In August 2017, Mbarka launched Perla, a jewellery business in her hometown of Kebili. Mbarka’s incredible optimism and focus has enabled her to overcome the challenges life has thrown her way and to successfully transform her passion into her profession.
"Making jewellery requires a lot of patience,” explained Mbarka. “I work on each individual piece of jewellery as a unique project, investing not only my time but all my heart and creativity to ensure the perfect combination of materials, colours and form.”
Mbarka began her career in accountancy in 2004. She was a young bride who followed her husband to France. After teaching herself accounting skills, she managed to get a job as a payroll technician for the Autisme France association in Paris, where she worked 3 years. In 2007, she decided to go back home to Tunisia and her native region. The return was not easy but her personal strength enabled her to bounce back and in 2015 she decided to radically change her profession and to invest in her long-time passion: creating jewellery.
"It was a very difficult time in my life but I found that focusing on my jewellery creations helped me to stay positive,” said Mbarka.
Determined to develop her knowledge and skills, she attended a two-month professional training program in jewellery creation at the "Passage à l'Art" centre in Tunis. While Mbarka was commuting weekly between Tunis and Kebili for the course she gained confidence about starting her business idea.
"Girls in my hometown saw me coming home every weekend with pretty jewels and admired my creations,” she said. “This was when I realized that I had the potential to launch a creative and viable project in Kebili."
After completing the course, Mbarka started dedicating more time to her craft, while working as an educator in a private training academy to save money to get her idea off the ground.
In February 2017, her entrepreneurial career began to take shape: she participated in the CEFE training and then moved forward with the HP LIFE e-Learning entrepreneurial training of the Mashrou3i project. Completing the 27 online courses on the HP LIFE e-Learning platform, which is leveraged by the Mashrou3i project organized by UNIDO and funded by USAID, the Italian Cooperation and the HP Foundation, enabled her to build her managerial skills, to strengthen her knowledge of accounting and to take the lead in her first steps of being an entrepreneur.
"I have spent most of my life abroad, so wasn’t really aware of the administrative procedures in Tunisia,” she said. “The Mashrou3i team supervised and helped me navigate through the business start-up maze so I could establish my own manufacturing unit. Thanks to Mashrou3i, I was also able to build a professional network and to meet several craftswomen from the same sector."
It’s still early days, but Mbarka is already selling her products, using social media to promote her business. Thanks to the support of her surroundings and the Mashrou3i team, she is positive about the future of her project and plans to develop her business activity quickly by recruiting an assistant to work by her side.
"I have the benefit of having lived abroad and I want to take advantage of this, to build a bridge between these two cultures by exporting and selling my creations in France. And who knows, maybe even open a shop there one day."