Maison de Senteurs responds to coronavirus by producing disinfectant gel

By Volker Ahlemeyer

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EBRD and EU helped Tunisian cosmetics producer strengthen its brand

Orange blossom lotions, jasmine soaps and exclusive argan oil sprays are some of the top selling cosmetics of Maison de Senteurs in Tunisia. With eleven stores across the country, the company also offers its creams, perfumes, home fragrances and other products in a shop in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, as well as online for consumers abroad, with a Tunisian online shop under construction to be ready by June.

The EBRD and European Union help companies like this one to develop their business and make them more competitive.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Tunisia, the team at Maison de Senteurs immediately wanted to help, explains the CEO, Mondher Ouenniche: “We knew that we could contribute in a meaningful way in such a situation. We had all the equipment needed to make disinfectant gel, as well as the necessary know-how as an experienced cosmetics brand.”

“We started production at first to make donations to Tunisian hospitals with the help of our team who, each at their own level, did not hesitate to make every effort for the success of this operation. We are proud to have fulfilled our duty to our country and hope for better days.”

It took just five days to add the new product to the range. In a dedicated part of its plant, Maison de Senteurs now produces more than 180 litres of hydroalcoholic disinfectant gel in each production cycle. The gel is on sale in its shops and available for delivery. A generous supply was donated to various hospitals to support the hard work of doctors and nurses in Tunisia.

Authentic and fresh fragrances of Tunisia

The EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme, funded in Tunisia by the European Union, previously helped the company to develop a strong and recognisable brand. Experienced consultants were matched with the cosmetics manufacturer to provide expert advice on market research and to design attractive, instantly recognisable packaging. The cost of the advisory services was shared by the client.

Maison de Senteurs’ distinctive branding is now more important than ever: as shops were closed during the lockdown, customers had to conjure up the fragrant orange blossom, rose or jasmine scents in their minds simply by looking at the products. Even after the lockdown, shops in Tunisia are far less frequently visited, so the company is relying heavily on e-commerce for the upcoming period.

“Our branding work came at the right time, when competition started to become increasingly fierce in the local market,” says Mr Ouenniche. “Since my wife and business partner Rym Ouenniche and I started the company almost two decades ago, we have been passionate about bringing the rich, authentic scents of Tunisia in the form of artisanal cosmetic products to the market. Our packaging clearly needed to reflect this.”

The business is well-positioned for the future, he adds: “We have witnessed the excitement of our clients for the new concept and the new ranges, and are expecting a substantial increase in our sales and revenues in the upcoming months. We invested significantly in strengthening our senior management teams by recruiting a Head of Marketing Communications and are looking to hire more strong talent. As part of our rebranding project, we also want to expand further in Tunisia by opening stores in new areas as a first step and then progress to the international market.”

Continued support for clients

“Now more than ever, it’s encouraging for us to see the positive long-term impact of our work,” says Khalil Dinguizli, Acting Head of the EBRD’s Tunisia office. “We stand ready to support our clients, both existing and future, with our Solidarity Package, in these unprecedented times with the necessary access to finance and advice that they need.”

“The European Union, its Member States and partner institutions like the EBRD have undertaken to respond collectively – as one Team Europe – to the sweeping challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemics. Together, we pride ourselves for our responsiveness in tackling the multiple challenges faced by Tunisia and more particularly by Tunisian businesses,” says Patrice Bergamini, EU Ambassador to Tunisia.

“For thousands of businesses like Maison des Senteurs, the pandemic means rethinking their business model, and the EU-funded Advice for Small Businesses project offers just the sort of responsiveness needed to assist them in their endeavours.”

Back at the company, work continues in a very different way: employees wear face masks and protective gloves, and keep their distance from each other to ensure everyone’s health and safety.

“We are an adaptable business, although we of course hope that the situation will improve soon,” says Mr Ouenniche. “Even after re-opening our stores, we are still offering a delivery option to our clients until our Tunisian e-shop is ready in the next few days. In this way, our customers can experience the fragrance of our Tunisian blossoms and essences even now, during these difficult times, when they spend more time in their homes than usual.”

 

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