From Where I Stand: “My business is not only important to me, but it is a lifeline for more than 400 women.”

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From a young girl with ponytails selling snacks and candy in her school playground, to a major wholesaler of clothing and linens, has always been a true trader at heart. With the support of Rabeha Joint Programme , Shrouk, 31, is now working on developing her own application, Yalla Jomla, to reach more customers and level up her business.

Shrouk Agag
Shrouk Agag, a participant of Rabeha Joint Programme and the founder of Yalla Jomla. Photo: Courtesy of Shrouk Agag.

“Trading runs through my veins and it is second-nature to me. I enjoy the thrill of making a deal, the satisfaction of earning my own money, and the joy of seeing my customers happy. During college, I explored entrepreneurship by launching an online clothing page on social media and started to sell clothes in bulk to children, women, and men. I strongly believe my passion started from there.

Although I was very successful, my father did not approve of what I was doing and would always try to stop me. I married at a young age (18 years old) and my husband was not supportive as well. They believed that a woman’s only role is to be a housewife and a mother. However, I was persistent on continuing the work I love to the extent that I would even resort to hiding the merchandise around my house and at my neighbor’s place. Eventually, my husband gave up and saw that there was no way of convincing me .

My business is not only important to me, but it is a lifeline for more than 400 women – mainly divorcees and widows – who buy from me in order to run a business and support themselves and their children. These women depend on me because I provide them with the order they need, without a minimum requirement. This is extremely important because most wholesalers do not accept small quantities and most women do not have the capacity to order in bulk.

With this much responsibility riding on my shoulders, I needed to ensure that my business would keep growing. I joined Rabeha Joint Programme and it was the best decision I ever made because the trainings we received were extremely comprehensive and easy to understand, which was a great help for someone who had no educational background in business like me. The trainers were attentive to my needs and quickly provided me with the necessary support whether it was sharing material to study or setting up a one-on-one consultation session with a professional expert for further guidance.

It was the first time for me to learn about supply chain, which is an integral part of my business. After analyzing my supply chain management, I discovered that I was not focusing on the right suppliers. I realized that I was making significant profit through some suppliers although I was not working with them a lot, while others who were my main suppliers were in fact costing me money. With these insights, I have now learned how to optimize my business’s supply chain to generate the maximum return on investment.

Although most of my business was online and ran through the power of advertising, I didn’t prioritize marketing spend and would often cut from its budget. With Rabeha Joint Programme, I understood the importance of having consistent marketing campaigns to grow my business and it is now an essential part of my budgeting. During the trainings, I learned how to create captivating ads, use social media platforms, and reach new audiences.

Being part of Rabeha Joint Programme enabled me to network with other aspiring women entrepreneurs who motivated me to scale up my business even further. I added more products to my portfolio including men’s clothes, linens, and even children’s toys. I diversified my offerings and catered to different segments of the market. My business operations used to be limited to almost 7 suppliers and now I have widened my scope and began working with more than 22 suppliers.

my clientele base grew from 200 customers to more than 500 customers now and my income has increased more than 50% in the past 9 months! This is an achievement I never imagined I could reach in such a short time, all thanks to the support of Rabeha Joint Programme. I have gained more confidence, skills, and knowledge that have helped me grow my business and overcome the challenges I faced.

After passing through the programme’s business plan competition, I which I will be using to develop my very own application called Jomla (Translation: Let’s shop wholesale). This application will be a B2B e-commerce marketplace, where customers can search and choose their preferred local supplier quickly and easily. By integrating digital technologies throughout our process, we will automate our operations to speed up our work. I have a vision of creating this platform to empower more women in starting their own businesses and enhancing their financial independence.

I am sure that one day my business will grow and it will become an international brand, competing with similar global business models. My journey proved that with passion, perseverance, and the right support, you can achieve anything you dream of.”

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Shrouk is one of more than 6,300 women who participated in the “Women’s Economic Empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Egypt” programme known as “Rabeha”. The Rabeha Joint Programme aims to enhance women’s economic empowerment through increased access to employment and/or self-employment opportunities, by providing capacity building, development support and financial aid to women entrepreneurs, jobseekers, private sector companies and investors.

Rabeha Joint Programme is implemented by UN Women Egypt and UNIDO Egypt, in partnership with the National Council for Women (NCW), the Min­istry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) and the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Develop­ment Agency (MSMEDA) with the generous support of Global Affairs Canada (GAC).