As he shelters from the blazing sun in his workshop, Atef Sameur is absorbed in the design of his latest commission: decorative wooden furniture for a living room. Meanwhile, across the city of Kairouan, two of the young designer’s three employees are busy installing a new kitchen in a client’s apartment.
While speaking with Atef, you are immediately struck by the passion he has for his profession.
"While studying arts and crafts, I already started thinking about launching my own business. My passion for technical drawing helped me a lot in my degree,” says Atef.
After finishing his studies, Atef worked for two years in a large furniture factory where he strengthened his knowledge and practical skills. But his drive for perfection and hunger for learning encouraged him to quit his job and return to university, where he gained a degree in Furniture Design in 2016.
Atef speaks with great enthusiasm about his business. He is interested in innovation, breathing new life into Kairouan's traditional products and introducing materials like olive wood or crystal resin into his designs. He is both an interior architect and furniture designer, marrying these two fields through interior design, custom made furniture and decorative plasterwork on ceilings and walls.
After obtaining his degree, Atef heard about the Mashrou3i project organized by UNIDO and funded by USAID, the Italian Cooperation and the HP Foundation. He completed the business and IT courses on the HP LIFE e-learning platform and then took part in 5-day training to develop his business plan. Atef obtained a 140,000 Tunisian Dinars loan from the Tunisian Bank of Solidarity (BTS) two months later. He is currently benefiting from ongoing support and business mentoring from Mashrou3i’s experts.
"Thanks to the support of Mashrou3i, I have the skills I need to manage my business,” he says. “With the help of the project’s regional expert and marketing and communication expert, I am also currently improving my business strategy to increase the sales of my products in Kairouan and other regions."
Atef’s workshop is located in the city centre of Kairouan, in a residential area offering plenty of opportunities for attracting new customers. In his premises of 260m², he is perfectly equipped to meet the orders of his clients: two computers stand alongside a panel saw, a router and a circular saw.
His first customers were in his close surroundings; friends, family, neighbours. But word of mouth about his furniture and innovative designs quickly spread. Atef’s bronze poufs, upholstered with Kairouan carpets, are very popular, as are the ceiling displays made of olive wood, rustic tables with finely chiselled motifs, or the modern wardrobes and kitchens.
Atef has a vision for the future. "At Sameur Meubles, innovation and tradition blend seamlessly together. My creations will soon be exhibited in a showroom to gain even more visibility and customers,” he says with calmness and great assurance.