In a small village situated in the northern outskirts of Nablus stand thousands of olive trees. Seeing an opportunity to improve her family’s economic standing, Ikhlas Sawalha, a lifelong resident of the village, decided to start a small olive oil-based soap production factory. After submitting a business plan for a business plan competition, she was awarded enough start-up money to begin what is now known as SIBA, Palestinian House of Soap. Meaning ‘youthful beauty’, SIBA produces more than nine types of healing soap that have become so successful, they are now in the process of exporting to Japan. She strategically worked her way to the Japanese market by participating in Beaty Fairs, conferences, conducting market study and meeting Japanese investors. After her participation in Japan Exhibition, samples were sent to Katsumi Kurita Co, which in turn lead to the discussion on an angreement and hopefully an agreement will be signed by the end of August 2014.
Ikhlas makes sure her staff gets regular training, hence capacity building training took place for her staff to develop their product making skills. Along with the success, Ikhlas is excited about the work opportunities SIBA has created for women and farmers in the area. In 2013, her sales and income have increased by 20%.
What is your personal ambition?
To improve the production methods and technology used in soap production, and begin making some of raw material that I use when making the soap, for example, plant lavender that is later used in the soap.
What impact do you see your business making?
Create more jobs for the women in my village and improve the economic situation for farmers in the village by using them as my sole provider of raw materials.
How do you see the future of your business?
I hope to able expand my production line and to access the global market.