Yousef Hassan is a 26-year old Lebanese husband, father, and entrepreneur. Before starting a small mobile phone business, he struggled to find a good job. Physical and speech-related handicaps kept a stable income seemingly out of reach, and he relied on his parents for their support. Entrepreneurship presented its own challenges. Although Yousef was working hard to keep his business afloat, he was unable to cover both personal expenses and the cost of maintaining sufficient mobile phone charge card inventory. Less inventory meant fewer profits. Yousef was at an impasse.
Then, a Near East Foundation community outreach team identified Yousef through a vulnerability assessment in his neighborhood. They suggested he participate in business development training at his local Siraj Center in the Bekaa, run in partnership with locally based organization arcenciel. Siraj Centers work directly with entrepreneurs to identify small changes in their business practices that can help them overcome the many barriers to running a profitable business. Yousef attended training workshops that helped him improve his financial management skills and marketing abilities. He also learned best practices for effectively growing his clientele and diversifying his products.
With the knowledge he gained, and the small business grant he received through the project, Yousef was able to stabilize his business. He expanded his product line and he began offering repair services, as well. Following the application of his new skills and funds, his income grew to more than 17 USD a day. Yousef is now better able to support his family.
As with so many people, the COVID-19 health crisis has presented challenges for Yousef, and his daily income has fallen to around 10 USD per day. The business development team at his Siraj Center continues to support him through small group coaching and networking sessions. The coaching sessions include tips on how to maintain his business during the COVID-19 pandemic and how to leverage social media platforms to improve sales by reaching new customers and advertising special promotions.
NEF Siraj Centers help people move from reliance on aid to self-sufficiency, through entrepreneurship, in a safe and dignified way. Since the launch of the first Siraj Center in 2015, NEF and its local partners have helped more than 3,400 people in Lebanon access services, gain new skills, and create sustainable businesses. More than three-quarters of participants report increased household income (77%) and improved self-confidence and agency (88%). NEF’s economic livelihoods work in Lebanon is currently funded by the U.S. Dept. of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and the Elmer and Mamdouha Bobst Foundation.