Throughout my time in university, I was active in community life. I enjoyed connecting with motivated youth with similar interests – and embraced the opportunity to learn and grow with them. I completed my studies abroad, earning degrees in financial engineering and business management, and then returned to Tunisia. After working for a while for a small company, I decided to look for a work environment that more actively encouraged innovation, exchange, and entrepreneurship. While researching opportunities, I visited a coworking space in Djerba. I was immediately drawn to the environment and looked into starting a coworking space of my own in my region. It was a risk, as the coworking space concept was unfamiliar in Gabes, but I was ready to invest in the project.
Bee Coworking Space was born in 2017. It was the first project of its kind in the entire governorate of Gabes. Initially, we collaborated with local NGOs – and soon, we attracted young entrepreneurs of all stripes.
Running the coworking space was not always easy. There were administrative constraints and challenges spreading the word about our activity. But still, we successfully provided a space for youth to work and collaborate, helping them realize their own dreams and projects. Meanwhile, as coworking spaces gained traction in other parts of the country, we connected with other similar projects to learn from each others’ experiences and move forward together.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, everything changed – we had to close our doors due to health restrictions and the shutdown of most local businesses and associations. The economic hardship almost forced us to close permanently, as we could no longer cover our fixed costs. But we did not give up -- as soon as the health situation began to improve, we invited youth to come and use the workspace for free.
I learned about the COVID-19 Enterprise Recovery Fund launched by the US government through USAID Tunisia JOBS on Facebook. I applied and received funding to redesign and equip our space so that we could provide our members with top-notch conditions to pursue their innovative projects. This grant has been essential to the coworking space’s survival, and has also enabled us to hire two full-time staff.
Yousri Lassoued – Bee Coworking Space