MEPI and NEF Help to Make Start-up Ideas Come to Life in Morocco

In the Marrakech-Safi region of Morocco, many resources are available to entrepreneurs, but  they weren’t working together or coordinating to influence policy. The Al-Rawabet project,  funded by the United States Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI),  takes an entirely new approach to the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the  region. Through Al-Rawabet, MEPI strengthens entrepreneurs by linking business development  services and incubators together and increasing their capacity to meet the needs of businesses.  Consider Ranya Laaouane. In 2019, Ranya was connected to the Al-Rawabet project.  Implemented by the Near East Foundation (NEF) and funded by MEPI, Al-Rawabet helps high potential ideas become successful. However, it is not only Hygiène Pro that has prospered,  organizations such as Be Artisan and Myrathes have also seen their dreams come alive.  


An Al-Rawabet assessment found that Hygiène Pro, a business focused on pest control, needed  support to secure certifications, develop order forms, and create a marketing plan. NEF helped  Hygiène Pro organize a first anniversary event, where founder Ranya Laaouane was able to  present the business’s services to 60 representatives from local restaurants, hotels, and other  businesses to attract new clients. In response to COVID-19 and the health measures instituted by  authorities, Hygiène Pro has expanded its services to respond to current needs. It offers full  disinfection services, approved by the Moroccan Ministry of Health, for businesses reopening after the lockdown in Morocco. Despite the challenging economic times, Hygiène Pro has seen  business growth and the addition of many new clients. Ranya was determined to use her  knowledge of environmental management to launch a company. With her colleague, Jaouad  Lakhouaja, founded Hygiène Pro.  


Be Artisan produces organic oils and cosmetics. Fatima Zahra El Zouggari, who founded the  company in 2017, was working to modernize her brand and grow her market when she was  introduced to Al-Rawabet. Fatima needed support to develop a business plan and improve the  company’s marketing, particularly online. Fatima was able to participate in networking activities  organized through the project and make connections that have helped her develop her business.  With this support from MEPI and NEF, Fatima redesigned the Be Artisan boutique and  developed an e-commerce storefront to sell her products. She signed five new commercial  contracts, with a value of 78,000 MAD (7,800 USD). Be Artisan’s profits grew 50%, reaching  360,000 MAD (36,000 USD) in 2019. Fatima has since been able to recruit one part- time and  two full-time employees.  


A team of dietitians created Myrathes in 2017, driven by their shared passion for local and  natural cosmetic products and inspired by their training in phytotherapy and aromatherapy. The  women worked together to develop a line of unique natural cosmetic products. While they  succeeded in creating new products, their business still struggled. After an introduction to Al Rawabet, the Myrathes team began participating in training and coaching activities, including a  five-session masterclass on calculating sales prices and profit margins. With this additional  knowledge, they were better able to price their products to ensure that each sale earned a profit.  Myrathes grew their profit by nearly 30% in 2019, and in the first six months of 2020, they  exceeded their 2019 profit. NEF, with the help of MEPI, also coached Myrathes on the  development of a marketing strategy using the “Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning”  methodology. After opening new storefronts in the old Medina and in Lazouziya, Myrathes saw a  nearly 30% increase in profits and was able to recruit two new team members. Within the first  six months of 2020 they surpassed their 2019 profits.