A Kasserine Startup’s Journey with Initiative Tunisie

January 23, 2024
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Tunisian entrepreneur Fares Ghodhbani, benefitting from the support of Initiative Tunisie under the Innov’i – EU4Innovation programme, took his start-up, Livrina to new heights. With this backing, Livrina expanded its footprint to various Tunisian cities and Burkina Faso. Initiative Tunisie is dedicated to fostering entrepreneurial innovation and growth in Tunisia’s interior regions. 

From Student Job to Startup: Fares Ghodhbani’s Journey with Livrina in Kasserine

In the city of Kasserine, nestled in west-central Tunisia, Fares Ghodhbani, a computer engineer with a heart anchored in his hometown, embarked on a journey that took him from a student in France, to an entrepreneur back home. 

Fares’s story began in France, where he got the inspiration to start his business. To fund his education, he took up 2 jobs: a delivery boy and a marketing agent in stores. “They were just student jobs, but later I found that the experience prepared me for something much bigger,” Fares recalls with a smile.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Fares found himself at a crossroads. With a university project demanding the development of a website/application, a spark ignited. “I had everything ready for a delivery business, so why not launch it?” He reminisced. 

But, like any ambitious endeavour, the journey had its share of hurdles. From crafting a viable business model to securing funds, the path was laden with challenges. Yet, with his determination, vision and the guidance of his professors, Fares started Livrina.

Livrina wasn’t just another delivery application. It was a testament to Fares’s understanding of his hometown. Designed with the intricacies of a small city market in mind, Livrina resonated with its customers. Fares’s prior experience in marketing proved invaluable, paving the way for businesses to come onboard. “Back in 2020, the concept of delivery was alien to many in Tunisia. But, with patience and perseverance, we carved our niche,” Fares reflects.

However, like any start-up, Livrina faced its share of teething problems. “For the first 2 years, I was juggling between studies and a delivery job in France and running a delivery business in Kasserine,” Fares chuckles. “I even used the money I made to keep the business running!” He confesses.

But these challenges only fortified Fares’s resolve. With time, Livrina expanded, transcending borders. A testament to their growth? From a modest 10 deliveries a day in one city to a staggering 400 across multiple cities!

Livrina’s Growth with Initiative Tunisie’s Support 

A pivotal moment in Livrina’s journey was the support from Initiative Tunisie under the EU funded project, Innov’i – EU4Innovation. 

With their backing, Livrina’s horizon broadened, expanding to other cities across Tunisia and even Ouagadougou’s bustling streets in Burkina Faso. Fares’s eyes gleam with ambition as he envisions Livrina’s future: a market leader in Tunisia and beyond.

Fares’s collaboration with Initiative Tunisie was not just about financial backing. It was a partnership built on a shared vision, and the collective pursuit of innovation. “The team at Initiative Tunisie offers continued guidance, support, and checks on me regularly,” Fares notes appreciatively.

Initiative Tunisie’s role also provided Fares with invaluable opportunities to interact with fellow entrepreneurs. These interactions, Fares believes, were instrumental in refining his strategies, and fostering collaborations. “Through my involvement with them, I got networking chances, sharing experiences with other entrepreneurs and also contact with investors,” Fares recalls.

One such opportunity came in the form of VivaTech, an annual technology conference held in Paris. Initiative Tunisie, recognizing the potential of such platforms, ensured Fares’s participation. Reflecting on the experience, Fares shares, “It was a great opportunity for networking and to see the leading technologies and innovations in the world.”

Initiative Tunisie: Empowering Innovation in Tunisia’s Interior Regions with Innov’i Support

Initiative Tunisie implements the “Program to support innovation in the interior regions of Tunisia” (P.I.RTN), a visionary initiative supported by the EU programme Innov’i-EU4Innovation (2019-2024). This initiative aims to bolster Tunisia’s entrepreneurial and innovative ecosystem. It is dedicated to empowering and uplifting all entities and endeavours that foster the growth, organisation, longevity, and visibility of innovative entrepreneurship in Tunisia.

Since its inception in 2020, P.I.RTN has been instrumental in catalysing innovation across five pivotal regions: Médenine, Gafsa, Kasserine, Sidi-Bouzid, and Jendouba. 

At its core, Initiative Tunisie is not just an organisation; it’s a movement. A movement aimed at fostering local economic development, uniting stakeholders, and empowering entrepreneurs with the tools they need to thrive. Composed of local “platforms”, each operating independently, converge to provide a decentralised and invaluable service for entrepreneurs across Tunisia’s interior regions.

The cornerstone of this support system is the honorary loan, a zero-interest financial lifeline tailored for entrepreneurs. This unique approach frees them from the traditional barriers like guarantees or deposits. 

The honorary loan provides entrepreneurs with the necessary financial backing and also serves as a platform for mentorship. They are afforded the opportunity to refine their business plans, engage with seasoned professionals, and gain insights from a network of peers.

Dorra, General Delegate of the Initiative Tunisie association, sheds light on the essence of their approach, stating, “With the money the previous beneficiaries of honorary loans return, we are able to fund other entrepreneurs.” 

This cyclical model embodies the spirit of community-driven growth. It’s not merely about financial transactions; it’s about nurturing a thriving ecosystem where success stories pave the way for future innovations. For Initiative Tunisie, each successful entrepreneur represents more than just a business; they embody a dream realised, a community uplifted, and a future transformed.

Initiative Tunisie’s dedication to fostering innovation in Tunisia’s interior regions is a testament to the transformative power of collective action. In a landscape marked by challenges, Initiative Tunisie illuminates the path for countless entrepreneurs, ensuring that dreams, no matter how audacious, find their wings to soar.