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Marketing expert to assist women cooperative in Morocco

Female entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurs generate a positive ‘return to society’ in areas such as poverty alleviation for example, or community development. Like any other company, a social enterprise supplies a product or service and has a profit model. However, making money is not the main goal, it is a way of achieving the mission. The purpose of the social enterprise is to create social added value, also called impact. The cooperative in Morocco, where PUM expert Harry Bijl provided advice, was established in order to offer the local community a future. After all, if they remain devoid of financial prospects, then the douars (small villages) run the risk of depopulation. The locals are therefore willing to do their utmost to maintain their community and existing way of life.

Coopérative Toudarte is a cooperative comprising 160 Berber women, producing argan oil in the area north of Agadir, Morocco. Being too dependant on a single major customer, they approached PUM Netherlands senior experts for a marketing challenge.

Coopérative Toudarte has already proven a success. Since Fatima Ihini came up with the idea of founding a cooperative and was joined by another 29 enthusiast women in 2004, Toudarte has continued to expand in every regard. The cooperative now has a membership of one hundred women, and provides steady income to at least another sixty. Toudarte is subsidised by the Moroccan government. It is entirely in keeping with the intentions of the new Family Code (Mudawanah) implemented by King Mohammad VI in 2004, with a view to offering women greater economic independence. Ventures like the Toudarte Cooperative offer women a steady income and therefore higher social status.

Prosperous development 

The women in the cooperative set their own working hours, earn 20% more than the minimum wage and have access to free literacy education, medical care and childcare. The cooperative’s members crack the nuts harvested from the argan trees manually, in the traditional fashion. However, the oil is nowadays pressed, filtered and bottled according to an accredited process for both cosmetic and culinary uses. In fact, the oil produced is of such supreme quality that it is used in the fair trade products of international cosmetics brands including L’Oréal and The Body Shop.

However, this last detail also constitutes the cooperative’s greatest risk. Over 85% of the argan oil it produces is shipped directly to the L’Oréal laboratory for final processing. ‘We have become too dependent on a single major customer. And we are keen to reduce this risk by pursuing further growth primarily among smaller customers throughout both Morocco and Europe,’ the Toudarte Cooperative’s Managing Director and spouse of its President Fatima Ihini, Mr Khalid Mssaoudi, explained. ‘We therefore asked PUM to assist us in achieving this.’

‘We commenced by jointly developing a commercial strategy, which should enable both Khalid and a marketing manager yet to be appointed to identify and approach potential customers in a targeted and highly efficient manner,’ Harry Bijl explained. ‘Majority opinion within the cooperative favoured the pursuit of mainly other cosmetics manufacturers. However, further research revealed that the target group also comprises wellness centres, hotels and specialist retail chains. The common thread running through the commercial strategy is not so much the production of cosmetics, but rather the fair trade vision shared by potential customers. We also redefined the Coopérative Toudarte brand on the basis of three pillars: natural/traditional production, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and accredited supreme quality. This strategy is designed to steer the Toudarte Cooperative away from the price-driven markets, where its chances of success are slim due to its relatively high internal labour costs. It short, we went looking for markets which would truly appreciate the Toudarte Cooperative added value.’

Harry Bijl: ‘We cooperated extremely well with one another, creating a level of mutual confidence that made us eager to consider further prospects,’

‘We then proceeded to develop a communications strategy. We worked out a revised approach to the website, printed matter, pricelists, presentations and commercial correspondence, right down to the level of text and images. We then took the following steps in succession, which basically provides Khalid and Fatima with a script for the next six months.’