This article was developed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and published here with the approval of UNIDO.

Born and raised in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, Safa Zideni studied at the University of Science and Technology of Health in Sousse, where she graduated top of her class in 2014. Specializing in podiatry, the branch of medicine concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of feet diseases and injuries, she also gained her license to practice from the university.

“My first concern was to strengthen my skills in the field and gain more practical experience,” explained Zideni. “So I worked nine months in a specialized clinic in Sousse before returning to Sidi Bouzid, determined to start my own business in my hometown.”

Safa’s passion for her profession led her to the path of entrepreneurship. To identify the tools and skills that would enable her to realize her entrepreneurial ambition, she undertook research, spoke with numerous doctors, and connected with the Agency for the Promotion of Industry and Innovation.

“At the APII I found out about the Mashrou3i program’s HP LIFE workshops and the e-learning courses,” she said. “The training was very rewarding and helped me to improve my business plan, project planning, and to define the different steps involved in creating the business—like defining expenses and charges and developing an advertising plan and a marketing strategy. Through the training I also realized the importance of communication for my profession and the strong relationship between price and service quality.”

The Mashrou3i program — organized by UNIDO in partnership with USAID, the Italian Cooperation, and the HP Foundation — is designed to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship and offer tools that support fledgling business owners. Its mission is to create some 6,000 jobs and reach more than 25,000 aspiring and existing entrepreneurs in Tunisia over the next five years. In addition to mentoring and technical skills training, participants have access to HP LIFE, a free, online HP Foundation program, which features 27 interactive modules covering business and IT skills training in seven languages.   

A month after completing the training, Zideni was invited by Mashrou3i to take part in a complementary HP LIFE business coaching workshop that enabled her to refine and structure her project into a compelling, full-fledged business plan. Thanks to the support of the Mashrou3i experts and the Sidi Bouzid Business Center, Zideni obtained a credit from a local bank of 62,000 Tunisian dinars for the acquisition of equipment.

In 2016, at only 23, Zideni finally opened the doors of the first podiatry practice in Sidi Bouzid, creating two permanent jobs in the process. However, opening the practice has not been without challenges. Podiatry as a medical field was relatively unknown in Sidi Bouzid and across the rest of Tunisia.

With the help of Mashrou3i, Zideni was able to communicate effectively with the general public to raise awareness about podiatry and to position herself as a leader in the field.

“I owe a lot of my success to the trainings and the support I received through the Mashrou3i program,” said Zideni. “I’ve applied everything I learned, especially in communication and advertising: I’ve made business cards, communicated on social networks, carried out an outdoor marketing campaign, and distributed flyers in specific places in Sidi Bouzid to target potential customers and partners. I’ve even had the opportunity to talk about my business on the radios El Karama and El Watanya 2. I can really recommend this program to all young people, who like me want to start their own business but need support.”


Defeat Poverty

This 23-Year-Old Tunisian Woman Opened the First Podiatry Practice in Her City