Houssein Cherni turns a local need for packaging supplies into a thriving business
Born in Kef, Houssein Cherni is passionate about his hometown, its monuments and its history, but also his new business, Loka Sac, that he launched in March 2018, with the support of his family.
Loka Sac is not Houssein’s first stab at entrepreneurship. In 2013, after graduating in Electrical Engineering, he started a project for outsourcing telecommunication networks. His father sold his land to help him finance the startup’s launch. But unfortunately, after two years the business failed.
“I came out of the experience with more self-confidence and determination to convince everyone that I was capable and could succeed as an entrepreneur,” says Houssein.
Hungry to prove himself, Houssein quickly identified another business opportunity that he felt had a good chance of success. He realized that due to a lack of local suppliers, many companies operating in the region were forced to source their packaging from Tunis or Sfax. A diagnostic study confirmed his suspicions and highlighted the demand for paper bags from various suppliers, like food producers and catering firms, in Kef and the north west of Tunisia.
To learn more about the sector, Houssein strengthened his skills through a specific training in paper and cardboard processing in Tunis. He also got in touch with the region’s Business Center to get the help he needed to develop his business plan. This is when he discovered Mashrou3i, a project implemented by UNIDO and funded by USAID, the Italian Cooperation and the HP Foundation. He obtained the support of the regional experts.
“The Mashrou3i experts reviewed and revised my business plan, helping me to convince the Tunisian Solidarity Bank (BTS) that I was an entrepreneur to take seriously,” says Houssein. “Thanks to their support, I finally obtained a loan of 82,000 Tunisian Dinars to finance the purchase of equipment needed to launch my business.”
“Like many young entrepreneurs in the region, Mashrou3i helped me overcome the hurdles I was facing in starting my business,” adds Houssein. “I took part in several technical trainings in taxation, marketing and communication. I was also trained in oral and presentation techniques and got the opportunity to present my business on Radio Kef, which helped me raise awareness of my business in the region and to gain new customers including pharmacies.”
With the help of 4 employees, Houssein currently supplies wholesalers in Kef, but also in Kasserine, Beja, Jendouba, Tunis and Sousse. In the near future, he wants to buy new machines to diversify his production and produce packaging for pizza and pastry firms. “Even if things are difficult in the beginning, with patience I am confident that I can grow my business and becoming a leading producer of all types of packaging in north-western Tunisia.”