09 Jun 2020
Tunis, Tunisia
Sustainable Cleaning Products and Cosmetics, Sustainable Food and Agriculture

When it comes to Tunisian organic produce, profitability varies wildly between local and foreign markets. Since the 2000s, Tunisia has increasingly exported organic-certified olives, dates and more to Europe, where many consumers are willing to pay extra for healthy, sustainably grown food. The story changes dramatically within Tunisia’s borders — organic farmers lack visibility and access to consumers in local supermarkets and souqs.

Like a bridge over troubled water, Little Jenaina has eased the minds of natural and organic businesses across Tunisia by offering a vibrant e-commerce platform for selling their goods. Customers can browse Little Jenaina’s range of processed foods and cosmetics, make their online purchases securely, and receive prompt home delivery to any Tunisian address. “Our mission is to give more visibility to socially and environmentally responsible producers,” said Iman Chaabane, Little Jenaina’s founder.

When Chaabane left Tunisia at the age of 18, she might not have expected that one day she would start an e-commerce site for Tunisian natural and organic products. After finishing university, a successful career in finance took Chaabane from France to Russia, before she accepted a position back in her homeland in 2011.

As Chaabane worked away in her full-time business role, she found herself increasingly drawn to a more earth-bound passion. “I became very interested in organic agriculture,” said Chaabane, “so, in March 2018, I started Little Jenaina with a co-founder.” Organic products were starting to appear in supermarkets, but remained very much a niche sector.

Immediately, Little Jenaina cultivated a customer base amongst the most accessible demographics for sustainably produced food and cosmetics: health-conscious city-dwellers, often women, in their late thirties. Within two years, Little Jenaina has started turning profits; it even enjoyed a spike in sales under COVID-19 restrictions, as purchasers turned to online shopping.

Even outside a global pandemic, Little Jenaina’s business model deliberately leverages the advantages of e-commerce. Operating online means that Chaabane does not need to rent a physical shopfront, while also enjoying direct access to international customers. 

The stumbling block for this approach is that — until now — Tunisian engagement with online shopping has stayed relatively low, especially compared with Europe. “The market in Tunisia is still growing,” said Chaabane. “We need to make online shopping into a habit for people.”

According to Chaabane, this step forward requires inspiring trust and confidence in more sophisticated forms of online shopping. For now, many Tunisians are comfortable choosing products on sites like Facebook and paying cash upon delivery. They tend to be more skeptical about making credit card payments online, fearing fraudulent transactions.

For Little Jenaina, the road to acceptance probably leads through younger generations, who  are more open to buying products online. The youth’s greater tech-savvy gives Little Jenaina even more incentive to expand its current client base. Chaabane believes that the company would benefit from discussing its outreach strategy with a media communications specialist.

Already, Little Jenaina is achieving its goal of connecting sustainable producers with wider markets. A retailer at Tunis airport selected three organic food suppliers from Little Jenaina’s website to enter into ongoing purchase contracts. Other times, Little Jenaina’s corporate clients will make large-scale orders that provide financially lucrative opportunities for individual suppliers.

And, of course, Chaabane ensures that Little Jenaina meets its own exacting standards for sustainability. The business emphasises minimal packaging and has found green alternatives for all supplies — except for one. “Bubble wrap is the only thing I cannot find an eco-friendly substitute for,” chuckled Chaabane. “If you find one, please let me know!”

 

Learn more about Little Jenaina through the website, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of Little Jenaina

David is a freelance writer and researcher based in Beirut. He previously worked in Cairo.David Wood
Casting a wide net — E-commerce platform connects Tunisians with sustainable local goods | The Switchers
Little Jenaina Organic Food and Agriculture
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