Zina Ouled Si Ali didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. But given Tunisia’s 40 percent youth unemployment rate, starting a business is something many young Tunisians consider since it’s often the best way for them to control their fate. So after building her digital design skills at communications and graphic-design firms, Zina decided to take the plunge.
Her idea: She would apply her technical and design skills to making custom furniture and home decorations using large wood-cutting machines that are controlled by computers. Zina did recognize, though, that while she was long on energy, she was short on business experience.
Then she learned through a local business center about a program that teaches tech and business skills, so she signed up for its online courses and one-on-one coaching.
That program is Mashrou3i, launched in 2013 as a partnership between HP, USAID, the Italian Development Cooperation and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Mashrou3i combines online business courses developed by the HP Foundation, called HP LIFE, with hands-on training, business planning and coaching.
Students choose from a total of 28 courses — including inventory management, basics of finance, hiring staff and business communications — that are offered in seven languages. Then they attend workshops where the tools they practiced in the HP LIFE courses are applied to the challenges of starting or running their own business.