Entering Haifa’s distillery for essential oils is like walking into a magical garden. You are immediately welcomed by the delightful scents of flowers from Tunisia. The fresh, uplifting aroma of eucalyptus mingles with the sweet floral fragrance of geranium.
Haifa was only 24 years old when she finished her university degree in the Fundamentals of Chemistry and decided to create Medi Flowers, a business specializing in essential oils made from aromatic and medicinal plants, which is based in Kairouan.
After finishing her studies, like many young graduates in Tunisia, Haifa struggled to find a job. During the year she was unemployed she would regularly inquire about job offers and opportunities available at the employment office. One day, she came across a training in project creation and something clicked.
"I didn’t have to think too much to find my project idea,” says Haifa. “It was simply a continuation of my studies, and an opportunity to combine my knowledge and passion for aromatic plants.”
"The potential of the aromatic plant sector is strong in Tunisia but the market has not really been tapped into yet. I want to change that,” says Haifa, confidently.
Ready to embark on her entrepreneurial journey, Haifa participated in several trainings including Moraine, that helped her give shape to her project idea and CEFE that assisted her in the realization of her business plan. Then in 2017, she discovered the HP LIFE program of the Mashrou3i project at Espace Entreprendre.
"The HP LIFE program helped me do an excellent market research, understand my product value proposition, make the right packaging choices, and identify the best way to target my customers,” she says. “And most importantly, the HP LIFE training helped me understand the vital role of social media in reaching new clients."
To launch her business, Haifa also benefited from technical assistance from the Mashrou3i project organized by UNIDO and funded by USAID, the Italian Cooperation and HP Foundation. In addition to personalized coaching provided by Mashrou3i, she also benefited from a training in cosmetics, a training in accounting as well as specific support from an expert in marketing and access to markets.
Haifa is a nature lover and passionate about her business. While busy running the new company that she has just founded, she doesn’t hesitate to participate in training that can enrich her knowledge in the planting and exploitation of medicinal plants. She is aware that this market is booming and in the future wants to diversify her business as much as possible in order to make it more profitable.
Most of the plants used by Medi Flowers come from the region of Kairouan and are harvested directly from the wild. To improve the collection of plants, Haifa is currently creating a GDA (Agricultural development group) to employ women from the Kairouan region in this work.
"I follow the annual calendar of plants,” explains Haifa. “Depending on the season, I will focus more on the distillation of cypress, geranium or eucalyptus.”
Several steps are necessary to produce her essential oils. After collecting the plants, they must be sorted and cleaned thoroughly, before they go through the distillation process. It takes 150 kilos of Eucalyptus leaves to create only one litre of essential oil. But success is at the end of the road, and today Medi Flowers is gaining more and more customers, including cosmetic brands and doctors.
Going forward, Haifa plans to obtain the organic certification with the support of Mashrou3i. She is positive about the future and doesn’t hesitate to encourage all young people looking for work to also consider launching their own business. "In Tunisia, we are too negative, yet the opportunities are there,” she says, smiling. “You just have to go for it and work hard!"