by UNIDO and financially supported by USAID, Italian Cooperation and the HP Foundation, she also gained access to additional funding and learned how better organize her production line and its activities.
"I was originally just working as a subcontractor for date packaging factories,” said Nada. “Then, with the support and advice of the Mashrou3i expert, we worked on the diversification of activities: syrup, date-based pastries and a caffeine-free coffee substitute made from drying, roasting and grinding date seeds. I’ve already started producing the date seed coffee thanks to a loan of 12,500 Tunisian Dinars from the Tunisian Bank of Solidarity, which allowed me to acquire two grinders and a roaster. As a substitute to coffee, it’s energizing, rich in nutrients and has been well-received by the Tunisian market."
With her local product, Nada aims to export and hopes to access international markets such as Algeria and Bahrain in the near future. "I’ve lived my project like a dream from the beginning, and I’m very optimistic about the future,” she said. “Thanks to the support of a second expert from the Mashrou3i project, I will be able to improve my marketing strategy in terms of packaging, certification and communication. And in the future I also want to create a website to better access this growing market.