Delegation of the European Union to the
UN and other international organisations in Geneva

EBRD and EU supporting small businesses in Lebanon

19/05/2020 - 00:00
News stories

“It all started 23 years ago, when my son Fouad was born and my sister Rima decided to plan his baby shower.”

 

“It all started 23 years ago, when my son Fouad was born and my sister Rima decided to plan his baby shower.”

She couldn’t, however, find any giveaways that she liked in the local markets so eventually she decided to make her own! This opened our eyes to the idea of producing party gifts and turning it into business,” said Rana Kotaiche, co-founder of the Lebanese company Blessing.

The company’s name was inspired by Rana’s son’s birth and then encouraged her to start her own business of designing and manufacturing party favors, gifts and invites.

Sisters Rana and Rima Kotaiche together run “Blessing”, an enterprise that helps party hosts and planners transform events into memorable ones. True to their name, they believe that the best way to celebrate life is through giving a “blessing” or otherwise gifting your guests.

For over two decades, Blessing has been producing customized gifts, invites and chocolates for a wide range of occasions - from baby showers, wedding ceremonies, Christmas parties to graduations, and corporate functions. Their clients include private individuals, corporate groups and event planners.

The Kotaiche sisters grew the business on their own - by managing, designing, producing and delivering the gifts. They started from a small room in Rana’s house. Today, Blessing operates in a 3,000 square meter space in Beirut which serves as a store, retail facility, offices and storage area.

But expansion translated into an increasing need for operational improvements. This is why they hired a consultant through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)’s business advice programme in Lebanon to enhance their internal processes. The consultant worked on restructuring four main aspects of the company’s processes: the collection making process, the communications, sales and pricing procedures, the organizational processes, as well as the internal reporting flow.

 “What makes us unique as a local business is our competitive design and quality. We are driven by our tenacity to succeed and I believe our credibility and work ethics helped us persevere,” said Rana and added that the EBRD programme helped put everything into perspective by indicating where they needed improvements and how to run their business more efficiently.

Blessing exports 60 per cent of its products to the Gulf countries and sells to Lebanese clients living abroad. The company has also started a franchise in Oman and Bahrain in 2009.

The co-founders believe that women empowerment is at the heart of what they do and that is why 54 per cent of their employees are females. But the company didn’t stop there. In 2012, Rima established the Blessing foundation to help women in business gain access to a network of other peers and to a special mentoring programme.

Rima and Rana still believe they did not accomplish their full potential as a small business just yet as they aim to make their company known internationally. They see that they have the basic tools but still need a wider market.

One year after the project was completed, and despite the difficult economic and political situation in Lebanon, Blessing has been able to grow. The company increased its turnover in 2019 by focusing on exports, which today account for around 65% of its turnover. Today, the company is helping out during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the 23rd of April 2020, Blessing launched the ‘Get a Blessing, Give a Blessing’ initiative. With every gift-basket that customers buy from Blessing, the company will donate a food box to a family in need. This initiative was developed in collaboration with Beit al Baraka, a Lebanese NGO that supports families in need and retirees, and will last throughout the month of Ramadan.

Blessing is among numerous small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Lebanon which have managed to develop their businesses with the help of the EBRD and donor funds from the European Union.

“Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of any economy. In Lebanon, the European Union continues to support small businesses like Blessing, as they are key to ensuring economic growth, innovation, job creation and social integration. We strongly believe that the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation will be determinant in overcoming the current economic crisis”, said Ambassador of the European Union Ralph Tarraf.

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