Going global with products made in Palestine

10 June 2016
ITC News
Training and branding help Palestinian women entrepreneurs boost export.

Since 2014, the International Trade Centre (ITC) has worked with the Palestinian Business Women Forum to support businesswomen in State of Palestine to build business skills, upgrade their product offerings, and connect to local and international markets.

On 3 June, one of the clients of this Enhancing Women SMEs Development (EWED) project was invited to showcase her company’s products, along with wares from 20 other project beneficiaries, at a ‘Solidarity day with the Palestinian People and workers’ event organized at the Palais des Nations in Geneva by the International Labour Conference and the Palestinian Mission.

Fatina Al Anany, the founder and owner of ‘Dana Soap’, started her soap business six years ago. When she started out she only made one type of soap, which was packaged in plastic containers. Today, with the help of ITC, she has both expanded her product range and market reach and, as a result, her sales have increased by 25%.

Rethinking business Along with 20 other female entrepreneurs, Ms. Al Anany in 2014 joined the EWED project, which is run jointly with the United Nations Development Programme. Personal coaching, business training and courses, helped enable Ms. Al Anany to transform her business. Without the help from ITC, she says, her business would still be ‘simple’.

‘I used to sell my soap in simple, plastic containers, but then a representative from ITC told me that I needed to use black glass containers instead, as it would look better with the dark green colour of the soap. I was also encouraged to differentiate my products by using herbs and other materials native to Palestine, and to develop a distinct branding,’ she explains.

Today Dana Soap makes nine types of soaps and two types of hair oils. The products come in stylish, dark-tinted glass jars with Dana Soap’s well-designed packaging and logo. The company’s products are now sold across Palestine and, through ITC-facilitated participation at international trade shows, have reached international markets, including Bahrain, Indonesia, Italy, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

But strengthening her business acumen is not the only benefit Ms. Al Anany gained from the ITC-led training: the coaching also helped her own personal development. ‘With my business developing, I developed too. Today I am much more independent and I am empowered to make my own decisions. I am happy and proud of what I have achieved, and my family is happy and proud of me too,’ she says.The community effect Ms. Al Anany’s business transformation has had positive spill over effects on her local community. When she started her business six years ago she had one employee. Today she employs five women from the local community that she trains and takes along to trade shows. If her sales continue to increase, Ms. Al Anany says that she might be able to employ as many as ten women. And her success has made her a role model and inspiration for other women in her community.

‘Frequently I have women coming by my workshop to ask for advice on how to start a business, how to improve their sales or where to seek professional business training. I always tell them to go out and seek opportunities, go outside and take advantage of the help that is offered to us,’ she says.

Ms. Al Anany’s business adventure is far from over. She plans to develop her product range further, and to keep supporting and inspiring other women to take charge and develop their own business ideas.

Learn more about the Enhancing Women SMEs Development (EWED) project and ITC’s Women and Trade programme.